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Marko Nichols-Marcy of Noreen Seabrook

Nestled a few blocks from Brooklyn's McCarren Park, diagonally across from Badame-Sessa Memorial Square, and shadowed by the overpass of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway lies the Noreen Seabrook design studio. Occupying the second floor of an unassuming brick building, the space inside is vast—a sprawling room filled to the brim with intricately designed rugs. Near the entrance, a bustling schedule on a whiteboard announces upcoming visits from an eclectic mix of artists, athletes, and celebrities, all drawn by the allure of unique rug designs.

On one side, a glass partition neatly divides the storage zone from the work area of Marko Nichols-Marcy, the company's creative director and a second-generation rug aficionado. Standing in his office—stuffed with briefcases of mulberry silk samples, a table piled with thick swatch binders, and a jumble of rugs covering the floor—Marko Nichols-Marcy explains a doormat-sized rug adorned with monogram-like combinations of his initials, "MNM." "Master rugmakers would have their signature woven in, like antique silver," he explains, gesturing to illustrate his point. "It's the mark of the maker." Though this symbol is still in progress, much of Noreen Seabrook's work already bears Nichols-Marcy's signature.

"Rug Life," the current exhibition at Nepenthes New York, offers a window into Marko's world—a vibrant tapestry of his experiences, woven over three decades and showcasing a legacy of familial and cultural connections.


Born in 1944 in Sussex, England, Marko's father is the son of Noreen Seabrook, the antique dealer and company namesake. His early life, a blend of antique trading, hotel management schooling, and culinary stints at Nick's Diner during London's swinging 60s, culminated in a move to New York in the 1970s. Here, he joined the local rugby scene, even playing against the formidable New Zealand All Blacks, and swept floors to make ends meet. A chance meeting with a rug dealer through a rugby teammate launched him into the rug trade, setting him on a path of discovery across India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, searching for exquisite rugs and skilled weavers to bring stateside.

In 1977, he began working for the importer Fritz and La Rue, initially as a sales representative in the Midwest, before rising to national sales manager. His profound understanding of Tibetan carpets, first imported by Fritz and La Rue in 1979, led him to join Tufenkian Carpets in 1986. He deepened his expertise until 1991 when he joined Kelaty, a London/New York-based importer, managing sales, design, and manufacturing across India, Pakistan, and Nepal and selecting goods for the US market from Turkey.

Driven by a comprehensive knowledge of the industry and inspired by the potential and flexibility of weaving in Nepal, he founded Noreen Seabrook, naming it after his mother. The company became known for its innovative designs and large-scale carpets, some of the biggest ever woven in Nepal, including pieces as large as 35' x 85'. This approach, combined with the open-mindedness of the local weaving companies, nurtured over 29 years, allowed Noreen Seabrook to pioneer new rug designs and sizes, vastly expanding the traditional scope of the industry.

The art of Tibetan weaving stretches back hundreds of years. It uses a unique hand-knotting technique to create practical items like rugs for sleeping, meditation, decorating monasteries, or horseback riding, which explains the smaller traditional rug sizes. Many locals produced simpler weavings in the home, but the villages' aristocratic families typically owned and ran dedicated workshops for the decorated pile rugs.

Throughout its history, the Tibetan art of weaving held close ties with spirituality. Tibetan monks often sit on hand-woven carpets during religious ceremonies. In a spiritual context, tiger rugs evoke wrathful Tibetan Buddhist gods. The tiger skin offers protection to a person engaged in meditation. The tiger motif—which monks used instead of the much scarcer tiger skins—became associated with strength, bravery, and courage.

The Tibetan weaving industry, which thrived in the late 19th and mid-20th century, was dealt a severe blow by the Chinese invasion in 1959. An influx of Tibetan refugees—including weavers—arrived in Nepal, where they set about reestablishing their lives and establishing new weaving houses.

Noreen Seabrook's carpets employ the same traditional methods. Each piece is made entirely by hand, using wool for the weft, cotton warp, and traditional Tibetan knotting. Noreen Seabrook primarily uses changpel, wool from Tibetan highland sheep. Marko likens it to these creatures' armor for surviving the harsh climate of the Himalayan mountains. The wool contains natural lanolin oil, a natural stain repellent. Sheep shearing occurs once a year, so there is a limited window in which the wool is available to suppliers. Due to the high demand, the source of the wool is a heavily guarded secret in Kathmandu.


The process begins with the loom drawing—a full-scale design recreation. From there, the dye master must create each color used in the rug. There is no Pantone book; the rug master blends each color himself. Then, he kettle-dyes the yarn over a wood fire before laying it out in the sun to dry.

