The origins of Fort Street Studio lay in the adventurous spirit of founders, Janis Provisor and Brad Davis, a married couple of accomplished artists who exhibited at Holly Solomon Gallery throughout the 1970s and 80s. They are represented in museums like the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, Albright Knox Gallery, and international collections both public and private.
After many years of interest in Chinese art and culture, they decided to take a year long journey to China in the early 1990s. Settling in Hangzhou, they traveled, painted and worked on woodblock prints, as well as visited artist’s studios and studied the region’s architecture. A chance meeting with a former manager of a silk carpet factory inspired the couple to collaborate on making a silk carpet for their loft in New York. They had already owned a Chinese Art Deco wool carpet with some small areas of blended tones, so they questioned whether it was possible to make an entire carpet with similar details. Starting with a group of watercolors they quickly painted, then began sampling at a small carpet workshop in an attempt to find a successful interpretation. At year’s end, they had a small 1’x1’ sample that showed some promise.
Energized both by the excitement of a developing China and the artistic challenge to realize their ideas, they began the painstaking process of making semblant patterns of the watercolors. Their biggest challenge was developing a weaveable pattern so artisans could actually make a carpet with these previously unknown painterly qualities. This process included work with software developers, digital printers, and extensive dyeing and weaving sampling. Their next hurdle was to find the highest quality silk yarns, ensure careful color matching, and retraining weavers to read an entirely new type of pattern chart. Brad often says, “It was like teaching Classical musician to play Jazz.” Fast forward 2 ½ years, given the dedication to this innovative artistic enterprise, they decided to build the idea into a new brand of handwoven silk carpets.
The first 7 designs came off the looms in 1996 and were debuted at the end of the year in Hong Kong and New York at Design Week. Creative friends, prominent designers and press began inquiring about their unique floor covers. A showroom named after the street the designers lived on was opened in 1997, and Fort Street Studio was born. The artists had realized their idea to make a watercolor-based carpet for their home – an adventure that launched one of the most distinctive carpet brands in the industry.
Since their fortuitous beginnings, Janis Provisor and Brad Davis have grown the company into an internationally acclaimed luxury brand, with showrooms in New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong. The couple continues to launch new designs annually based on their original artwork, and have expanded their choice of medium to include carpet qualities of diverse textures, hand-knotted and hand-woven in wool, silk and combinations of those and other natural fibers. Fort Street Studio has an apprenticed Art Department to work hand-in-hand with clients to customize current designs for individualized needs.
The company has mounted highly acclaimed exhibitions in Paris, London and Milan, and in late 2010, Janis Provisor and Brad Davis were tapped by the venerable French fashion house Hermès to design the carpets for the Atelier’s new Maison. More recently, the couple was invited to judge the 2014 Domotex Carpet Design Awards, which recognizes excellence in design of hand-made carpets, at the world’s most important international carpet & flooring show.