By any measure, the rug industry has exploded in the past several decades. Once a highly specialized expression of local culture, hand-made rugs have become a metaphor for the new global economy. Traditional designs have been reinterpreted to coordinate with current colors and trends, and new designs that owe no debt to tradition at all are being introduced every month, all of them woven by hand on traditional looms in countries such as India, Pakistan, Nepal and China. It’s a way of life that’s existed for thousands of years, yet powerful market forces reach into these remote homes and shops and determine the colors and patterns of the knots on the looms.

Demand for the new has not endangered traditional designs; on the contrary, more people than ever before are being exposed to them. But the explosion of creativity enabled by these new markets is astounding. It’s a beautiful example of what can happen when people open up and share.