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Carpet shopping with a conscience.

Marit and Orlyn Kringstad with two of their

Marit and Orlyn Kringstad with two of their

The “Rugmark” label guarantees no child labor was used.

Social justice and unique rug design come together at Nordic Textiles and Furnishings, a metro area firm owned and operated by Orlyn and Marit Kringstad, Edina. The Kringstads are members of Norwegian Lutheran Memorial Church, known as Mindekirken (ELCA), south Minneapolis.
Rugs that the Kringstads sell, designed in Norway and Minnesota and manufactured in Nepal, each carry the label Rugmark, certifying that children have not been employed in producing them. Rugmark is an independent, non-profit organization working to bring third-world child laborers out of factories and into school.
“I feel a moral responsibility to educate people about Rug-mark even if they don’t buy from us,” Marit says. “People shopping for rugs should look for the Rugmark label.”
The Nordic Textiles rugs are made from 100% Tibetan wool, hand-knotted in Nepal by a workforce that does not include under-age children.
The Kringstads introduced their rugs in Norway in January 2001 and began marketing them in the U.S. later that year. Buy-ers like the richness of the colors and the distinctiveness of patterns inspired by Norwegian church art, sea chests, hand-carved trunks or by the folk art of regions like Oppdal, Gud-brandsdalen or Hallingdal.
The Kringstads started small. When they began furnishing their home a few years ago with the traditional Nor-wegian look they loved, they thought, “Other people might like these things, too.” They began by selling Nordic furnishings and tapestries out of their home. Now they maintain a retail store in St. Louis Park and market their wares wholesale through Minneapolis Gift Mart in Minnetonka.
Orlyn and Marit came to their textile business from other situations. “I was a mature male embarking on my fifth and (I hoped) last career,” Orlyn says. He had just spent 12years with the Sons of Norway, most recently as chief fraternal officer. At the time the Kringstads were expanding their business, a friend called to their attention the dire conditions for children in Asia. Arthur Schultz urged them to join in his humanitarian efforts.
According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, one million children between the ages of 6-14 spend long days in rug production in Pakistan, Nepal and India.
Orlyn recalls announcing to his co-workers that he was “go-ing to go to Nepal to set up a manufacturing process for rugs, design them in Norway, sell them in the U.S. and Norway, and in the process help eliminate child labor in the rug industry. Eyes rolled, heads shook, and the worst of the disbelievers snickered. My resolve hardened!”
Marit had worked for 15 years at Plymouth Christian Youth Center in North Minneapolis, serving as director of social services for the latter eight. “I went from helping children here to dealing with problems of children halfway about the world,” Marit says. “But children are children anywhere. After seeing firsthand how little people have in Nepal, we felt we had to put our energies where they would do the most good.”
Not only do the Kringstads depend on Rugmark verification, but they also continue making trips to Nepal to consult with their Nepalese partners, Dorjee Sushil Sherpa and his wife, Ang Lami. Together the Kringstads and Sherpas developed their business concept, their child labor policies and other fair labor practices. The firm has more than 60 weavers in Nepal and about 30 children in school and daycare.
Three designers create the unique patterns of Nordic Tex-tiles rugs. On a trip to Norway in 2000, the Kringstads met Lise Skjak Braek, noted Norwegian festival and folk costume designer whose projects have included the Albertville, Barce-lona, and Lillehammer Winter Olympic games. “Lisa immediately grasped what we were looking for and fell in love with the concept of her designs helping children escape from slave labor,” Orlyn says.
Within weeks, Braek provided her first collection for the Kringstads, using Norwegian design elements of the 12th-19th centuries. Her most recent collection, designed exclusively for Nordic Textiles, is inspired by Norwegian traditional and folk motifs dating from 1650-1850.
Designing for the firm in Minnesota are Laurie Jacobi and Marit Kringstad herself. The company has adapted three of Laurie’s design collections: the Saga collection based on Norse mythology; the Sundborn collection, inspired by the work of Swedish artist Carl Larsson; and the Plains Indian collection featuring themes from Native American legends. Laurie attends Mount Olivet Lutheran Church.
Some customers request rugs with simpler designs. “Borders by Marit” allows customers to select their preferred rug colors and dimensions. Marit creates border designs in keeping with their tastes.
A specialized textile that the Kringstads offer is the Valdres Kristneteppe, the traditional Norwegian christening wrap similar to the one they knelt on in their 1998 wedding service at Mindekirken. Babies are carried in this wrap at their Baptism; it is a part of the wedding ceremony and decorates the home at holidays or is hung behind the guest of honor on special occasions. Norwegian families handed down the kristneteppe, and it draped the bench that held a loved one’s funeral casket.
At Mindekirken, Marit is a member of the church council, and Orlyn has served several terms as congregation president. Mindekirken owns a Valdres Krisneteppe, a gift from Hilda Kringstad, Orlyn’s mother.
For further information about Nordic Textiles and Rugmark, phone (952) 925-4500.