Archive for December, 2011

Persian Rugs: A Brief History Of Tribal Weaving

Although the art of rug weaving is by no means frozen and stiff, it does not accept unreasonable variations of traditional colors and designs. It has gone through several phases of major transitions, but always in harmony with its own characteristics. Tribal Persian rugs, however, have followed a somewhat different path, enjoying a certain degree of freedom in their creations. Geometric designs taken from the surroundings and representing different elements of everyday life have been the major influence in patterns of tribal rugs. Colors follow the rules of traditional rug weaving as well.

Pakistani Modern Gabbeh

Pakistani Modern Gabbeh

In general, tribal patterns are not created by following instructions of a cartoon, a piece of paper consisting of square cells each representing an individual knot of different colors to be tied on the warps. Instead, a smaller piece of rug is examined from the back side and its pattern followed by the weavers, moving around the elements and colors of the pattern and creating minor modifications as deemed necessary by them. Since imitating the pattern on a large rug would pose difficulties, smaller pieces called “Dastoor” or “Vagereh” are often used. Weavers of “Lori” and “Qashqai” tribes show the most freedom and innovations in tribal weaving of Persian rugs.  These same weavers gradually switched their production to what is known as “Gabbeh”. Unlike other Persian rugs, the word “Gabbeh” does not refer to the region where this type of rug is woven. The word simply means “something raw, unfinished” in Persian language, making the point that Gabbeh is nomadic, simple, informal, and meant to be used for day to day life. Gabbeh rugs have hand-spun, naturally-dyed wool and are very durable. They normally come in smaller sizes, and can seldom go up to 10 by 13 feet. The pattern is very simple, usually with a plain field and no border, displaying simple animals or motives. Gabbeh rugs look their best in contemporary settings. The recent innovation in Gabbeh has been a much higher quality of the weave and a shorter pile. Knot density varies from 85 (older type) up to 220 (newer type) knots per square inch.

Gabbeh rugs gradually gained more popularity in Western markets and were soon produced in Turkey, Pakistan, as well as in Nepal. The

Persian Gabbeh, The Bird and The Cage by Parviz Tanavoli

Persian Gabbeh, The Bird and The Cage by Parviz Tanavoli

renowned artist, sculptor, painter, art historian and researcher, Parviz Tanavoli, is perhaps known as the first  producer of “new Persian Gabbeh” starting his work right after the revolution, and responding to the rapid increase in demand for such beautiful pieces. After a successful exhibition of these rugs at “Bassim Gallery” in Austria, a local magazine called them “freedom with wool”. These tribal rugs are easy to match with so many different settings due to the fact that they are simple, and display very few colors. Although Gabbeh rugs are not very tightly woven, they can work magic if used in the correct environment, giving a room much more beauty than any other top quality rug possibly could. With a heavy migration of tribal weavers to larger cities during the recent decades, the future of nomadic rugs remains increasingly uncertain. We can only hope that tribal pieces in present use will be properly cared for so we will have antique nomadic pieces for future generations.

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