THE 10 STEP JOURNEY OF A PERSIAN TRIBAL RUG: FROM SHEEP TO AHWAZIAN LTD
Every Persian Tribal Rug has its own story. The journey each rug takes will differ slightly, dependent on the journey the weavers take, what they see, and where and how they sell. It would be impossible to write a one-size fits all journey of a Persian rug. What I can do though, is tell you the journey I have seen the Persian tribal rugs take: beginning with the sheep from hills of the Asia middle east to landing in the Ahwazian warehouse in London.
1. THE SHEEP
We all know that a great deal of attention and care goes into the weaving of a Persian tribal rug, but what most people don’t realise is that an equal amount of time goes into the process before the weaving: the gathering and crafting of a rug’s materials; the wool. The process starts with around 1.6 million sheep grazed by shepherds from the nomadic Qashgai and Bakhtiari tribes. The sheep graze in high mountain pastures, which produces the tough, long fibered wool, which makes for a perfect tribal rug.
Once the wool has been gathered, the nomadic women start the spinning process. Still today, this is mostly done by hand. You can see in the picture below, one of the women twisting the wool into long strands. I was with her for a few hours and she seemed to continue with her spinning in between many other tasks. They make it look so easy, but I can tell you it’s extremely skilled work.
The finished thread is put into bundles and then dyed using natural ingredients, such as pomegranate peels for deep red or wine leaves for green. I love this part of the journey, as it’s one of the many reasons Persian rugs are such an environmentally sound choice. The use of vegetable dyes mean that it will not exude fumes or carcinogenic chemicals.
4. THE HORIZONTAL LOOM
Nomadic weavers use smaller, horizontal looms, rather than the large standing vertical looms. This is mainly because the horizontal loom is easier to transport, and the nomads are often on the move. This is also why many tribal rugs are not so large in size.
In saying that, a lot of the tribes have now settled in the surrounding areas of Shiraz, which has given us the ability to build up good relationships with certain weavers. We often don’t buy in the Bazar but direct from the weavers then take the rugs straight to the washing and finishing process.
5. THE KNOTS
The warp strings between the two parallel bars of a loom, forms the base of the rug, onto which knots are tied. These knots form the pile of the rug. What are the knots? They are loops of thread tied by hand, one by one, around sets of warp strings. You really have to see the weaving to appreciate how intricate it is and it always amazes me how the nomadic weavers can follow a pattern from memory. They are called hand-knotted rugs for a reason, each and every knot must be done by hand and you have to look very closely as they are so quick. After they finish a row of knots they then place a weft thread through the whole width of the rug to hold the knots in place.
Quashgai rugs are often geometric in style. They are mainly woven from memory and so therefore feature people, trees, small familiar animals and anything that the tribes would see on their travels or a symbol of their family and life. They also often have a centrally placed medallion, or a plain background with little figures, giving it quite a contemporary look.
7. TO THE BAZAR
Once the rug is complete, I’d watch the tribe men roll up the rug and chuck it over their shoulder. They would then carry them down to the Bazaar ready to sell. I’m always taken aback by the amount of respect there is for the weavers. Not only do the tribes people themselves know how much time, care and skill has gone into the making of one rug, but the people at the Bazaar know it too. Each sale made is made with so much passion from each individual.
This is one of the few cottage industries that remain. There aren’t many places in the world that still have the making of hand knotted rugs run from inside people’s homes. It’s so important to me to keep supporting this wonderful and vibrant industry.
8. WASHING PLANT
This is where Jalil Ahwazian. Director of Ahwazian Ltd, plays a big role in creating the right look for the British market. We have our own washing plant and the finishing sometimes takes as long as 6 months before its ready. Each rug has to be trimmed, fringes finished and strips of leather put along the edges to stop the wool from curling up. It then has to be washed with a vegetable based rinse, which will make the colours fast and then finally placed into the sun to dry. This is quite a long process but worth it when you see the finished product.
9. CHECK & SHIP
Once the Persian tribal rug is properly washed, the final checking procedures take place to ensure it is at the highest standard before shipping to the UK.
10. OUR WAREHOUSE – READY TO BUY!
I have selected many of our rugs direct from the weavers or from the Bazar in its raw state. But, it is only when it lands in our warehouse I can then see the finished product, even after 25 years I can’t wait to open the bales. I will never get tired of seeing a beautiful Persian tribal rug arrive at our warehouse.
‘The designer today should not help to produce more – He has to help produce fewer and better things. There is a beauty, an aesthetic and philosophy of the less’. Philippe Starch