He is well-versed in the language of rugs.
To the untrained eye, the rugs that hang from the walls and are stacked in multi-colored mounds throughout the Main Street store are interesting and beautiful. But those beautiful rugs become fascinating, to hear Wilson, who runs the store with his wife, Paula, translate their color schemes and intricate patterns into history and legend.
“The serrated diamonds represent the four directions, the four winds, the four corners of the earth,” Wilson says, pointing to a sequence of bisecting diamonds splashed across the center of a rug decorating a wall in the shop. “This design is perhaps one of the most famous of ancient designs… signifying energy, being brought in as well as being sent out.”
Wilson goes on to explain that the majority of the rugs in Heirlooms, which opened last June in the east Main Street shop previously occupied by Panhandler, as having similarly historic foundations for design. “The symbols, imagery and motifs all have anthropological meaning – they tell the story about the rug. Not only are they works of art, made for underfoot or on walls; rugs also have an energy about them that comes directly from these ancient motifs and designs.
“One can feel it in a house,” Wilson says, of that energy.
As he explains, most of Heirlooms’ rugs are made by Zapotec weavers from Oaxaca, Mexico. “We deal directly with about fifty families, with several weavers in each family,” he says, noting that many of the designs found in the store are traditional to the Zapotec Indians – despite the common belief that these oft-used designs emerged from the Navajo culture. Many, in fact, were first introduced in North America via the influx of Turkish and Eastern rugs brought here by trading posts.
“The Zapotec have been weaving since before time – longer than the Navajo, in fact,” Wilson continues, as we resume our tour around the color and texture-rich Heirlooms shop. Some rugs are vintage Navajo; others, tribal rugs from around the world.
But Zapotec rugs form the heart and soul of Heirlooms, Wilson admits. “What draws me to the Zapotec is their use of such a wide variety of color and design. It can range from very contemporary to very traditional,” he says.
Felipe Hernandez is one of the more contemporary weavers featured at Heirlooms, an artist who not only weaves thoughtful artistic designs but also spins his own fibers, which are then dyed by hand with all-natural vegetable dyes (their “recipes” known only to the artist).
Wilson knows his rugs by rote, thanks to his family’s long history in the industry. His parents opened The Art Bank, an Oriental rug center in Colorado Springs, in the mid-70s.
He and wife Paula have operated Old World Heirlooms, an import and rug shop, in Tubac, Ariz., for over two decades.
His path to Telluride began just last summer, when he came for a short visit. Noticing an assortment of empty retail spaces on Main Street, he inquired about a short-term lease at the expansive space in the New San Juan building. With negotiations wrapped up by June 12, he was back with a U-haul full of rugs and opening up a new main street business by June 16.
It was a move he’s been happy with, he says, noting a warm welcome from all facets of the Telluride community.
Rugs are the focus, but not the only dimension to Heirlooms. The store also sells a collection of painted gourds, by renowned Native American artist D.R. Nance, as well as pieces from a smattering of Southwestern jewelers.
Heirlooms is open every day but Monday (Tuesday-Sunday), 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.