Archive for August, 2012

Persian and Oriental Rugs: The Foundation

A major part of any Oriental rug or Persian carpet is undoubtedly its foundation, consisting of warp and weft threads. These threads form a network resembling a fishing net. However, the foundation of a hand-knotted rug receives relatively little consideration from purchasers in spite of the fact that it is one of the most important elements of the quality of a rug, and its strength is one of the most necessary conditions for utility. Each individual knot is tied on a pair of warp threads which are best observed at the ends (the fringe). In most Oriental and Persian rugs, the foundation is of cotton; in others – and some older pieces – it is of wool or goat’s hair. In almost all Chinese rugs, warp threads are somewhat finer or thinner than threads of weft, but in other types of rugs they are at least as thick and as large as weft threads.

Warp and Weft Threads

Warp and Weft Threads

In many cases, the weft of the rug may easily be observed at the back. In many of the best rugs, it consists of fine spun wool, and in many others – most new and modern pieces – it is of coarse wool or cotton. The KPSI (number of knots per square inch) does not, by itself, demonstrate the quality of texture, since a rug may have only a few knots of coarse diameter and be firmly woven, or it may have many knots of fine diameter and be loosely woven. In general terms though, within the same class, the better rug has more knots per square inch than a poorer one. When selecting a rug, then, the back side of it needs to be most carefully observed and examined, because here may be seen if the yarn that forms the knots is well spun, if the knots themselves are drawn tight and well pressed down, if the threads of weft are properly inserted and have a texture that indicates fine workmanship, and if there is overall harmony in the work of the weaver. Almost invariably, it will be found that if the back of a rug shows good material, and has an appearance of firmness and skilful, painstaking weave and attention to detail, the surface will correspond with good colors and careful drawing of the pattern.

The foundation of a rug is intended to hold it together and proper quality of its material ensures a long lifespan for it. It is rarely damaged since it is always protected by the pile of the rug. However, when it accidentally gets damaged, repairs can be very costly. What we call the fringe is in fact the ends of warp threads, and these can rather easily get damaged due to their constant exposure to traffic. Often the fringe gets into the suction of a vacuum cleaner and is pulled apart from the foundation. This, again, can be expensive to replace and repair properly. Although the normal care and maintenance of Oriental area rugs and Persian carpets is not so much expensive or time-consuming, minor damages tend to get bigger very fast and thus costly to mend. It is therefore recommended that as a rug owner, you carefully inspect your investment on regular basis and attend to potential problems as quickly as possible.

 

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Persian Rugs: Tabriz “Alabaf”

Tabriz is a major producer of Persian rugs located in the province of Eastern Azerbaijan as its central city. Since Persian Tabriz rug has started its journey through the semi classic period of its artistic and economic development, more than a few artists have surfaced. One of the most brilliant of such names is undoubtedly “Alabaf” which has a history of over a century, and is definitely one of the first to make the world become more familiar with fine Persian rugs. The production of Tabriz Alabaf rugs has proved to be in line with the taste of those who were and are most difficult to satisfy.

Tabriz "Alabaf"

Tabriz "Alabaf"

The founder of Alabaf was the late master Haj Hassan Alabaf who passed away in 1948, but there were fortunately seven sons left in this fantastic form of art after him. To follow his art, one of the strongest of his sons is master Abbasali Alabaf who was born in 1917, and those familiar with Alabaf believe that he deserves to be compared to his father. It seems like he has inherited all artistic wisdom of his father. The result of many years of his work is hundreds of beautiful designs with fantastic color combinations as can not even be found in most valuable paintings, ranging from the simple open-field to very intricate patterns. Haj Abbasali Alabaf visited his father’s weaving workshop often from the time he was very young due to the fact that they lived close by. Gradually, he became more and more interested in the work of his father, and he learned the weaving skills as well as the process of natural dyeing of the wool very fast. He then became more familiar with designs and the process of designing.

