Angel Rios isn’t afraid to name-drop. In fact, it’s the foundation his textile manufacturing company, AER Textiles, is built on. Known for turning museum-quality art into luxurious carpets and rugs, the Houston-based firm brings the artists to the forefront, celebrating not only their work but also their stories. GDG caught up with Angel to learn more about the canvas-to-carpet process and what’s next for the company.
How did the concept for AER Textiles originate?
In 2009, I met a Houston artist named Nicola Parente. I was at one of his art shows, and I just thought, Wow, this would make a fantastic rug. The large textile manufacturer I was working for at the time didn’t want Nicola’s name on any of the designs, which made it hard to convince him to work with us. He was protective of his work, as any artist should be.
A lot of companies back then just wanted to buy the design from an artist without giving credit, because they wanted their audience to feel like it was their product. I wanted to change that, so I moved back to Houston in 2015 to start AER. The idea was that AER would be a new paint-brush for these artists, and not only a way for them to get their prints onto my rugs, but also to provide a network where people could get to know more about the artists and their work. Nicola was the first person I called.
Why do you think the company has been successful?
People are looking for things now that are artisan. They’re not just looking for something that’s already made or produced without a story to it. The end goal is really to celebrate the artist and to give the client a work of art, something that’s treasured as a work of art that’s to be passed on.
How do you select the artists to work with?
Most artists we’ve worked with are people I met through my travels or through the design world. It’s people I’ve formed loving relationships with before I even work with them. Every piece of art that I look, at I’m looking at it from a perspective of, What’s the story here? How would this be appealing to someone?
Carpet design by artist Kelly Gale Amen.
So you have an artist selected for a collection. What’s next?
We start by getting to know an artist’s story and understanding how their art is made. The magic really happens in sitting there with the artist, looking at their work and picking the colors. We work with a team of graphic artists to convert it to a format that the factory can use. Once it’s sent to the factory, the workers hand-sketch the art onto cotton backing, and that’s how they begin the process of hand-tufting the art into carpet. It can take up to a year to develop the collection and produce it. It takes awhile, but it’s so worth it when you see the translation.
What is your main clientele like?
If artists, fabric houses, or other retailers want capsule collections, we’ll produce a line for them. We’re pretty much a designer’s resource. And then we also do custom work. Most of the time, it’s working directly with the architect or interior designer giving us their project and then allowing us to curate art for the project that we can incorporate in the rug.
Carpet design by artist Nicola Parente.
Any current projects you can share with us?
We’re working with a client now who has an alpaca farm in Dallas and we’ve collected yarn from their alpacas to send to our factory in Nepal to make a tapestry for their home. It’s completely off the wall, but that’s what AER Textiles is all about: celebrating the artist and giving the client a work of art that isn’t just a rug on the floor but has a story.
You’ve worked with everyone from local to student artists. What’s the benefit of featuring both ends of the spectrum?
We offer a student program that has been an amazing way for me to find talent and also to reward them and not just say, “Okay, we’re going to pay you a set $500 for your design.” We actually give them a royalty on everything that sells with their name. They may not have a lot of experience yet, but there’s no age for art. As an industry partner, I think that supporting the student population is an important way to support the interior design trade.
What’s next for AER Textiles?
We’re looking to expand into fabrics in the upcoming year, bringing artists a new canvas they may not have necessarily thought of. A lot of people who have already mastered their craft in fashion or other areas are looking to get into licensing home goods, so those are some of the relationships I’ve been talking about developing.