Category Archives: work

Dinner Guest- Joe Carini

*published in Aspire Metro Magazine on 29 July 2015

Sought after for their artistic design, elegant materials and traditional hand weaving methods rarely utilized in modern carpet making, Carini Lang’s carpets grace the homes of bold-faced names such as Stephen Spielberg, Beyonce and Jay-Z, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and architect extraordinaire, Lord Norman Foster. We caught up with Carini in his studio in Tribeca, located in a former Art Deco-designed bank, to learn more of his trade.

Wickham Boyle: How did you get started?
Joe Carini: Honestly, I became fascinated with carpets at an early age; my grandmother had some marvelous rugs in a sunroom on which I delightedly traced the patterns with my trucks. Later, I went to Pratt to study painting. During art school, I got interested in buying and selling rare and collectible carpets.

When buying and selling antique carpets at high prices, you need specific knowledge. So, I learned about designs, the provenance of works, original colors and materials so as to place them in historical context. I also worked with some Persian carpet repairmen in an attempt to absorb the integral workings of these carpets. By doing so, I immersed in the ancient culture, and by learning the repair, I began to absorb the entire carpet culture.

WB: How did you first become involved in the carpet making business?
JC: In 1990 I was introduced to someone starting a carpet company, and I wore many hats in this start up: design, specifications and often the sourcing of materials. I found there weren’t that many interesting contemporary rugs. Many companies were selling bad repros of traditional rugs, almost reproducing antique rugs slavishly.

I saw an opportunity to take carpets to a higher level by using traditionally trained quality weavers and the best sourced materials. I left in 1997 to start my own company. I wanted to go further with natural traditional vegetable dyes. My desire was to move away from commercial carpet production to an experimental and unique kind of work – a product where quality would be the main focus and would include a revival of many ancient techniques that, sadly, were beginning to disappear.

I spent a long time reintroducing the techniques into Carini Lang productions. It took a few years to get the process, materials and dyes to the level that I envisioned. After mastering that component, I began dreaming and designing a contemporary line, which is our signature.


WB: How did you become interested in and drawn to natural dyes and products?
JC: At an early age when I was studying painting, I became aware of and attracted to the physical materials of paint. For example, Fra Angelico ground lapis lazuli stone into his paint, and I feel it has a physiological effect. Rembrandt and Titian ground minerals and even sometimes semi-precious gems, all suspended in oil or egg tempera.

Carpets had compelled me by color and pattern. I was most attracted to old carpets; I wasn’t drawn to new carpets with synthetic dyes. The original colors were so luminous and fascinating. For me, the essence of the carpets was the color, just like in a Renaissance painting. If you regard that same painting in black and white, you only glimpse a small aspect of it. Like Renaissance work, carpets are a combination of color and geometry.

Five hundred years ago, color was the cutting edge of technology. Color used to be what set classes aside. Royalty was ranked by the value of their clothing; only the upper class could wear purple. This study of color led me to ask, “How did certain colors make me feel?”

I wanted to understand where these colors came from because I had a sense that their origins might unlock some secrets. I was intrigued with the stories of the revered dye masters who discovered these colors and passed them on as secrets, almost like alchemical secrets. The other aspect for me was that these magical colors appeared much more vibrant than colors made in modern chemical laboratories.

I was working in another country, in another culture. I didn’t want to make my living by making a negative impact on the environment;
I wanted to work responsibly. Vegetable dyes are one of the things we can do that leaves very little impact on the environment. The plants utilized in dyes, for the most part, are cultivated as herbal remedies. Thus, the surplus dye is just organic matter that dissolves back into the earth.


WB: What draws you to the culture of Nepal?
JC: Nepal’s charms come from a combination of the people, who are so smart and joyful and seem to relate from their hearts, and the opulent beauty of the physical surroundings. Kathmandu is in a fertile valley ringed by the majestic Himalayas. The raw materials, the cashmere, the yak wool available in abundance and the reverence for a tradition of carpet making are very clear when you come to Nepal.

Also, the ancient cities have architecture that leaves you agog, art that is on every street corner in some small way, and magnificent temples on the hilltops, such as Swayambhunath, the famous monkey temple. The religious traditions, Buddhism and Hinduism, make you feel as if you are in contact with another world from 1,000 years ago. This energy makes it very conducive for inner reflection.

WB: Did your interest in traditional carpet making and knot tying come before or after the business started to boom?
JC: I went into the business thinking that I would make everything with the best of all artisanal methods. Why throw out all the progress made over hundreds of years? Who makes better wine: the small batch wine maker on his great grandfather’s estate or the giant vats using chemicals to enhance and speed things up? Me, I am always going to want to taste from the small guy, not the new processed version. I took that vision into my carpet making.

WB: What is your favorite part of making magical carpets?
JC: Discovering something new that I didn’t know before. Making something that I didn’t think was possible. I’ve made colors that I didn’t think possible, and now people often ask for them.