As his father went on a long trip in 1928, he was put in charge of the workshop’s accounts, and spent his spare time mostly on designing to which his father became increasingly attracted and very pleased with. As a result, all production of the factory and transactions with domestic as well as foreign clients became his responsibility since 1929. He received full authority from his father about ten years later in 1938. When his father passed away in 1948, he also became in charge of the whole family and started a partnership on equal basis with his six brothers. This partnership lasted until 1985. All brothers except for one started their own successful enterprises, supplying both domestic and foreign markets. His partner passed away in 1998, and he continued his work alone. He had been working at home, and was very happy that he still had work to do in spite of his old age until his passing just recently.

Older Tabriz Alabaf rugs used to have a foundation of cotton, a wool pile, and a KPSI (knots per square inch) of between 150 and 250. However, newer production of these rugs have a foundation of much thinner cotton threads (sometimes good quality silk), and often silk highlights in the pile with a much higher KPSI, often reaching 450 and above. These rugs are woven with the best possible quality of wool, sometimes the Merino wool imported from Australia and New Zealand, mostly dyed with natural substances. These rugs are also relatively easy to distinguish due to their unique patterns and color combination. Alabaf, with no doubt, will remain a major part of the Persian rug legacy.

, , , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Persian Rugs: Mashad “Saber”

Persian Mashad "Saber"

Persian Mashad "Saber"

Mashad is one of the major producers of Persian rugs, located in the Khorassan province as its central city. Many high quality and attractive pieces of Persian rugs have been woven in and around Mashad over the last two centuries. In fact, Mashad has been home to more than a few well-known master weavers, whose artwork is being kept in palaces and museums around the world. Among them, the most famous are “Amoghli”, “Saber”, “Zarrineh”, “Ghazikhan”, “Khadivy”, and “Makhmalbaf” just to name a few. Here we will be taking a closer look at the late master weaver “Saber”:

Abbasgholi Saber was born in 1911 and died at the age of 67 in 1977. He had over 300 looms and around 1500 workers under his employment at his five concentrated workshops at the time of his death. None of his nine kids continued the work of their father. When he was very young, Saber’s father decided to move the family to Persia, so his family is in fact Turk Russians. As he got older, he made his move to the city of Mashad at the same time as the famous “Amoghli” was busy taking care of large rugs to be woven according to orders of Reza Shah, the king of the time. Very shortly after his arrival to Mashad, “Saber” started to work for “Amoghli” and right after his master passed away, he began his own work with only three looms at a place called “Karvansaraye Malek” in the central part of Mashad.

His first large factory or workshop started official operations in 1941, and at the time of his death, some very fine rugs, such as the ones ordered by a wealthy businessman named “Khayammi” were still in the process of production. In fact, every single piece of rug made by “Saber” was a special order by someone who selected only the size of the rug to be woven – and sometimes not even that – and the remaining aspects of design and colors were all left to Saber, having been known as the best artist of his time within the Persian rug industry.

After Saber’s death, the workshop remained inactive for a short period of time and eventually, by the end of 1977, during a meeting with participation of “Khayammi” and “Vahhabzadeh”, it was concluded that the production be resumed. The responsibility fell on the shoulders of nobody but Mr. Bazmi, who had already been in charge of Saber’s largest workshop for many years, always producing the most attractive end results. Due to the fact that most orders had been placed by distinguished authorities of the previous government, Bazmi kept being blamed by the new government for continuation of such orders. Finally the production came to a halt and workshops half-closed. This created lots of financial hardship for normal process of the production which was entirely shut down by 1984. Mr. Bazmi is now producing Mashad rugs with his own signature, and it comes as no surprise that almost all his work is somehow influenced by the work of late “Saber”. He still talks of his master with much pride and sensitivity. Fortunately, he has pushed for and obtained copyrights both for his own designs as well as those belonging to Saber.

Old Persian Mashad Signed by "Saber"

Old Persian Mashad Signed by "Saber"

, , , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Persian And Oriental Rugs: Explaining Chemical Dyes

The wool used in weaving of Persian carpets and Oriental rugs is generally dyes by either natural (vegetal) or chemical (artificial) substances. Each has its advantages as well as its serious drawbacks. It is believed that chemical dyes are not properly stable against the washing process of the wool and even the natural light. However, there is a relatively small group of chemical dyes which are incapable of withstanding theses factors. As chemical dyes began to be used in coloring of the wool within the rug industry, this same small group of dyes found their way to the market, resulting in such a negative reputation. Future quality improvements of chemical dyes failed to change the general conception about them. The fact is that not all natural dyes are strongly resistant against wash and light either. However, this does not diminish their popularity as natural dyes are used within the textile industry of many European countries.

