Article: Totally Floored
Written by: Rhonda Reinhart
Published in: Cowboys & Indians July 2021 Issue
As a college student majoring in Fine Arts and minoring in Native American studies, Mark Ford dreamed of one day working at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. Like a lot of university-era intentions, however that plan didn’t pan out, but Ford never lost his appreciation for Native art and culture. “My passion is trying to figure out a way to uplift and put some light on Native American artists, “he says. So, in 2009, after years of working in the rug industry, the longtime textile designer merged his passion with his profession, founding American Dakota in his hometown of Calhoun, Georgia.
The 12-year-old rug company has gained a dedicated following for its bold and colorful creations, and its rustic-lifestyle-inspired area rugs can be found in homes across the country, as well as hotels in Santa Fe and cabins in Yellowstone National Park. But the pieces Ford is most proud of are his collaborations with contemporary Indigenous artists.
He first formed a partnership with Rande Cook, a Northwest Coast artist known for his paintings and wood carvings, “He let us put some of his mask and drum designs on rugs,” Ford says. They translated great, and that’s how we started.” Now American Dakota has five Indigenous artists on its roster, with designs ranging from pop art-type patterns to more traditional styles. “When we design a rug, we never discontinue it,” Ford says. “So, we’re looking for a lifelong relationship with the artists.” The artists also make 50 percent of the profit every time one of their rugs is sold. “I always smile when I write that check,” Ford adds, “because it just makes me happy that we can provide a little bit of income to somebody who put the work in originally.” All American Dakota rugs are made to order and come in six sizes; go to americandakota.com for a list of dealers.
Meet the Artists: Let your rug research take you further into these featured artists’ virtual spaces.
- Randy L. Barton: randylbarton.com
- Avis Charley: avischarleyart.com
- Rande Cook: randecook.ca
- Mike Dangeli: @mikedangeli on Instagram
- Steven Paul Judd: stoodis.com