When darkness threatened, Fall River danced and weaved

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Countless spindles still spin today, but there are also looms, tufters, lathes, planers, irons, and embroidery machines, among many other gadgets and contraptions that hum when they spin. build household items.

In a sprawling 40,000 square foot workshop in an industrial park in Fall River, Merida creates natural rugs using traditional looms and classic hand and machine weaving methods. The majority of carpets in the world, about 90 percent are plastic or made of synthetic materialsbut Merida uses materials such as wool, linen, mohair and cotton, among other all-natural and rapidly renewable fibers that are safe for the environment and healthy for homes and their inhabitants.

“Our mission is and has been to be a counter-cultural company that reinvents textile manufacturing and design,” said Catherine Connolly, CEO of the company since 2007.

Manny Sousa, Merida’s production manager, stands among hundreds of spools of warp thread that power the weaving machines. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Merida’s mission is further rooted in the practice of keeping timeless traditions alive and providing artisans with opportunities to master techniques, gain the confidence to innovate, and develop viable careers. The brand employs approximately 50 people in Fall River, with offsite showrooms in the Boston Design Center and the New York Design Center.

The Merida workshop is a place of wonder for the senses: a colorful and voluminous assemblage of yarns (one of the largest yarn libraries in the country, if not the largest), the fascinating attention of craftsmen engaged in a slow, precise work on looms and with their hands, and even the occasional smell of a completely different place.

Merida CEO Catherine Connolly grabs gold thread from a shelf. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Totally wrapped up in his work, Phanna “Lucky” Loeu sits in the middle of two sections of a 13-by-13-foot rug he’s hand-sewing in Merida.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Rich Rodrigues unwinds pink yarn for his weaving machine in Mérida.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

“We use a lot of wool, so sometimes you’ll get a slight sheep or barn smell, but all of our products are natural, so it’s a very pleasant smell,” Connolly said.

In Mérida, Edson Oliveira walks on his knees as he uses scissors to cut a carpet into three stair steps. John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

The company was originally founded in 1978 in Syracuse, NY, but moved to its current space in 1998. This arrival followed a dedicated stint on Summer Street in Boston.

In December, the brand launched Workshopan artist-inspired collection of prismatic rugs combining organic shapes with specialized weaving techniques.

The brand is now 100% direct to trade and busier than ever. According to Connolly, “our orders are up 40% over last year.”

Matouka traditional brand known for its fine bed linen and other home products, shares the spirit and territory of its neighbors in Merida, as well as the commitment to providing luxury products for the home.

Since Matouk offers a more retail-focused approach, the brand sustains consistent demand from devotees, especially during the holiday season, due to its popular monogramming service. According to the brand, its main customers are direct consumers via Matouk.comindependent specialty retailers, national retailers such as Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom, interior designers and hotels.

A worker puts the finishing touches on a napkin monogram.Courtesy of Matouk

The early months of the pandemic brought about a dramatic shift in the production of PPE — primarily face masks, said George Matouk Jr., CEO. But it’s mostly business as usual since last summer, when the furniture industry picked up. “In a way, we’ve been trying to catch up with demand since then,” Matouk said.

Today, the brand spans multiple buildings and approximately 117,000 square feet. This is not the mill of your ancestors, Matouk said, explaining that while Matouk previously inhabited a historic mill in New Bedford, the multi-level brick and stone structures of the 19th and early 20th century actually created many barriers to business.

In 2005, the company moved to the Fall River Industrial Park with 50 employees, where they have the space to move large swaths of fabric like 120-inch-long bed sheets, for example. There are also high ceilings to maximize storage space, wide aisles, reinforced floors and enough space to operate large format machines safely and efficiently. “Our manufacturing environment is bright, safe, productive, collaborative and modern,” Matouk said.

The company employs 280 people and has added a second team to meet additional staffing and production needs.

The space is also adapted to the workers and their needs. “We have a full campus approach with multiple outdoor and private gathering spaces,” Matouk said. “We created the kind of work experience that would never be possible in a traditional factory. Personally, I think factory buildings are more suited to residential and commercial uses than modern manufacturing.

A Matouk worker stacks towels.Courtesy of Matouk
A worker presses towels in Matouk.Courtesy of Matouk
A worker sews linen in Matouk.Courtesy of Matouk

Studio O&G, the smallest of the trio of maker brands, is no less committed to crafting specialty items that are meant to last. Located 10 miles from Fall River in a 20,000 square foot studio inside the historic Cutler Mill in Warren, RI, the studio’s specialty is handmade furniture, including its line of signature Windsor chairs. and modern.

Owner Jonathan Glatt spent his college years studying metalwork and jewelry making, but a lifelong interest in antiques and the historic decorative arts, complemented by an internship in early American furniture at Sotheby’s, changed the trajectory of his career. career.

A colt low back chair in khaki on the chair studio floor at O&G Studio.Angel Tucker

The Windsor chair – identifiable by its wooden seat, flared wooden legs and multi-pin back – dates from the early 18th century. It’s an iconic and historic style that Glatt turned to because it’s both interesting and identifiable. Today, O&G Studio puts its own twist on Windsor kitchen chairs, benches and stools, sometimes painting them in unusual colors like hunter green and khaki, which are applied using O&G’s unique dyeing process. . (Customers can choose from a selection of 19 stain options and two types of wood.)

Visitors will also find collections of dining tables, bed frames and dressers with a more contemporary vibe, as well as custom lighting fixtures and metal hardware sets that draw on the experience of Glatt in metallurgy.

A sense of place is so important to Glatt, who opened O&G Studio in 2009 with a co-owner who has since left the company. The brand views everything it does holistically, Glatt explained, from designing regionally inspired furniture to using natural materials that have a geographic and aesthetic connection to the designs.

Jonathan Glatt with furniture at O&G Studio.Angel Tucker

Today, the studio employs 27 people, who handle everything from woodworking to upholstery to finishing and more. “We consider ourselves ‘in-sourcers’, which means we do everything we can in-house,” Glatt said. Apart from a few small components from partner companies in the United States, everything is made in its factory. “We appreciate that these designs have created opportunities for our employees to build personal lives through creating work they can be proud of.”

The studio’s business has only grown since its inception, with a notable increase in furniture orders over the past two years, primarily from interior designers and architectural firms. The O&G Studio team responded to this request head-on.

“I’m amazed at the quality and volume of beautiful furniture our team builds every day,” Glatt said. “It’s humbling to think of the many families who are there to dine on O&G chairs or at an O&G dining table. One of the most exciting aspects is the legacy that will survive us when our furniture is passed on to future generations. »

Christina Poletto lives in New York, where she writes about quirky old homes and interior design trends. Follow her on Instagram @christina_poletto. Subscribe to The Globe’s free property newsletter – our weekly digest on buying, selling and designing – at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp. Follow us on twitter @GlobeHomes.

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