WB: What are your clients like?
JC: My clients are usually people who collect fine art, and are interested in design and in furniture as art. They range from celebrities to people with a heightened sensibility for how finer things enhance lives.

WB: What is your personal space like style wise?
JC: Kind of a clean, ‘70s style – the ‘70s high style as that is the period of my youth. My home is decorated with good ‘70s furniture and Italian chandeliers. It’s not too cluttered; it’s homey and simple.

My office is now global style, but my spaces change often. I vacillate between a Victorian clutter and a monastic simplicity. I am now in a period of trying to declutter; I don’t want to be around too many objects. We’ll see how that unfolds.



Righty or lefty?

Drinks of choice?
Laughing Man Ethiopian coffee beans, made by drip with whole milk. Cocktail of choice is an Arnold Palmer (and he laughs).

Favorite food?
Wild salmon or good Indian food (little on the spicy side).

Favorite food as a child?
Italian chicken cutlets, meatballs and lots of veggies. That’s what I cook for my three kids now.

Favorite local restaurant?
The Odeon, a Tribeca standard. I start with the calamari. For dinner, I have steak frites, and for lunch, a tuna burger.

Prefer intimate dinners or large gatherings?
Intimate dinners, and I am a pretty good cook.

Favorite dinner music?
I like to cook to Bob Marley, the Beatles and the Allman Brothers Band. Last night I made baby bok choy, sweet potatoes, snap peas, quinoa and broiled wild salmon. For dinner music, I prefer Beethoven piano sonatas, the middle to late period.

Most memorable dinner to date?
This may surprise people. I was flying to Vienna first-class on Austrian Airlines, and they served a five-course meal. The chef, Kurt Gutenbrunner, owns Blaue Gans and Wallse in downtown New York City. The wines, everything was perfect.

If you could have dinner with anyone from your past, who would it be?
My grandparents because I miss them.

If you could have dinner with anyone living, who would it be?
Oh, with the Dalai Lama. I imagine we’d have an amazing vegetarian meal in a fine Indian restaurant.

What do you do for exercise?
I am a walker because I find walking so meditative. Sometimes I ride bikes with my kids. I have a few wonderful vintage motorcycles, but I ride a Vespa for commuting.

If you could cook for anyone, who would it be?
My kids and their friends.

Joe Carini supports the Dalai-La Nepal Earthquake Relief. To make a donation visit

Here we go: everything linked in under one virtual roof

When I left LaMama Back in the day,  (read the obit I wrote on my mentor and founder of LaMama Ellen Stewart)  I ventured out on my own to launch a theater I called Under One Roof. I wanted a name that was expansive, a literal and figurative umbrella. I sought a theater, of course, and a library for multi culti/ multi disciplinary artists, and classes for kids and a haven in the very underdeveloped neighborhood of TriBeCa. So today, I thrashed out by email to my web wizard Lauren Little Wolf Walker  ( I thought about Under One Roof because Lauren had been an intern there. Now she has her own company, a family and I visit her mostly by computing magic. Walker Interactive also made my website, I was their test case and now Little Wolf  deemed it a dinosaur.

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>I recall back in 1987, my daughter was three years old and witnessed with us the biggest one-day stock market crash, which looks quite pale by comparison to this eight day descending market. A group of grown-ups sat around the dinner table discussing the market crash in terrified tones, when my smart girl piped up, “And the super market, did that crash too?”

It was a joyful realization that some things remained in tact.

But now when countries are failing, banks and businesses, and it is hard to breathe, sometimes waiting to find a job and consider myself safe, and I know this spills over to all of us, but all of us are desperate to find ways to find safety. This economic terror seems less to me that the explosions and threats, as they can be labored through and this terror seems to ask for hunker time.

My husband went to the still-standing super market in the Hudson Valley and bought a giant bag of rice, 50 pounds, and cans of beans and bags of beans and all I can say is that a hunker might prove very gaseous. But still I am making a big pot of chili for tonight, and still steaks remain in the freezer. But honestly, what should we all be doing?

That is where the terror lies. I know that America, and I have gotten too fat and soft in the last decade. I know that I have to say NO to the idea of giving myself a loan to buy what I think I need. I know I don’t need it . . . . Just fill in the blanks. But still I need, really need to pay the mortgage and college tuition and will there be loans for that?

In times of fear I want to read, to escape, or I want to hit a ball or chop down trees or grass or watch a good movie. I am tired from the opera and from continuous weeks of sharing my feelings on this blog about an event that I thought might wave a magic wand and change my work life for the better. But that curtain dropped and, yes, there is small work to follow, but the magic ended on the stage and the real world with its economic craziness that has left the tiny amount of money I saved and squished into Apple stock or Johnson & Johnson — all good companies — turned into dust. So it is as if I wished for a magic dust to change things and I forgot to be specific enough and what we got is this.

