What is an Oriental Rug?

What is an Oriental rug? How are they made? What is their history? And what Oriental rugs are available today? In this short article are the answers to all of these questions.

 

A quick definition

 

  1. Word origin…“Orient” means “the East”, and Oriental means Eastern. So, when we speak of Oriental rugs, what we really mean is “rugs from the Eastern part of the world”, or simply, “rugs from Asia”.
  2. Its nature…Oriental rugs are a hand knotted or handwoven product. Therefore, machine-made and hand-tufted rugs from Asian countries such as China or India are not considered Oriental rugs.
  3. Proper noun…Since “Oriental” refers to a definable geographic area, it should always be capitalized.

 

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Map of the Orient

 

A brief overview of Oriental rug construction


A hand knotted Oriental rug consists of tens or hundreds of thousands of knots of wool individually tied by hand around the warp strings (i.e. those stretched longitudinally on the loom) and firmly anchored by the weft strings (i.e. those running latitudinally). Apart from cheating (e.g. tying the wool around four warps instead of two), there is no short cut to avoid the meticulous work involved in weaving a hand knotted Oriental rug. A 9 x 12 tribal rug takes three weavers about 6 months to make.

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Hand-knotted rug weaving diagram

A quick history


The oldest known surviving hand knotted carpet was found in a tomb in the Altai mountains in southern Siberia. Known as the Pazyryk carpet, it was preserved in ice since the 5th century BC. In the rug world, this discovery is of the same order of importance as finding the Dead Sea Scrolls because it proves that the skill of hand knotted rug weaving was fully developed 2,500 years ago. Given the technical complexity of the Pazyryk, it is quite possible that the tradition reaches back into the second millennium BC. How remarkable it is that fundamentally, hand knotted rug weaving today is no different from the rug weaving done in the ancient world!50C40196-E831-4610-AF66-3FE990AE1947

Oriental rugs today – a brief overview

 

Today, hand knotted Oriental rugs can generally be divided into four categories: New traditional, transitional, modern & antique:

 

  1. New traditional rugs
    New traditional Oriental rugs are usually based on antique rug designs. For example, recreations of the well known Persian Heriz design are being woven in Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan & India. New traditional rugs always have a border, and generally have strong color.
  2. Transitional rugs 
    Generally, transitional rugs have a repeating pattern. They may or may not have a border, and designs are often inspired by textiles such as Ikat or Suzani. Designs can even come from traditional carpets, but when they do, it’s the colors that make the rug transitional, not the design. Sometimes the line between traditional and transitional can be a bit gray.
  3. Modern rugs 
    These rugs generally do not have borders. The designs are always untraditional and can even be very abstract. The line between transitional and modern can sometimes be a bit gray.
  4. Antique rugs 
    These rugs are 100 years or older. Most antique rugs around today are Persian, Turkish or Caucasian, but on occasion you can find beautiful pieces from Central and South Asia.

Are Persian rugs a thing of the past?

Francesco Ballesio (Italian Painter, 1860-1923) –  At the Bazar 2

Francesco Ballesio (Italian Painter, 1860-1923) –  At the Bazar 2

 

Sales of Persian rugs in Iran are down 90% from a decade ago.

 

Recently, there was an article published in the NY Times that talked about the sorry state of the Persian rug industry in Iran. From the article and our personal contacts in Iran, we know that the bazaar markets in Iran are selling around 10% of what they did over a decade ago.

 

*It’s important to note that what we’re talking about here is the industry for market rugs in Iran, not the industry for production rugs (i.e. the better quality rugs manufactured in Iran for export to importers and dealerships mostly in the States & western Europe). The Persian industry for production rugs will be addressed later in this article.

 

The industry has principally been hurt by four factors:

    1. The struggling world economy 
      This is no secret. According to the IMF, World economic growth in 2015 was 3.1%, the weakest it’s been since 2009. Uncertainty is also as high as it’s ever been as a result of Brexit, upcoming elections, terrorism, and more.
    2. Competition from other rug producing countries
      The machine-made rug industry has certainly done some damage, but more importantly for Iran, there is formidable handmade rug competition from countries such as India and Pakistan. Consumers can get an excellent quality rug from Afghanistan or Pakistan that is at least half the price. No, it’s not apples to apples, but no one can deny that there are Persian recreations being produced outside of Iran that are gorgeous and good quality.
    3. Six years of Western sanctions 
      Sanctions are now lifted on rug exports, but rug production is still nowhere near where it used to be.
    4. Lack of demand for quality by the consumer 
      World, meet the Ikea generation

 

Will the pain for Iranian market rugs continue?