Bottles of Chemical Dyes

Bottles of Chemical Dyes

As a result of higher demand for Persian and Oriental rugs in Western markets, a group of lower quality rugs emerged. However, this is not to be blamed solely on the improper use of inferior chemical dyes. In anticipation of higher profits, many producers began to use fibers other than natural wool, not suitable for hand-knotted rugs. These fibers, of course, would not absorb either natural or chemical dyes properly. The fact is that chemical dyes, as opposed to  natural dyes, are less expensive to work with, are more readily available, and more often produce the exact desired colors. Perhaps, it would be interesting to learn a bit more about them.

Some technical information is displayed on the packages of chemical dyes produced by so many different companies throughout the world today. Understanding this data would help dyers achieve better results and avoid surprises. The strength and other properties of dyes are displayed by numbers, letters, and symbols that appear next to their commercial or brand name. For example the letter “S” indicates standard strength for the dye, the letter “B” means more blue, “G” is more green, and “R” means more red. Take a look at the two following name tags for chemical dyes as a sample:

Durazol Blue 2R 200

Chlorazol Fast Scharlet 4B 150

In the first one, which is a blue color, “2R” shows that it has a bit of red in it resulting in a type of purple color and the number 200 means it has a strength twice the standard. For the second brand name, “4B” means our dye has hues of blue color in it and the number 150 shows a strength of 1.5 times the standard. Also, the abbreviation “M.P.” means the dye is a micro powder, and “F.P.” shows it is a fine paste.

Within any given rug, harmony is achieved by colors, and by colors alone. The wool piles of Persian carpets and Oriental area rugs, whether dyed by vegetal plants or high quality chemical dyes, have a bright and rich look at first, but will become softer and more mellow as they get walked on everyday and grow older by time. Inferior quality of synthetic (chemical) dyes do not look vary charming to begin with, and get even worse as the rug is used and walked on. At any rate, with good quality chemical dyes, it is possible to achieve stunning results that would be both durable and pleasant to look at.

, , , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Oriental and Persian Rugs: The Process Of Dusting

All types of hand-knotted Persian carpets and Oriental area rugs, whether used as floor coverings or wall hangings, will eventually need cleaning due to a number of outside factors such as environmental contaminants, heating fuels, and pollutants. Dusting off the entire surface of the rug would be the first (and perhaps the most important) step in cleaning it. If dust particles remain inside the body of a rug, and it is washed before the dust is out completely, mud will be formed within the body making the foundation very fragile and thereby damaging it seriously. Dust can also result in premature worn spots on the surface of a rug. Basically, there are two methods of dusting carpets: hand dusting, and machine dusting.

Dusting Machine

Dusting Machine

Hand Dusting: In hand dusting of rugs, various methods can be applied. One method would be to turn the rug over and beat it vigorously with a stick. It is then lifted and the dust is removed. The rug can also be placed on a net made of metal at a distance from the ground and beaten by the stick. As a result, there will be no further contact between the rug and the dust due to the distance between the ground and the rug itself. Another method of dusting includes four people each of whom lifting one corner of the rug and shaking it with strong motions. Whatever method is employed in dusting off a carpet, special attention needs to be given to the physical condition of the rug in order to determine whether or not it is damaged, can potentially get damaged during the process, or has previously been repaired.  If the process is not properly carried out, it can result in irreparable damages. New rugs have the ability to withstand all the methods described above. However, for newer pieces of Oriental and Persian rugs, it is best to brush them softly, and remove the remaining dust with a vacuum cleaner.

