It’s a long way from St. Simons Island to Nepal, and although the landlocked Asian country that is home to the Himalayan Mountains is a popular destination for adventurers, it’s not on everyone’s must-see places.
Surrounded by China and India, and a stone’s throw from Bhutan and Bangladesh, many Nepalese are master artisans and craftspeople, and one of their principle specialties is handmade rugs.
That’s what led local artist Laura Parker to set out on an adventure. The St. Simons Island resident recently found herself in the capital of Nepal, the storied city of Kathmandu, working with an array of professionals from software developers to rug markers to bring her paintings to life.
It wasn’t all business however. Parker and her traveling companion were able to visit the foothills of the Himalayas, and see Mount Everest the last two days they were there. The mountain is often shrouded in clouds, so to see it clearly from a lower altitude is a rare occasion.
Parker has been an artist for the past 20 years, and before that was a singer-songwriter. She also works as a therapist, but creativity has been a part of her life as long as she can remember.
“I’m a modern artist; my work is not representational,” she said.
Two trips to Bauhaus in Germany underscored her commitment to pursue textile art.
“I fell in love with the wall hangings,” she said.
The Bauhaus School, she explained, was the beginning of modern period in German art.
Parker had always been interested in textiles, but needed to do her homework before she could realize her dream of making her paintings into the textiles in her dreams.
“I’d always seen my work as rugs, but I didn’t know how to make it happen,” she said, adding that naysayers repeatedly told her the pursuit was too expensive. She persisted despite the doubting Thomases.
At the beginning of 2018, Parker assembled a vision board and attached her paintings she saw as rugs to it, along with affirmations such as “I love my rug company,” to help motivate her to make her dream a reality.
Her company, Abstract Road, has been helped along by a software developer in Nepal, who helped introduce her to rug makers. She is also working with a local website developer.
“I found the rug maker through the software engineer,” she recounted. “It felt right; he was humble and straightforward.”
Parker explained that the rug maker belongs to the trade group GoodWeave.org, which prevents child labor in the rug making industry.
All of the rugs are handmade — from washing and dyeing the wool, to weaving it and doing the finishing work. Parker spent several days touring the various facilities involved in the production of Nepalese rugs, and once she inked the deal she made history.
“I’m the first U.S. customer ever for Ujwal Carpets in Nepal,” she said.
Parker has recently opened a shop in Palm Street in the Glynn Haven neighborhood, and her website will be live shortly.
“I’m starting small, and independently,” she explained, and all work will be custom, not mass-produced. “I will be the direct contact with the rug makers in Nepal.”
The population of Nepal is primarily Hindu and Buddhist, and Parker says that she didn’t feel uncomfortable as a woman doing business there.
“There was no problem; they are beautiful people,” she said, adding that the country’s second language is English.
Nepal’s hospitality industry is excellent, and Parker felt safe and welcome at all times.
“They’re the nicest people I’ve ever met collectively,” she said.