I know I am not responsible. I know that even when I put on my magical thinking cap to say, “Okay, would you wish for Obama in the election, the economic situation to turn around or for the job to come to you?”

I know I say “OBAMA.”

Because I believe if that happens, then maybe the other pieces will fall, ever so slowly, into place. Oh the things that wishing makes you ponder.

>Rocky Racoon

>Last night was so rocky that what I said to composer Doug when the lights finally went out and the 3 people in the audience (OK that is an exaggeration but sparse yes) finally left was “WHEW…that was Rocky Raccoon!!!!!”

It was awful to watch for me, not because the cast was so bad, but the energy to get the show going was flat and scary at the same time.

Here we go.

I get a call that there has been a fire in the dimmer board, the thing that runs the lights.

All the programming is gone.

Then they say ”Oh, we think we can fix, it don’t worry.” But when I arrive it is bad and the poor tech director is in the hospital attending to a dying friend. Hard to say, “Hey fix our lights, friendship be damned.” I didn’t say that. I hugged him and let him cry.

Lights can go on and off. And believe me, last night they seemed to flicker in a random not good way, leaving the cast in darkness in the middle of one aria. Even LaMama is not that experimental.

There is a very sparse crowd expected for the rest of the weekend, I think sometimes folks think, “Oh a good review in the Times we won’t be able to get tickets,” and then no one comes.

So last night tonight. Let me not list the things that went wrong, but for the rest of the weekend hardly a soul is on the books.

And more about last night, the stage manager again at 5 minutes before the show is to start. That’s what happens when you pay nothing, again really nothing, when they are paying to transport themselves even.

We had an understudy who did super well, but still it was a different energy.

And that was me today unable to get my ass to the gym, although I promised, unable to go to pottery. I thought that might make a good diversion. A little phone time trying to get a manager for the future of this show and butts in seats or a recording.

And then the tasks to secure the REAL JOB, the biggest something called, Assessment Testing. It is supposed to take between five and eight hours. I did the one part, 350 questions where you either AGREE or DISAGREE. Crazy stuff like:

* I like to re-measure my rulers to make sure they are correct.
* I feel everyone is out to get me
* I always want to eat ice cream
* I am never depressed

Sp weird, so I just motored through them. At first, I tried to read them out loud to Zac, to say look this could be fun right? But he was mad I was putting myself through this and left for a walk. In his words, what manager would do this?

I don’t know that I am in my good sport phase, wanting this job for tons of reasons: it is a very cool job and it would allow me to contribute to my neighborhood AND the economy is tanking and we have no health insurance. So from broad-based to specific, needs based stuff.

I have lots of other parts to tackle, but for now I am one foot in front of the other. Eat an egg, get some soup, go back do more test. Go to the show; take a fabulous shower, AHHHHHHHH clean hair… so fluffy.

More to come.

>Keeping the Beauty in Mind

>Today I had to ride to the dentist for the third attempt at a root canal. I was not in the best mood, still tired, wrung out from an encounter with a former friend who is trying to keep his aged mother, who is suffering form dementia, away from all her friends, as a means of control. It was ugly yesterday and made me cry torrents. I always feel depleted the next day, which is today.

I woke up late, hoping against hope that the dentist would be an another hour, but instead I had to gulp coffee and hop on the pony. I could see I was still groggy and my mind kept me going back to the fight and the sadness I felt and saw in my friend’s eyes when we were separated. I thought about all the people who hadn’t come to see the opera, of all the pushing and conniving, of the wheedling and cajoling to develop an audience for this lovely opera. The level of disregard for a project like this given the economy tanking and the craziness surrounding the political climate leaves me feeling often scared and certainly anxious.

But on this ride, on the first ten minutes of this ride, I gave myself a strict talking to.

DO NOT MISS THIS DAY, I intoned over and over again.


It was crystal, soft air, feint breeze, and my legs and arms felt strong and I was happy to ride my nice old bike, tires full of air, up to 50th Street. My mind roiled back to sadness, missed calls, people I want to see or hold and still I pushed to return to the immediacy of the day. It was warm, I was healthy and I had work to return to this evening.

I had to keep seeing that.

And I did keep trying as I called the bigwig producers who turned me down for one thing or another, and I persevered to get names of other folks to call. Hang up, email, make a package, call another person, hang up send information. Keep sounding as if I believed and not as if I was flagging, and losing heart.

Did they know, this little cast and crew how much goes into turning on the lights and having butts in seats. Do they know how I fret over getting this last payroll to them on the 28th of September and how much I feel like a failure because I can’t and clearly see now that I won’t be offering them big money for all the miraculous stuff they have achieved.

I have to run now, shower, maybe more email, maybe more Advil OK definitely more Advil.

Here we go: week two.