Weave & Weft
Each rug is adapted from original Bob Hest paintings in all their rustic charm and childlike wonder at the natural world
Photography by Jacob Docksey
When Bob Hest goes to an interior designer, he doesn’t have to say much. He unrolls his rugs and lets them speak for themselves.
“I know that once people see the rugs, they’ll like them,” says Hest, and the confidence is more than earned. Each rug is of extremely high quality, adapted from original Hest paintings in all their rustic charm and childlike wonder at the natural world.
Hest in his studio in Minneapolis.
Though he’s had many varied careers, Hest has been an artist through all of them, distilling his style over years of hard work. The turn to rug-making was unexpected, but he leapt at the chance when it presented itself. That opportunity came three years ago, when he met a respected rug trader. “Before I met Farzan Navab,” says Hest, “I didn’t know a thing about a rug.” When Hest went to his rug shop, they became fast friends. Soon after, Navab approached Hest with a partnership, and it didn’t take long before they were producing the magnificent pieces that interior designers the world over have carried, from Hetherington Interiors in Bozeman, Montana, to the Baby Cot Shop in London.
Fascinated with nature, Hest has a particular affinity for horses. “A rodeo came to town when I was little,” he recalls. “They kept their broncs in our pasture with the workhorses.” In this rug, he re-creates that peaceful ambience through carefully selected colors.
Hest paints in his Minneapolis studio; when a piece is ready, he turns to a box filled with numbered balls of colored fabric called poms. This box corresponds with one belonging to skilled weavers in India and Pakistan, who have been practicing their art for generations.
Hest then consults Blaire Bender, a rug designer, who translates the painting into a blueprint for the rug makers. Different mediums, however, require different visual elements. “Blaire adds what I affectionately call ‘chatter,’” says Hest. “They can’t reproduce every brushstroke. Blaire fills in the texture.” They send the design to the master craftsmen and women who hand-knot the rugs with traditional techniques. Six months later, the rug arrives.
Bunny, 3’ x 4’.
The finished product boasts 100 knots per square inch, allowing for a remarkable level of detail, each piece faithfully re-creating the tranquil atmospheres in Hest’s paintings. They range in size from 3 x 4 feet to 5 x 7 feet, though clients are welcome to request other dimensions.
Every rug has a story. For this one, it’s a narrative of inspiration, collaboration, a little luck and a lot of hard work. Red Bull, 5’ x 7’
Hest says it’s not hard to let go and allow others to reshape his art. “You just have to do another one,” he says. “The artist is only part of the deal. You’re never the whole thing.” It takes more than one person for a project like this to succeed, and Hest works with gifted artisans, all cut from the same cloth.
As seen in the January/February 2020 issue.