The weaving process occurs on a loom and is conducted entirely by hand. Each weaver covers a three-foot section. Marko relates, "There's a lot of synchronicity and teamwork involved. Because of the loom's tension, they must start at the bottom and go up at the same pace."

When the weaving is complete, the weavers cut the rug off the loom, wash it with soap and water, then leave it under the sun to dry before shearing and carving it. The carving also refines the design, allowing a sharper appearance, which is well-suited to designs that feature lettering. A heavy carve may make the rug appear too manufactured for traditional designs.

Marko says of the process, "The weavers have to like each other since they're sitting side by side for weeks at a time. If it's monsoon season when it rains daily, the rugs take more time to dry, but the weaving time will be speedy. But when it's nice out, the weavers want to sunbathe and spend time outside, so weaving slows down. There's a very human element to it all."

To this day, Noreen Seabrook is a family affair, and the three weaving houses that work exclusively with them are part of that extended family. In the early days, it operated out of the Nichols-Marcy residence in upstate Red Hook, New York. Marko's mother, who immigrated from Serbia and worked at the United Nations, quit her job to lend a hand to this new enterprise. "I grew up an only child," says Nichols-Marcy, "But Noreen Seabrook very quickly became the baby of the family, whether I liked it or not."

Nichols-Marcy grew up in an environment dominated by rugs. "It was a language spoken all the time. There was no nine to five. I was helping my dad bring full-size rugs out to UPS across the river in Kingston. I was going on business trips with my dad. If I was sick from school, I was going with him to other rug showrooms," he shares, "Hearing my dad talk all the time, I would mimic him, impersonate him. The next thing I knew, I was spitting out crazy rug terms and understanding all these details about rugs."

Marko's first visit to Nepal came in 1998 when he accompanied his father on a business trip to Kathmandu. He stayed in the weaver's home, where he first saw traditional Tibetan rugs. "My dad was bringing over more decorative carpets and different decorative styles. There were a lot of floral patterns with soft blue and gold. For the first time, I saw tiger carpets with orange and black, and I was naturally attracted to them."

Despite this deep connection to rugs, Marko didn't expect to join his family business. He attended a small liberal arts school, studying journalism. He graduated in 2009 with an offer from ESPN after working at WWEI Sports Radio, Boston (an impressive feat considering his fierce loyalty to the New York Yankees). However, a few months before starting the sports radio job, he received the opportunity to work at Tiger Tops safari lodge in Nepal and, seeing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, seized the chance.

Tiger Tops, specializing in sustainable tourism, is located in Nepal's Chitwan National Forest. Translated from Sanskrit, the name Chitwan means "Heart of the Jungle," derived from the Sanskrit words चित्त (heart) वन (jungle). Marko worked as a tiger spotter for five months, waking up at 5:00 a.m. and creeping through the jungle on the back of an elephant to find the big cats. "Being around a tiger in the wild, while I'm on top of an elephant, where there's no fence or security, for the first time in my life, I was not at the top of the food chain," Marko remembers, "Tigers demand respect because they can end your entire existence."


In addition to deepening his fascination with tigers, the safari job brought him closer to Nepali culture. "When I wasn't afraid for my life, there was a lot of downtime. Two safaris a day, no Internet, no cell phone—just the jungle. The mahouts—the elephant drivers—didn't speak English, so I learned Nepali, jotting phrases in my notebook until we could communicate."

Upon returning home, Marko decided to join the family business. Each day began at 9:00 a.m. sharp, with a report of the day's agenda, followed by client meetings, design mockups, material selection, and his father occasionally firing and rehiring him. Marko describes these years as "learning the hard way," imbuing a deep devotion to quality, service, and vision his father had forged. Marko says, "My dad ran the business like a Swiss watchmaker, with an amazing attention to detail. We use 100% pure Mulberry silk and pure wool, and we never use any synthetic fibers. We will repair the carpet if something is wrong, no questions asked."

When Marko's father stepped away from the business in 2017, he found his chance to share a new vision. "I wanted to get people to see rugs. Most people never acknowledge them," he states, "I knew I had to do something so bold and loud and visible that they would stop and say, 'Oh.'" The pressure was immense, coming from his friends, his father who started the business, the Tibetan weavers looking to him as the source of their livelihood, and, of course, from himself.

