During the recent international Domotex Trade Fair in Hannover, an Estonian company attracted a lot of attention from visitors and local media alike with their extraordinary and eye-catching hand-tufted carpets. One of the most well-known newspapers in Germany, Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung, wrote a short story on the company, praising the uniqueness and quality of their carpet creations, as did the local Fahrgastfernseher, a kind of a TV-programme shown at the local metro.
This is the second year I have been visiting OÜ Valley at Domotex, and besides having a close, hard-working team (and always offering me Kalev candies), they are very proud of their talented young designer, Heleri Alexandra Sits (27). She is the creative brain behind most of their extraordinary products, which are much more than carpets, more like independent pieces of art. Heleri Alexandra talked about her creations with a gleam in her eyes – to be recognised as a sign of someone really passionate about her work.
Could you tell us more about the company and how you ended up working there?
OÜ Valley is an Estonian company located in Vändra which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year. Right now we export our carpets to 18 countries, among them USA, Canada, Iran, and India, to name but a few. I first did my internship here during my studies, and was actually planning to go to Italy for a while, when they called me and offered me a job. This was 2,5 years ago and I am still very happy that I stayed and took on this opportunity.
Over 18 experienced tufters are employed, as well as the staff in our small office. It feels more like a family since we are all working very close. And as an interesting fact, we can produce around 2000 m2 of carpets every month.
How long have you been attending the Domotex Trade Fair?
We have been taking part in Domotex for three years now, This is one the biggest trade fairs in our business in Europe. Although the first time we took part was rather difficult, I am happy to say that everything works very well already – we have created a lot of interest this year, and we´ll certainly be coming back next year as well.
IWhere did you study carpet design?
I graduated in June 2012 from Design and Applied Arts/Textile Design in Estonian Academy of Arts (EKA), after doing both my Bachelor and Master in EKA, and most of the carpets seen here are part of my master project. My supervisor was Monika Järg, to whom I am also very grateful for her support.
How did you come up with the ideas and how long did it take?
The whole process took me around 3 years in general – to gather ideas, come up with everything and put them into results. More than everything, it takes a lot of practice, and technical skills, which I have gathered in OÜ Valley. The main idea was to introduce the technical opportunities of hand-tufting. My first idea was to depict people on carpets, which can be very difficult since the technical possibilities are limited in a way. One of my first sketches was an underwear model for example, but it didn´t quite work out. I had an idee fixe – that it has to be eye-catching, but also with a message, to depict the inner world of a human being on the surface of the skin, to let it glow outside. Finally, with the advice of my supervisor, I came up with an idea to do the main design on human face instead of the whole body.
I put together the suitable tones and colours together with tips from my employer in OÜ Valley, Aadu Juhkentaal. Since we were hoping to find customers also outside of Europe and Scandinavia, mostly in Russia, but also in the Asian and Arabic countries, the choice of tones is also more colourful, more exotic and oriental. Another example from my collection is a butterfly with bright colours, in accordance with the general colour theme of my collection.
The carpets employ different layers of yarn, using both wool and viscose, there are a lot of transitions and nuances. It took very meticulous precision at first to draw the designs and follow them exactly while tufting. The tufters were following my designs, but in the endphase I also did some tufting myself. As for my fifteens minutes of fame, the master project was also shown in “Aktuaalne Kaamera” (the local news programme in Estonia) among other EKA final projects as an exhibition.
What are the future plans for both you and the company?
The carpets have aroused a lot of interest in potential Asian and Arabic customers during the Trade Fair, even more than we were hoping for. They are often said to be too beautiful to be lain on the floor, and are being proposed to be hung up in various hotels in Asia as eye-catchers, pieces of art.
We are also opening a new salon in February in Tallinn as well, with a ready-made collection of carpets. I am very happy to continue working with my colleagues, we are more like a family, and they let me try out new ideas and be innovative.
Photos: Reelika Virunurm/Heleri Alexandra Sits.