As far as we can tell, Persian market rugs are going to continue to struggle for now and for quite a long time. The two most harmful factors are competition from other rug producing countries and lack of demand for quality by the consumer. The lack of demand for quality by the consumer is a behavioral trend that is likely to continue in the near future, and as a result the pie for the handmade Oriental rug industry isn’t experiencing strong growth. Couple that with the other rug producing countries all competing for a slice of this same pie, and you can see why Persian market rugs have been struggling so much.

 

What about Iranian Production Rugs?


When there’s competition, the general rule is that you can compete on one of two things: quality or price. Iran is not able to compete on price nor would it make sense for them to, so they must compete on quality. Many of the Persian production rugs (i.e. rugs made under contract with an importer) do this, and they do so splendidly. They have a look and feel that no other rugs have, and customers know this, which is why they’re willing to pay for it. This is why there will always be a market for Iranian production rugs. On the other hand, many of the Iranian market rugs are not as competitive on quality and price as they need to be, which is why their sales suffer.

 

The million-dollar question – Are Persian rugs a thing of the past?


In conclusion, sales of market rugs in Iran are not likely to increase very much even with Western sanctions being lifted. It’s much too soon to know if the bazaar markets will become a thing of the past, but if the next ten years are as bad as the last ten, it will be cause for serious concern.

Conversely, Persian production rugs are not going away, not now, not ever. Iran continues to produce a great number of the best handmade Oriental rugs today, and the lifting of sanctions will certainly be a tailwind to the Persian production rug industry.

A Legendary Shipment of Afghan Rugs

Kebabian’s is in the business of importing only the best handmade rugs. Our latest shipment of Afghan rugs is no exception.

 

100% all natural rugs, hand-spun wool & natural dyes

 

37901 - Heriz - 8'4'' x 10'7'' - Afghan

37901 – Heriz – 8’4” x 10’7” – Afghan

37902 - Fine Khamseh - 6' x 8'1'' - Afghan

37902 – Fine Khamseh – 6′ x 8’1” – Afghan

37909 - Serapi - 9'2'' x 9'4'' - Afghan

37909 – Serapi – 9’2” x 9’4” – Afghan

37923 - Fine Ferreghan - 10'1'' x 14'2'' - Afghan

37923 – Fine Ferreghan – 10’1” x 14’2” – Afghan

Visit our showroom to see more.

 

Designing Your Living Room with a Rug


Designing Your Living Room with a Rug

 

     The enchanting Agra fabulously grounds the lovely living room, enhancing the quality of life within the space.  The quiet and soothing color palette creates a calming atmosphere, while the furnishings maintain a high level of sophistication.

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The Rug…Player vs. Spectator

 

     The room-sized carpet, beautifully framed by the wood flooring, anchors the room in a glorious fashion.  The elegant Afghan Agra equals the level of quality and beauty of the other elements in the room. If the carpet matched in color only, it could still work and be functional.  However,  if you want to move from “good enough” to great, it is essential in creating great design to have a carpet that is a “player” (not a spectator that appears out of place) that equals the caliber of the other elements “at play” in the room.

 

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     Interior designer, Mary Douglas Drysdale values rugs for their ability to enhance an interior’s structure:  “Oriental and decorative rugs echo the architectural feel and proportion of a room far more effectively than plain carpeting. They endow the floor with a special richness and create a vocabulary of decoration that is comfortable.”  All elements come together in a harmonious fashion making life within the room more enjoyable.
      The right carpet, the enchanting Afghan Agra, brings the room “home” in a harmonious fashion, creating a space where life may flourish on all levels.
 
The Decorative Carpet, Alix G. Perrachon

Kebabian’s Bold & Primitive Afghan Kazak adding an Extra Layer of Harmony

Kebabian’s Bold & Primitive Afghan Kazak

adding an extra layer of harmony to a charming room.

Bold Primitive Kazakh 9 x 12.2

Bold Primitive Kazakh 9 x 12.2

“But what is happiness

except the simple harmony between a man and the life he leads?”

    Albert Camus 

                                                                                                              

 

 

Afghan Qasqai Hails Springs!

Happy Spring!

"37874 Fine Afghan Qasqai 4'x6'2''

“37874 Fine Afghan Qasqai 4’x6’2”

“The cool wind blew in my face and all at once
I felt as if I had shed dullness from myself. 
Before me lay a long gray line with a black mark down the center. 
The birds were singing. It was spring.”

Burl Ives

 

 

3 Things to Watch for when you Buy an Area Rug

If you’re planning to buy a quality area rug, make sure you do your research! Below are 3 tactics rug dealers sometimes use to make quick sales.