Machine Dusting:  With today’s technology, special equipments have been designed for dusting of rugs. In older machines, strong plastic or fabric belts are fastened to two cylinders. The carpet is put through the machine using conveyable belts, and it is then turned on. Rapid rotation of cylinders makes the belts hit both sides of the rug strongly, thus removing the dust rather easily. Here workers use caution as such severe strikes will cause tearing of repaired or old pieces. Newer machines are not only more effective, but also capable of dusting more carpets in less amount of time. These machines consist of a revolving device, made up of small iron bars placed within a small room.  As the main entrance to the room is opened, several pieces of rugs can be placed inside. The device is then turned on with fast rotations. The carpets revolve from the bottom of the machine to the top and back again, removing the dust. The residual dust is channeled outside the room through the iron bars. Often, these channels are linked to small ponds to prevent air pollution. Using modern machines still requires careful examination of both old and new carpets. However, the potential damage caused by such machines is minimal compared to the older machines.

, , , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Oriental Rugs: Armenian Carpets

Antique Armenian Rug

Antique Armenian Rug

The former Soviet republic of Armenia, covering an area of over 11,000 square miles, is a mountainous country in the South Caucasus region of Eurasia.  Since ancient times, the handwork of Armenian craftsmen had been exported to different parts of the world. These works of Armenian art (textiles, stone, wooden articles, pottery) were considered prime trade items in European markets and occupied an important place in the daily life of various cultures. As the most important form of weaving, production of rugs was one of the oldest and foremost crafts exercised in the region. Records of travelers and historiographers give evidence of the widespread fame of Armenian rugs in the Middle Ages. A soft fabric with beautiful designs, carpets were convenient to lay on the floor, cover walls, hang in doorways, and throw on tables and beds. The role of carpets in everyday life determined their size, choice of thread, color range, and artistic structure.

All year round, hand-knotted wool carpets, a Caucasus specialty, are offered at local “arts and crafts” markets throughout Armenia, among which some valuable and antique pieces can occasionally be found. In the capital city of “Yerevan”, the National Art Gallery has over 16,000 works that date back to the Middle Ages, which indicate Armenia’s rich tales and stories of the past. Arab, Mongolian, Tartar invasions and wars, incessant migrations, and great fires destroyed numerous valuable artifacts of the material culture of the Armenian people, including the early rugs. Nevertheless, historical, linguistic, literary sources, traditional forms as well as the origin of artistic decorations of carpets that have been preserved, complete the history of Armenian carpets, confirm their high quality, and determine their place and role within the art of Oriental rugs.

Armenian rugs are held in high esteem for the use of local material. Wool, silk, cotton, sometimes gold and silver threads as well as soft goat hair were used in Armenian rug weaving. Such rugs woven entirely of wool (warp, weft, and pile) are relatively expensive and highly appreciated among collectors. Armenian wool is ranked next to the Egyptian wool. In Armenia, wool is dyed by means of animal, vegetable, and mineral dyes. Dyeing the wool is an important step in rug weaving, since this is where the artistic expressiveness of the rug begins. For Armenian rugs, a common system of dyeing the wool exists, though each master works according to his own inspiration. The process is performed in clay or copper pots, and contents mixed with wooden spoon. In order to dry it off, the dyed thread is thrown onto stones in the sun. Faded threads are dyed again and dried, sometimes several times until the desired colors are obtained. Threads are also dried in warm cattle sheds, though the final result might be somewhat different in this method.

Armenian looms are either vertical (Western Armenia) or horizontal (some provinces in Eastern Armenia). Often more than one rug is simultaneously woven by Armenian women at the same loom. Most Armenian weavers use the Turkish (Symmetric) knots, except for Eastern Armenian rug weavers which use Persian (Asymmetric) knots. Rather than creating a design on a piece of paper (called a cartoon), the rug to be copied is usually placed  next to the loom, or is woven from memory. As values of applied arts constantly continue to receive special attention, interest in Oriental rugs also continues to rise. With innovations within the rug industry taking place so rapidly, the future of Persian carpets and Oriental area rugs will be very interesting to watch.

, , , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Persian Rugs: Tuserkan

A Typical PersianTuserkan

A Typical PersianTuserkan

Tuserkan is a city in Hamadan province, responsible for production of many attractive pieces of Persian rugs. A small town with a pleasant beauty, Tuserkan is located in a valley surrounded from one side by Alvand mountain and from another by Pishkuh and the Zagros range. To its North, there is the city of Hamadan, to the East Malayer, and in the West, it is a neighbor of Kermanshah province, and to its South, there is the town of Nahavand. As an independent city, Tuserkan has little history. There may be 500 years since the city has been known by this name. Despite a few industrial sites, the economy of Tuserkan is almost eighty percent agricultural, and its cultivated products include fruits, vegetables, mulberry, and dried fruit. As mentioned in many sources, due to the existence of mulberry orchards in the area, the production of silk worms, cotton thread and silk material has always been widespread. Among other famous products of the region, which are no longer produced, saffron and cotton can be named. In the past, handicrafts dominating the region were Kilims, baskets, givehs, thread spinning, ceramics, and wood tiles.

If not in cities, no doubt, carpet weaving must have been a popular activity in the villages of Tuserkan during the long snowy winters, as a result of abundance of wool and cotton. The existence of relatively good quality rugs with beautiful designs and colors, which according to some accounts are one hundred years old, is proof to the fact that the region must have enjoyed a desirable carpet weaving tradition at least in villages which were run by feudal lords. According to experienced merchants from Hamadan, in some villages, weavers made carpets as large as 400 square feet at some point. It is said that one of the merchants in Tuserkan brought a carpet weaver from Tabriz by the name of Yousef. His work soon became a pioneer of good quality rugs in some villages, including the village of Fathabad. The silk and wool threads used for weaving of rugs in the past were handspun and dyed with natural native substances. The knot in Tuserkan rugs is Turkish and made by hand, and not a hook. Rural carpets of the region have single and primitive designs, in which birds and animals are displayed. Rugs made in this region are typically coarsely woven and have long piles, of which the majority come in sizes between 3 X 5 and 10 X 13 square feet. Although the total number of looms in Tuserkan has dramatically decreased during the past few years, the area used to have over 10,000 vertical looms as the rug production reached its peak.

Tuserkan produces true examples of nomadic Persian rugs. They are very similar to Hamadan rugs. The design is purely geometric, with a relatively large center medallion, on a simple field of, almost always, a very dark blue (almost black). Other colors used in these rugs include red, rust, soft green, and ivory as a strong contrast to the background. Foundation is cotton with one single shot of weft inserted over each row of knots, giving these rugs a soft feel. Tuserkan rugs are very unique pieces, and because of the hand-spun wool of the pile, also very durable. They come in smaller sizes, and any piece larger than room sizes would be rare. It may be interesting to note that more than 90% of weavers in this region are women. Average knot density in Touserkan rugs is 120-150 KPSI (knots per square inch).

, , , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Persian Rugs: Hamadan Carpets

Persian Hamadan Rug

Persian Hamadan Rug

Hamadan is one of the oldest Persian cities, one of the most important centers of contact between various Arian culture and civilizations located in the slopes of the Alvand mountain, and one of the largest centers of Persian rug production in existence. The city’s ancient name, “Hegmataneh” or “Ekbatan”, indicates the social and economic importance of the region as a crossroad of travel and trade for Persian people in old times. Hamadan is the capital city of Hamadan province and includes some well-known rug-weaving cities and villages such as Borchelu, Enjilas, Khamseh, Zaghe, and Lilihan. It is estimated that total number of all these villages and small cities reaches 1500 with around 100,000 rural families and close to half a million people. In most of the villages of this province, carpet weaving is a prevalent activity, and as a result of higher level of education, carpet weavers select better designs and good quality dye. Even though rural carpets have deteriorated in quality due to the utilization of ready wool (often dyed with chemical dyes), but fine carpets can still be found in Hamadan villages.

After the migration of master rug weavers to Hamadan from Tabriz and Zanjan, the carpet industry gained added importance. Rezvanju and Fathi were among those rug weavers who utilized natural dyes in their products. Also in city workshops, which were highly financed and supervised, weavers used ready designs and mainly natural dyes. Men and women work alongside each other in these workshops, whereas in the past, in many villages, men found it demeaning to engage in weaving activities. According to some accounts, the carpet industry had become very limited in this region during the 1950s and by 1965, there were around 1,250 active looms in the city of Hamadan and 450 looms in the largest village around it. These looms mainly belonged to Carpet Company (I.C.C.) workshops and some major merchants and rug producers. At the present time, the carpet industry has undergone many changes, and organized rug weaving has been transferred from the cities to villages. Hamadan is the site of companies, offices, and carpet producers and merchants. Thus a general supervision is exercised over the region’s carpet weaving industry. By the early 1980s many handmade carpet cooperatives were formed in the area, aiming at the protection of the rug industry. The Hamadan Cooperative supervises over the production of rugs that it orders to carpet weavers. It provides them with raw materials, makes loans to its members, assists weavers with obtaining designs and looms, and buys the final products at a fair price.

