by Sophie Schepps
Dustin Aliff finds himself completely consumed with creativity on a daily basis. After spending his working daytime hours repairing antique oriental rugs with his father David at David’s Oriental Rugs in Marshall, he shifts to music, poetry, and painting in the evenings.
As a high school student at Liberty High School in the mid-1990s, Aliff suffered from seizures, fainting spells and terrible migraines. After several hospital visits, he found relief from the same doctor who performed surgery on the late Christopher Reeve.
“I had brain surgery in 1996,” he said. “My brain stem was being squeezed in my spinal cord. They were able to make some cuts so now there is enough room for proper blood flow. Ever since then, I’m a different person. Ideas and images just flow into me. I can’t keep it inside of me. I have to put it on paper.”
Aliff has been accumulating his poetry in hopes of publishing a book within the next year entitled “X-ray Your Zip Code.” He’s developed a new style, which he calls A-to-Z poetry.
“Each poem has a subject or emotion like family, business or sadness,” he said. “And starting at A, each word is the subsequent letter so it tells a story.”
He also writes in more traditional styles. Writing, he said, is often a coping mechanism for overwhelming emotions, whether they’re happy or sad.
“His poetry is fabulous, very deep. It’s solid,” said Bailey Davis of Middleburg, who often frequents the Marshall shop.
Working with oriental rugs means that Aliff is surrounded by art and creativity all day. After three trips to Istanbul, he became a master weaver after many hours of instruction.
“I first went when I was 22,” he said. “We had a Turkish man come into the shop and he brought me over to Istanbul. I was there for 30 days to watch and learn. I took a lot of reference pictures. Then I went back three years later and again last year. So in three trips I have learned pretty much everything I can. I sat there for 12-hour days, learned as much Turkish as I could and really put the effort into it.”
Some of the rugs Dustin and his father repair are hundreds of years old and come from all over the country. They’ve been chewed or soiled by pets, stained by dropped glasses of wine and so much more. The painstaking work they perform makes the carpets look new again. Their true appreciation for the work involved in the creation of the rugs is apparent.
“I love the nomadic rugs,” Dustin said. “The materials aren’t easy for them to get as they travel. They will use horsehair or their own hair to make sure they have enough when they run out of wool. There is more of a connection from the weaver when it’s not mass produced.”
Aliff also weaves his own rugs, sometimes experimenting with unusual products like copper. His ancestry includes Native American and he has improved his connection to the culture by creating tribal pieces.
Aliff’s schedule allows little time for a social life, but his passion for inspiring others is too strong to allow for distractions. He hopes that sharing his art and poetry will encourage others to lead more fulfilling, creative lives.
“I say I am a weaver, a writer, a poet and a painter,” he said. “There is so much and my brain just gets filled. I have to find a way to release it in my poetry and my writing. I still want more. Once you create and you’re actually pleased with it, that’s where true happiness comes from.”