 

  1. Incorrect use of terminology

Hand-knotted, hand-tufted, hand-loomed – These are not the same, not even close. The fact that they all share the word “hand” doesn’t count for much. It cannot be emphasized enough that hand-knotted rugs are vastly superior to hand-tufted and hand-loomed rugs.

Consider the two rugs shown below. The one on the left is a hand-loomed Gabbeh, the one on the right is a hand-knotted Gabbeh from Iran. Because they look similar, some dealers will sell Loomed Gabbehs as hand-knotted rugs. This is especially common on the internet.

 

2. Abuse of the word “Persian”

Many rugs woven today in India, Afghanistan and elsewhere use designs originally from Persia. But, just because the designs are Persian, does that make the rug a Persian rug? Absolutely not! Yet, regrettably some dealers do this, because they think they’ll be able to charge a higher price for the rug. What I find especially disheartening about this is that it doesn’t dignify the weavers who actually wove the rug. We work a lot with tribal peoples in Afghanistan who bring a unique approach to rug weaving and do what we call “recreations” of Persian designs. The Afghan rugs we carry are gorgeous, and are in some respects in a league of their own.

3. “Art” silk, while a term that sounds fancy, is actually an abbreviated way of saying “artificial silk”

Many dealers will of course not offer up this information. There isn’t necessarily any need to either, but if the customer asks they should give an honest and direct answer. We have heard many stories about dealers selling rugs with art silk as China silk when the material is really viscose.

 

I’ve just shared 3 tactics rug dealers sometimes use. If you are looking to buy quality area rugs, the most important thing is to deal with someone you can trust. There are a lot of handmade rugs out there, but most of them are made for the quick sale and not made to last. At Kebabian’s, we only sell the best handmade rugs that not only look stunning, but are top quality and built to last.

Window Watch – Unaffected Gabbeh & Handsome Heriz

 WINDOW LEFT

#37862 "Unaffected" Persian Fine Gabbeh 8.4 x 11.7

#37862 “Unaffected” Persian Fine Gabbeh 8.4 x 11.7

 

     The  UNAFFECTED Fine Persian Gabbeh hanging in WINDOW LEFT measures 8.4 x 11.7.  It was hand-knotted in southwest Iran by Kashkuli women, using handspun vegetally dyed wool from their own sheep.  The word “Gabbeh” comes from the Persian language meaning raw, natural and uncut.  Gabbehs are noted for their simplicity, a basic and primitive design with a playful vibe.  Most Gabbehs are hand-knotted using a coarse weave.  However, Kebabian’s Gabbehs are hand-knotted with a finer weave and superior materials giving fine detail to the beauty of “less is more”.  

     The color palette includes stripes of varying shades of blue  (navy, cobalt, sky blue, teal, slate …) and varying shades of green (loden, khaki, pine, lime, kelly…).   Throughout this charming piece are pops of ivory and madder red keeping the vibe playful and easy-going.  The vegetable dyes produce a magnificent abrash on a lush backdrop, due to the fine weave and thick pile.

     Without any apparent effort, this piece has an “unaffected” beauty which delivers an encouraging vibe that permits creativity and happiness. 

 

 

 

“Each one has to find his peace from within.

And peace to be real

must be unaffected by outside circumstances.”

                                                           Mahatma Gandhi

 

This piece “Simply Is”  encouraging all  to “Simply Be”

 

WINDOW RIGHT

#37861 Handsome, Stylish Indian Heriz 8.10 x 11.19

#37861 Handsome, Stylish Indian Heriz 8.10 x 11.19

     The handsome and stylish finely woven Heriz hanging in WINDOW RIGHT measures 8.10 x 11.10.  This piece was hand-knotted in northern India in a cottage industry setting using hand-spun vegetally dyed wool.  This pleasing piece took four weavers approximately six to seven months to produce. 

     The artist masterfully employs an extensive color palette of madder red, terra cotta, navy, teal blue, khaki, pale green, ivory, honey gold and coffee brown.  The warm madder red field is cooled nicely by the use of honey gold in the field surrounding the medallion and in the large outside quadrants.  The use of navy in the main border and as the primary color of the central medallion nicely grounds the piece, while setting off the other colors spectacularly. 

     The design is a classic northwest Persia Heriz design. The central medallion, which represents window to heaven, is surrounded by a navy field of stylized floral elements, representing the paradise to come. The main border’s intricate design is surrounded by two pairs of guard borders, which are filled with simple and sweet leaf patterns. 

     The balance of color and design in this piece is perfect – not too intense – not too elaborate – not too…ANYTHING! 

It’s Just Right!