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.

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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.

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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.

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RSVP

Righty or lefty?
Righty.

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 www.gofundme.com/uszyf4

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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  (WalkerInteractive.com) 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  www.wickiworld.com and now Little Wolf  deemed it a dinosaur.

Continue reading

>Meltdown

>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.

DO NOT MISS THIS DAY.

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.

>The Day After Opening/ Lucky 13

>Last night was beyond astounding. Packed house, really full, me telling the box office to sell tickets that were not there–I mean not printed, and we used programs as tickets.

People sitting on folding chairs on a balcony or stair. The New York Times photographer snapping as folks arrived and the reviewer sitting in the aisle.

FINGERS STILL CROSSED.

Energy through the roof. The singers hit the notes, the highs and lows, somehow they found consonant and vowels. Who knew that vowels are easy in opera, but words like GLUE turn into GOO. Or PILE becomes PIE. Since I have no idea what goes into an opera and I just blurted out LET’S MAKE AN OPERA, this entire process has been a hapless wonder to me.

And fair warning readers , my house guests from the South, who got up at 11am, to find me at work on my Guggenheim grant application, due Monday, (oh the universe has a sense of humor), asked, “Can we take you to a wonderful lunch?”

“How wonderful?” I asked.

“Whatever you want.”

So I called Chanterelle, really the best anywhere, but it is around the block from me and they have helped so much with Calling. You know they took us right away and treated us royalty. We had champagne and wine. This is in the middle of the day, mind you. I came home at 3:30 believing I had missed the Sunday matinee; please recall that it is Saturday… oh my god, that lunch seemed really long and magical.

Oh the discussion among a Jungian mother and her daughter with me as the interloper when weaving between marital sex, an opera about September 11 and how to promote healing, the distancing that sons MUST DO WITH THEIR MOTHERS, and food, travel, art, literature and jewelry. That’s really all I can recall and it was marvelous. After lunch they went to buy champagne for after the show and then jumped into a cab to run to the Guggenheim before it closed. I asked them to bring back good luck from there for my grant and I hugged the couch and cat and took a well-deserved nap.

Why was last night so wonderful? Because the cast had gelled, the fear subsided, (before last night we had run the show only twice, really) and with this diminution of fear came boldness, not recklessness but the confidence of professionals. The stage manager was on time, the lead little girl had pigtails and not a salon “do”, and the light board operator ran the lights, not the designer. The fans that click and clack were turned off. And although the theater must have been 500 degrees (okay 90) it was calm, save the late comers seated and wedged with children into the balcony. But that is, as my mother used to say, “an upscale problem.” I wish us too many in the audience every night.

My roommate from college, Nina, was there with her sister, Deb, and we hugged, acknowledging our 40th anniversary. The very pregnant and gorgeous Rebecca Asher Walsh, tan from the summer in East Hampton, was prettier pregnant than her normal radiant self and was squired by Dr. Chuck, who is the cutest soon to be dad in our circle. Christine and Carter came–bigwig music and art couple, and I believe they really did love it. Neighbors came, the friends whom I met in Morocco last summer came from Birmingham and Pensacola to support and fete me.

At the curtain call everyone who worked on this baby from any point on came to the stage and we held hands and bowed. And my teary eyes saw my husband who had begged off coming as he had work and a biz trip this morning. But there he was in the back of the theater, smiling and clapping for me the second night in a row. He had even ridden his bike in the rain, He does not like rain the way I do.

So Zac and I didn’t go out with anyone. We biked home to snuggle and wait for guests and I just wanted my “normal life.” On occasion now when I find myself uttering, par hazard, phrases that crop up in the opera, I feel like a parody of myself, but I need to remember no one sees this but me so I need to relax.

Oh wait, that’s another line.

Ok back on the bike, (another line) and off to the theater.

Break a leg.

>How to conduct oneself

>Yesterday was a lesson in old time values that one does not usually see bundled together and they are: Dentistry and Musical Conducting.

I went back to the dentist for what I thought was the completion of my dreaded root canal. Instead he got in there, cleaned the bad hole for the second time and lo and behold there was still–this man does not mince words–PUSS. He further went on to extol the virulent nature of the infection by graphically describing the fact that this infection, (as stubborn as its owner) had begun to eat away the bone in my jaw.

“Really, they don’t teach you a better way to say this stuff in dental school?” I moaned from inside a rubber dam with clamps and a sucky thing in my mouth. I also found out that both SHIT and FUCK couldn’t be said with your mouth wide open. -IT and -UCK are all you get, but that didn’t stop me form uttering them as he continued on his graphic tale of tooth aliens. Finally he filled in the hole with gross tasting medicine, told me not to chew there or even brush hard for 3 weeks and to take an antibiotic that might give me diarrhea so violent that if I let it continue could result in a colonic ulcer.

Oh my god, this man was clear. And still on course, I rode my bike home down Fifth Avenue from 50th Street, after stopping at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, how could I not, it’s across the street. Is there a patron Saint of teeth? Is it George Washington?

It made me realize in brilliant relief that in another time, I would be on my way to dying from this tooth infection or would walk around in terrible pain with half a jaw. All so so scary.

I dutifully went downtown, got my dreaded prescription filled, and bought myself 15 bucks worth of sunflowers–not part of the recovery plan, but wildly necessary. I made the promised risotto, met with Liz the costume wonder and then rode to the first music rehearsal where the assistant conductor Carl Bettendorf was to preside.

OK WOW. Who knew that music was so precise and magical? I have been in the land of improvised for way too long. These musicians, clarinet, violin, cello and piano representing very American, Slovene /Swiss/ Australian and German backgrounds all sat together for the first time with flowing scores and Carl, who looks about 12, held sway, and they played. BEAUTIFULLY. I mean the music flowed out and they rarely stopped. They paused occasionally and discussed fermatas and notation. It was so impressive. Maybe more so in my fog of drugs and pain, but I was bowled over to see this young man, large and more than in charge.

Composer Doug sat fixing the main score, lead diva Nicole, the mother, asked to be cued for her part, which she read and sung silently nodding and noting all the while. After a full hour, no stops, no diversion, no dithering Carl called for a break. Which he sort of got, but he had so super-charged the musicians that most of them played their parts; sawing, blowing, plucking out the difficult sections only to resume with more gusto.

I begged to leave as this half way juncture, not because the proceedings didn’t mesmerize me, but rather I was fading and needed dinner and a bed. I got half of that wish and worked feverishly until early morning.

I woke up with visions not of sugar plums, but something better for now, visions of Carl in his baggy cargo pants standing in a bare loft space on Great Jones Street conducting musicians who played the notes that Doug and I have been dreaming of for years now. I was so full of gratitude and the belief that these amazing people will bring to fruition a project, an opera. And because music can be read, sung and recreated globally as its own language, I think we may be able to leave something that could ring in small corners for a while.