Maker Monday: An Aspire Exclusive Interview With Phyllis Ripple

At ecoFiber Custom Rugs, LLC, Phyllis Ripple and a team of weavers sustainably manufacture quality rugs. Ripple founded ecoFiber almost fifteen years ago after learning to design and produce rugs in Pakistan. Having previously worked for the Nature Conservancy and the Environmental Protection Agency, she combined her passion for sustainability and her newfound passion for making rugs in ecoFiber. The company uses organic fibers, including cactus and yucca, to weave each custom-designed rug. Introducing this week’s Maker Monday, Phyllis Ripple.

ecoFiber produces high-quality, durable rugs without using chemicals or unnatural materials in the design or manufacturing processes.

ecoFiber produces high-quality, durable rugs without using chemicals or unnatural materials in the design or manufacturing processes.

Andrew Joseph: You’re the newest Crayola color. What color are you and why?
Phyllis Ripple: I would be a solid vibrant cantaloupe color. That is a color that plays well with so many other colors – it’s like a taking-off point. It goes with everything.

Andrew: Describe your design style as if you were explaining it to someone who cannot see.
Phyllis: Hmm. My design style utilizes combinations of objects and materials from different ages, different countries. I don’t like a room that is curated TOO well. Incorporating the past into a design grounds it and is reassuring to the eye as you grow into your new space. I like memories to be in the room, along with aspiration for the future.

Andrew: What is something you hope to see trending in design in the future?
Phyllis: The use of nettle fiber in rugs. Totally sustainable, silky and versatile. It can be knotted into rug or woven into fabric. Also, I hope to see mushroom mycelium used more for packing to eliminate waste.

Andrew: If you could live in any home in a movie or television series, what would it be?
Phyllis: Isak Dinesen’s farm in the film, Out of Africa.

Andrew: What’s the best thing that happened to you this month?
Phyllis: Personally, I helped a family member with a big struggle. Professionally, I participated on two panel discussions about reducing waste in the interior design universe. I met with like-minded designers and manufacturers who are all concerned about the negative impacts of excessive use of packaging materials. My hope is that we can transition to mycelium or hemp-based (anything sustainable) packaging materials on a large scale.

Andrew: What are three words to describe where you live?
Phyllis: Trails. Sky. Birds.

In addition to naturally sourced fibers, the dyes in Ripple’s rugs are also locally sourced from plants.

In addition to naturally sourced fibers, the dyes in Ripple’s rugs are also locally sourced from plants.

Andrew: If you could be any animal in the world, what animal would you be and why?
Phyllis: I would probably be a grizzly bear because we have shared values of over-mothering your children until they finally leave, we eat lots of berries, and get to sleep late.

Andrew: What would you like to be remembered for?
Phyllis: Having made an impact in introducing sustainable methods of production to the rug industry. Showing, by example, that chemicals are TOTALLY unnecessary in fine design and that traditional methods translate beautifully into our modern/contemporary aesthetic.

Andrew: What’s one thing people don’t know about you?
Phyllis: I majored in Geography in college and am a big admirer of sashiko mending, a Japanese technique which has inspired some of my rug collections. During my second COVID winter, I intend to learn how to actually do it. I also collect cigar boxes.
What’s your design pet peeve? Rugs which are too small for the room and low ceilings.
What’s something you always travel with? A headlight and whistle.

Andrew: Are you a good cook? If so, what’s your specialty?
Phyllis: Soupe au Pistou from the Junior League of Colorado’s awesome first cookbook. I also experiment A LOT with anything Indian. I spent 3 months in Southern India on vacation several years ago and I’ve been trying to re-create the fabulous vegetarian meals I had.

At ecoFiber, clients can choose and customize their rug’s material, color, size, and pattern.

At ecoFiber, clients can choose and customize their rug’s material, color, size, and pattern.

Andrew: Who was the nicest person you worked for? Dare you share the worst?
Phyllis: Nicest person I worked for/with is David Dickson of Sloan Miyasato in San Francisco, a showroom I had a relationship with for many years. He was a real ally at the beginning of my rug designing career. Encouraging and supportive. The worst was my first business partner who was an abusive psychotic narcissist. I won’t name him but he has black hair and is from Romania with the initials “NK”.

Andrew: What would your dream project or dream client be right now?
Phyllis: My dream project would be working with a builder who incorporates my rugs in the concept from the beginning. It makes everything else easier if you begin with a rug.

Andrew: What makes you angry?
Phyllis: Racism. It’s the reason I left the south and would never live there again.

Andrew: What are you most proud of?
Phyllis: I am most proud of being the preferred vendor for the U.S. State Department for ethically made nontoxic rugs. I have made rugs for residences of diplomatic staffs in a number of exotic locations in Africa and the Middle East.

Andrew: Favorite app?
Phyllis: Tik Tok – I really love watching people dance in their kitchens!! Who knew? I have not actually filmed a Tik Tok dance yet, but one of these days I’m sure I’ll get my nerve up.

Andrew: How would you define your work in three words?
Phyllis: Informed. Artistic. Sustainable.

About The Maker | Phyllis Ripple is the founder and owner of ecoFiber Custom Rugs, LLC based in Boulder Colorado. Founded in 2007, ecoFiber Custom Rugs specializes in making sustainably produced, fine quality rugs in the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal. Each rug is made to order by adult weavers. The primary focus of ecoFiber is to provide heirloom quality rugs which are produced without chemicals. Phyllis left her career as a development professional with The Nature Conservancy to accompany her husband to Karachi, Pakistan for his job. While living in Pakistan, Phyllis began her “formal” rug education by spending hours and hours exploring the rug shops and drinking lots of mint tea in downtown Karachi. With the help of a local rug expert and author, she and her husband began their own rug collection. Years later she began to design and manufacture rugs in a very traditional method, which means no chemicals, and no shortcuts. ecoFiber Custom Rugs production methods are still traditional, all the while producing contemporary/modern rugs. ecoFiber has elevated the use of unusual fibers such as nettle, hemp, yucca and linen in modern rugs and is able to accommodate most requests for combining these fibers to create fine rugs which will last for generations.

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