Although the Internet is a high-speed medium – we’re talking about rugs here and rugs want to tell a story. Anyone who loves carpets and rugs as much as we do, will be happy to take the time to listen to their tales and join them on their travels. They tell tales of carpet dealers, taxi drivers and art galleries in London in the 1980s, of the dusty highlands of Anatolia and the mountain passes between Tibet and Nepal. For all these are what made Harald Geba and his rug company what they are today and they continue to shape how we see our work and our responsibility.
The Role of the Carpet Dealer. London. The multicultural heart of Europe and the rug mecca of the late 20th century. For the young Harald Geba with his fascination for oriental rugs, this was the only place to go. Click on the arrow-symbol to learn more.
Harald Geba had already learned everything he could in the traditional carpet gallery in Graz. In London he was to gain new knowledge, new experience and new impressions from all over the world. But what impressed him most were the modern paintings to be found in the art galleries in the British capital: Miró, Kandinsky, Mondrian – the sources for great inspiration and a ground-breaking idea: To combine the spirit of modern painting with the ancient traditions of rug making.
Harald Geba began by buying and selling carpets and rugs at the famous auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s. When negotiations and auctions dragged on late into the night, the rugs were often driven through the dark streets of the city in one of London’s famous black cabs. Who could blame the taxi drivers for casting nervous glances into the rear-view mirror – but the roll on the back seat was not the body of a carefully wrapped murder victim, but one of the rugs with which Harald Geba laid the foundation for the project of a lifetime.
10,000 km across the Anatolian Plateau. 1987. An idea, a few thousand schillings and an old car that he hoped would at least survive the trip to Turkey. Harald Geba had a safe job with a carpet dealer in Graz, six months in London and the birth of his life’s dream behind him. Ahead of him lay 10,000 km of dusty roads in the Anatolian highlands on a journey in search of people who could realise his vision: to combine modern carpets with ancient craftsmanship.
It was on this journey that Harald Geba made his first contact with the families who were willing and able to execute his designs. That was the starting signal for Geba Rugs.
Over the next few months he was constantly on the move: 144 take-offs and landings – one flight a month to Istanbul, 600 km by bus to Anatolia, by car to the rug weavers and then two days later back to Graz.
In the end, almost three whole villages were employed producing Geba rugs –resulting not only in an impressive inventory of rugs, but also a very special friendship between Harald Geba and the rug-making families in Anatolia.
Mountain Passes and Other Obstacles. It wasn’t long before Harald Geba had new visions and ideas for his carpet gallery. But realising them required new materials, new techniques, new production capacities and hence new partners and friends. Harald Geba found them in Tibet and Nepal.
It took almost eight years to completely relocate production to Nepal. For on the roads between Tibet and Nepal, the Himalayan passes were not the only barrier facing Harald Geba, the foreign culture and language and also the red tape mounted up until they presented a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.
But above all, Harald Geba was well aware of his responsibility in Anatolia, where almost 300 families were employed making his Geba rugs. This was a source of income that could not be allowed to dry up from one day to the next. Thus while production in Nepal was developed as a fair trade project from the very beginning, new opportunities had to be found for friends in Anatolia. Because regardless of whether they are made in Anatolia or Nepal, rugs and carpets always involve social responsibility.
50 Metres from the Landing Strip for Flying Carpets. Graz. A World Cultural Heritage Site and City of Design. There are good reasons why Geba Rugs has always been based in the city in southern Austria – for the combination of creativity and culture, of the avant-garde and tradition can be felt here at every turn. In 2010 Harald Geba moved almost 50 metres down the road in this city.
From the rather secluded rooms on the first floor of Hans Sachs Gasse 14 to the corner gallery on the ground floor of Hans Sachs Gasse 3. The former Dominican monastery dating back to the 15th century was converted into a spacious gallery. And once again, tradition and modernity met.
Harald Geba later described the relocation as a move “from a secluded retreat, from a landing strip for flying carpets to an open and spacious gallery at the heart of life in the city of Graz”. And once again, he wove a vision: The new gallery should be a meeting place for architects, artists and designers both now and in the future. A forum for discussion, for sharing, for telling stories and listening. Worthy of a city of design and worthy of the soul of the Geba rugs.