Reproducing an historic carpet from a photograph
i was contacted by the National Park Service (with whom I've collaborated many times) about reproducing the carpet in the Edison Laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey. This room was essentially the first recording studio, and we had a very high resolution photograph from c. 1900 but nothing more. As I examined the photograph, I could see that the carpet pattern dated from the 1880s, that the carpets were heavily worn, and that one had no border while the other did, meaning that they had come from somewhere else. Interestingly, Edison's home is right up the street, and dates from the early 1880s.
i visited the house, and noticed that the woodwork in some of the rooms was painted a light green with metallic gold accents. I was informed that this was the original finish. Most 1880s carpets either have red or green as the dominant color (very few are blue, and while gold, tan and brown do exist, they are rarer). On top of this, the combination of red and green was a very popular interior palette, and thus we worked on the assumption that the carpet was most likely in the red family, with burgundies or rusts be a likely choice instead of the jewel red tones that were popular in the mid and late 19th century. I went deep into my archive of 1880s carpet patterns and selected turkey patterns (ones that emulate oriental rugs, just like the pattern to be reproduced) and "plugged in" the appropriate colors.
recreating the pattern itself wasn't terrible difficult; since we had the original floorboards, each measuring three inches or so, and thus we created a grid by combining this known dimension along with using the standard 27" wide strips of the carpet (The border under the piano is what is known as a 5/8 or 22" wide border). The carpet designer was able to flip the pattern flat and create the precise array of carpet tufts, indicating where the colors should fall.
i submitted full-scale artwork to the curatorial staff, and then a hand-trial (a small sample), and then approved it. The goods were shipped to a carpet mechanic who sewed the pieces together and cut a pad for each room. I then visited the site on the day of delivery and helped arrange the original furnishings on the carpet, exactly as they once stood!