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Phyllis Ripple's Custom Rugs Will Change the Way You Look at Art

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You can find art all over town — not just on gallery walls. In this series, we'll be looking at some of the local artists who serve up their work in coffeehouses and other non-gallery businesses around town.

"I love the naive, intuitive way children draw," says Phyllis Ripple, founder of 4 Favorite Rugs. Technically, Ripple isn't an artist. But she's giving artists — from budding ones to the more experienced — a unique place to showcase their stuff: at home, and on the floor. 

She got the idea when her children were young. Ripple's husband was a geophysicist whose international company had "interests in fairly remote places," she recalls. Those interests sent the couple overseas from 1987 through 2005; in countries ranging from Pakistan to Indonesia to Egypt, Ripple stayed home to raise the kids, and found support in the close-knit communities where her family resided.

"We moved about ten times in 25 years," Ripple explains. While she couldn't always save every piece of furniture and every keepsake, she made a point of collecting and keeping her children's artwork. "Kids are my favorite artists," she says. "I think most people respond well to their untutored approach." 

In 2007 Rpiple finally found her way back to Colorado after living in Alaska for two years, where she'd founded ecoFiber Custom Rugs. At the start of that business, she was putting beautiful designs onto rugs, and selling them mostly to designers. Sustainability was important; that's why she uses vegetable dies — never chemical washes — and is committed to working long-term with a core group of offshore weavers. "I've worked with the same families for ten years," Ripple says. 

One day Ripple was going through some of that old artwork she'd schlepped across the world, and in an effort to "capture a particular stage of development," she says, she made two rugs using her son's and daughter's childhood art as patterns. 

Ripple realized she was onto something when friends and customers wanted their own rugs, and last fall she launched 4 Favorites, a children's rug company dedicated to sustainability, quality and ethical work conditions. 

So far, Ripple has made about twenty children's rugs for clients and herself. The process is fairly simple: a customer sends over a jpeg with a piece of artwork, and Ripple tweaks the form to create a few design options that would work in rug format. Once the rug is approved, the design is sent to Nepal or India and hand-tufted there. Most of the children's rugs are small — 2" by 3" — and take about six weeks to make. 

"Even a scribble can make a great border for a rug," says Ripple, noting that the art doesn't have to be even close to professional quality. "You start looking at the art differently once it becomes something permanent that your child can stand on." 

Ripple's latest business, by the way, isn't like Kix Cereal: These rugs aren't just for kids. She's done rugs with paw prints for pet lovers, and adults have made their own rugs, too. The only rule, she explains, is that the creator has to be willing to be a little uninhibited. See for yourself at Show of Hands, where Ripple's rugs are now on display; for more information, visit Ripple's website

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