Loose Ends Salinas rugmaker finds his creative groove


Story and photos by Carlos Rene Castro

Pablo Picasso expressed his creativity through Cubist painting. Ludwig van Beethoven composed classical music to liberate his emotions.

For one young Salinas artist named Carlos Vargas, his burst of artistry is shown in the creation of handmade rugs.

Vargas, 22, is just one of the many people who discovered his creative side during the pandemic. When people were stuck at home during the past year and a half, they began finding other outlets for expression — and ways to bring in a buck or two. Now, crafters — especially young artisans — are turning to online sales to support themselves.

Growing up in Salinas, Vargas admits he was not the most artistic kid. But he found himself at loose ends earlier this year when he left his retail job, and other work he was doing with his father at a construction company slowed down.

“I wanted to find something new to do,” said Vargas.

He found himself becoming intrigued with rugs, of all things. Vargas spotted handmade rugs on Instagram and began following popular rug makers such as @imakerugs, @firerugs, and @locarpet_rugs. Then he taught himself how to make his own rugs by watching videos online.

His favorite creation thus far?

A 22×22-inch rug titled “The Distance Between Us,” which he created during a difficult time in his life. The square rug has a dreamy feeling, with a design of white clouds shifting through the blue sky.


Carlos Vargas explains the meaning behind “The Distance Between Us” rug in his home studio on Thursday, September 16, 2021 in Salinas, California.

“I was at a rock bottom point and (I said) if I am going to make a rug, I better make it killer,” said Vargas. “I made it dedicated to someone special, but I still have it.”

He is now taking orders for custom rugs, with his clientele discovering him through social media. He is more than happy to create a rug for anyone as long it is not too complex in design and size. Since he’s working out of a bedroom, his space is limited.

“I will make rugs for whoever reaches out to me on Instagram as long as it is a reasonable ask,” said Vargas, with his prices for the handcrafted items ranging from $120 to $140 per piece. However, he admits he has an ambition to add more value to his craft.

“I want to get a little bit higher. Work my way up and sell a rug for $150. I think that’s fair for me,” said Vargas.


Carlos Vargas, 22, works on a custom Optimus Prime rug for a client on Friday, September 16, 2021 in Salinas, California.

These days, Vargas spends countless hours creating rugs out of his home studio, Rugs Studio 831, which used to be his older sister’s room before she moved out to go to college.

“There’s still a lot of her things there like old dresses and shirts … It is a decent space here and I can spend a lot of hours working here till I finish,” said Vargas.

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As he perfects his craft, Vargas’ goal for the future is to expand his business and have more eyes on his work. He’s also earning his business degree remotely through California  State University, Sacramento.

And he intends to show his followers and others that a rug, like a painting or a symphony, can be a work of art.

“I am just liking how it  shows people how cool rugs can be, and how it can be considered an art form as well,” says Vargas.


22x22” Titled “The Distance Between Us” Sky piece rug created by Carlos Vargas in his home studio in Salinas, California.

Featured image: Carlos Vargas holds a tufting gun, which is a necessary tool to create rugs.

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Carlos Rene Castro

About Carlos Rene Castro

Carlos Rene Castro was born in Honduras and has lived in Salinas since he was five. A graduate of Alisal High, his photography has been featured in solo exhibits in Salinas and Los Angeles. He's also a graduate of the youth summer journalism program that's been held in Salinas since 2017.