The Disobedience rug from Carpets CC.


fter years of making a living as a visual artist and gallerist, Cecilia Setterdahl began transposing her graphic artworks from the canvas to hand-woven rugs. In 2016, she relocated from Switzerland, where she had lived with her husband for more than two decades, to Dubai, and her plans for launching a rug business finally came to fruition as Carpets CC. To bring her work to life in new ways, she connected with artisans in Bhadohi district in Uttar Pradesh, India, who now hand-knot her rugs over a period ranging from one to four months, depending on size and type. Recently, the business has evolved even further. She relocated her studio to the Jumeirah Lakes Towers neighborhood, rather than the Dubai Design District where her business was born, and she rides her bike to the office from her home in Jumeirah Islands.

Cecilia Setterdahl   

Setterdahl’s design process begins as a sketch. Next, she deftly weaves in color and pigment, experimenting with her ideas to see if they are destined to live on the canvas, or if she should recreate the concept as a rug. For those designs that would work well as rugs, she modifies the painting into a carpet template and matches the paint colors to dyed, semi-worsted New Zealand wool, and, on occasion, other materials like bamboo silk and natural silk.

Each well composed rug is then made to order in India. The manufacturing is accomplished entirely by hand: first, the wool is hand dyed, the color left to set in the sun, and then the team of talented makers knot and trim the carpets. Her recent collections range in inspiration from Dubai’s private gardens to one woman’s escape from North Korea. Below, she shares three of her recent lines.


Walk in the Garden

During the beginning of the pandemic, Setterdahl retreated to her birth country of Sweden. To calm her mind, she began taking long walks in the countryside, which ultimately inspired her most recent collection for Carpets CC. The series, Walk in the Garden, debuted at Dubai Design Week in November 2020. Each rug is available in a limited-edition set of 10 in both gray and red.

The Walk in the Garden rug, shown here in red and orange, features bold curves that make a statement. “Art carpets are fantastic statement pieces,” Setterdahl says.

In gray, the Walk in the Garden rug brings a touch of excitement to a space.

Freedom Collection 

In 2007, Park Yeon-mi and her family fled North Korea for China after her father returned from a hard labor sentence for smuggling. Now, Park is renowned for her human rights work regarding North Korea and human trafficking in China. In her honor, Setterdahl designed a series of rugs in 2018 inspired by Park’s subversion and consequent flight to South Korea.

During Park’s childhood, her father — a civil servant — was arrested for illegally smuggling metal from China into North Korea and sentenced to years of hard labor. The designer depicted his struggle against order through rigid lines that eventually disappear off the edge of the hand-knotted Disobedience rug.   

In this hand-tufted rug titled Back to Order, Setterdahl rearranges the lines into ordered pathways, referencing the father’s arrest. She chose the black background as a nod to the pain of this period; the blue and green suggest moments of hope. 

With the help of human traffickers, Park and her mother crossed a river and a series of mountains into China. They stayed in a Christian shelter run by missionaries in Qingdao, before making their way to Mongolia and then South Korea. In the hand-knotted Escape rug, the curved line represents the family’s journey. 

In the Night Out rug, black lines intersect at many angles as a reference to Park’s newfound freedom outside North Korea, once she reached safety. The hand-tufted carpet is available in cream with red and blue with eggshell.  

The Garden Collection 

Debuting at Downtown Design Dubai in 2018, the Garden Collection is an homage to the city’s enclosed gardens. Each rug’s design reflects one of three types of green spaces hidden within private Dubai homes — the Winter, Water, and Desert Garden — with an entryway included.

In the Desert Garden rug, neutral shades of brown are decorated with bright, geometric bursts of emerald and cobalt.  

Alternating stripes in shades of blue are the central focus of the Water Garden design.

The design of the Winter Garden rug showcases red squares along with pale gray circles and rectangles along the border to represent resting gardens