James Opie

In 1970, at the age of 31, James Opie started his business, James Opie Oriental Rugs, and opened a retail store in downtown Portland in 1975. Now a Portland staple, Opie has had the same business phone number for forty years.

“I was of the generation of ‘young American dealers’ who were attracted to the business in the 1970s, from a love of the objects,” Opie says.

Before his business began, he says, “an inexplicable passion related to repeating geometric designs” led him to start reading books on Islamic buildings. This indirect beginning would carry him far.

“I could not take my eyes off these printed images,” Opie recalls, adding, “Another formative influence was the book Meetings with Remarkable Men by G. I. Gurdjieff who extolled Oriental rugs as true works of art and wrote about individuals encountered in his Asian travels. These readings inspired a wish to travel to Iran and Afghanistan.”

Opie explains that pursuing his interest in the two related art forms, Islamic mosques and Oriental rugs, changed his life. While they are related, he points out that a major advantage of rugs is “our ability to buy them, sell them, move them from continent to continent, place them on our floors, hang them on walls and experience their vivifying influences in our homes.”