In the fall of 2018, Marko visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, viewing Items: Is Fashion Modern?, a collection of 111 "pinnacles of design" and a companion piece to Bernard Rudofsky's 1944 exhibition Are Clothes Modern? Marko recalls the visit, "I walk to see a red paisley bandana on a big white wall. As someone looking at rugs all day, I see a field, a border—a rug." The bandana design clicked with young creatives, leading to Noreen Seabrook's admission into a group exhibition alongside artists like Stash and Futura—where he displayed a series of rugs inspired by 90s soccer jerseys—as well as commissioned work from A$AP Ferg.

Despite his new vision's warm reception, Marko needed the work to generate revenue to sustain the company. His father's business trips to Nepal meant stacks of files and constant work for the Tibetan weavers, which Marko had yet to produce.

When Marko stepped into his role as creative director, he reshaped the studio's creative direction, signaling Noreen Seabrook's shift towards a more avant-garde and collaborative approach. Under Marko's new ethos, such collaborations could turn the studio into a hub where art and traditional craftsmanship converge.

His first move came unexpectedly via an Instagram message while casually enjoying a beer at his local bar. The message was from Porous Walker, an artist with a significant following. Marko seized the opportunity to collaborate, launching a project that, while unconventional, showcased his willingness to redefine traditional boundaries.

Marko received the artist's design, ostensibly described as a cave, but with a suspicious resemblance to another part of the human anatomy. While the 3' x 3' design differed from the money-making business his father had brought in, working with artists was vital to the company's new direction.

Flying to Nepal to show the design, Marko found the weavers less than impressed. "The Tibetans were looking at each other, mumbling like, 'We need to get his dad out of retirement,'" Marko recalls. After traveling to San Francisco and hand-delivering the completed work, Marko had the opportunity to learn more about the artist from a group of Porous' friends.

Marko says, "They told me he works at Francis Ford Coppola Winery. He used to work in the back room, and he was drawing butts and lewd images on the wine boxes. And Mr. Coppola asked, 'Who's drawing these images on our boxes?' Thirty minutes later, Porous walked out of a meeting with Mr. Coppola as chief creative director or something."


Since filming The Godfather, Mr. Coppola had been looking for someone to recreate a series of custom rugs in his studio. Recognizing the quality of the carpet Noreen Seabrook produced for Porous, Marko received orders for some of the largest carpets the company has ever made, cementing confidence in his reputation as the company's new head. Marko shares, "It gave me a lot of confidence that I was on the right path. Now, all the older Tibetans trust me. It proved that everything will work out if you follow your creative vision."

The past few years have seen Marko and Noreen Seabrook take on increasingly high-profile work. They produce carpets for artists, designers, and musicians, channeling the vision of these creatives through Tibetan weaving.

Through Shaun Crawford, Marko became acquainted with Nepenthes, making a rug for Crawford's 2019 Idle Hands exhibition. "It was one of the first times I saw a rug on display in a gallery setting, a big rug, as a part of a greater body of work. Then I saw the store and this crazy Needles tiger velour zip-up. Even back then, there was a tiger connection," Marko says, "It's hard for me to keep up with men's fashion, but every time I go into Nepenthes, I see clothing that I've never seen anywhere else. Nobody was telling me this stuff was cool; it was me recognizing that this was beautiful work."

In the fall of 2023, Marko visited Nepenthes, New York, to purchase an outfit for the wedding of one of the Tibetan weaver's children. A casual conversation with one of the shop staff led to the idea for a solo exhibition featuring original designs.

The exhibition's name, Rug Life, comes from a tattoo Marko has inked across his stomach. It refers to a life spent among rugs. This show is Marko's next step, as he moves from fabricator to artist, expressing his view on rug making and fulfilling his goal of having people see rugs.

For the Rug Life exhibition, Marko chose the tiger motif, a deeply personal reflection of Marko's life, tracing his journey into rug making and his relationship with Tibetan weaving. "I started working on these tiger rugs last October in Nepal. Some of our weavers still make carpets for monasteries, and there's a library at the weaving house where some of these designs come from—others I found in monastery archives, old books, or antique rugs," says Marko.

Rug Life showcases Noreen Seabrook's vibrant legacy and marks a pivotal chapter in Marko Nichols-Marcy's journey as a creative visionary. Nichols-Marcy invites onlookers to peer deeper into the world of rugs, challenging them to recognize and appreciate the stories woven into each piece. The exhibition showcases tiger motifs that symbolize the resilience and spirit of Tibetan artistry. He honors the legacy of his forebears and redefines what it means to appreciate this ancient craft. Through his innovative designs and the stories they tell, Nichols-Marcy invites the viewer to discover the world of art that lies beneath our feet. Each rug tells a story, some known, others enigmatic, but all threaded with the legacy of Noreen Seabrook.