Carpet weaving in rural areas is older than in the cities. Hamadan and its surrounding villages and cities produce a relatively large volume of rugs that are very unique in their own way. Foundation is cotton with one single weft passing loosely over each row of knots, giving Hamadan rugs a very soft feel. These rugs come in all possible sizes and many runners (short and long) are woven in this region as well. There is also a very large variety of colors with rich reds and powerful blues dominating, and making heavy contrast with lighter colors of beige and ivory. The wool is of excellent quality making these rugs extremely durable. It may be interesting to note that more than 90% of weavers in this region are women. Knot density of Hamadan rugs start around 60 and can go up to over 300 KPSI (knots per square inch).

, , , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Oriental and Persian Rugs: Fars Province

Persian "Kashqae"

Persian "Kashqae"

Among the major weaving centers for Persian rugs, “Fars” is perhaps one of the most important. Fars province is bordered by the Zagros and Bakhtiari mountains on the west and the north, by the Persian gulf on the south, and by the central desert on the east. The existence of the low lands on the south and the high lands in the north and west provides a moderate climate for the nomadic life in different seasons of the year. Due to this type of climate, the nomads of Fars have long migrations. More than two third of the lands in Fars are inhabited by different nomadic and tribal people who have gathered in this region during long periods, the most important of which is the “Kashqae” tribe. Experts believe that they did not arrive in Fars all at one time, and they probably did not have the same origin and nationality either. Some are descendants of Ghoz Turks, while others originally come from the clans and tribes who emigrated from the mountain ranges of Azerbaijan, Caucasus, and even Turkestan. Out of various clans of Fars, Kashkulis and Shesh Boloukis are very skillful weavers. In the weave of Kashqae rugs, wool is used for the pile, and either cotton or goat hair is used for the warp threads. Kashqae Persian rugs are usually woven with Turkish – or symmetric – knots over which two shots of weft (mostly blue or red) are inserted. Within the region, weaving is always done by women who are very attentive during different stages of the work including spinning and dyeing of the wool, setting up looms, and selecting the suitable material for their work. Colors consisting of green, blue, crimson red, golden yellow, and ivory result in a final product with vivid and gay appearance. Some pieces, woven by young girls and intended to be used in their future homes where they move to as they get married, are decorated with small balls of wool attached to the selvedges. Rugs woven in Fars use horizontal looms which are easily taken to a new location during their migration, and give nomads the ability to set them up again in a matter of minutes.

The technique of weaving in rugs of Fars has remained almost unchanged, whereas new tribal motifs and symbols have been adopted throughout the years. In fact, the design of Kashqae rugs is their most important distinctive feature. Gabbeh is a type of Kashqae rug which is softer, and because of its long pile is also thicker. Like all the patterns used by the nomadic and tribal weavers, rugs of Fars mostly have geometric designs. Experts divide the designs of Kashqae rugs into two main categories: Traditional and Montazam (or regular):

Traditional motifs and symbols are usually woven subjectively and have geometric structure, avoiding symmetry as much as possible. Montazam designs consist of a medallion, sometimes three medallions in the main field and another medallion in each corner. In some cases, the field is divided into squares just like the tile design of Bakhtiari rugs, displaying several rows of the Paisley (Botteh) similar to old textiles. The diversity of the motifs ranges from vague features of plants and animals to clear images of events and we see octagonal, eight-petal flowers, peacocks, goats, deer, bees and imaginary birds woven repeatedly in the field of the weavings. The flat-woven type of rugs woven in this region (also called Kilim) usually have a plain ground decorated with a corner and medallion design. These are highly decorative pieces and look fabulous in many different environments. They come in various qualities, but the average knot density is 150-180 KPSI.

, , , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments