In my previous post, I shared a photo journal about my recent visit to Lahore, Pakistan, where I had the opportunity to spend some time learning more than I already knew about their rug weaving industry and how it has evolved over centuries.
Rug weaving is a practical artform that has existed since at least the 3rd century BC. A simple concept of taking sheered wool, turning that wool into yarn, dying that yarn, and then interweaving a warp and weft to finally create an area rug. The steps at face-value are indeed simple, however, there is another element that is present that makes hand-knotted rugs special, makes them a real treasure that lasts for generations, an item that brings us comfort and makes us happy when we look upon it -- that element is the creative energy of the human beings who've made these works of masterful art all these many years with only a loom, skilled hands, an eye for precision, and a sharp cutting tool.
When you look at modern rugs, those made by machines and synthetic plastic fibers, sure, some of them are beautiful as well, but there's something very obviously different about them -- they don't invoke the same feeling of awe, they don't transport you or make you feel connected to the natural world around us in the way that a genuine, handmade wool rug can.
When I travel overseas to purchase rugs for my store, it is important to me to personally meet with the weavers and those who play a role from the start to the finish of a genuine Oriental rug. In the past 30 years, many Afghan rug weavers have found refuge emigrating to Pakistan, a country that has open trade for rug imports with the United States (compared to on-going embargos between Iran and the United States.)
In Pakistani, the Afghan weavers carried on classic rug-making traditions, like primarily making red rugs, however, stateside, bold red rugs had lessened in favor with shoppers.
Many American and European rug merchants approached the weaving houses in Pakistan and made requests for new color palettes to offer to their customers when they noticed red rugs were no longer selling the way they had in the past.
In partnership, the weavers and the merchants conceived of fresh color-pairings and new productions to appeal to the changing market, originating the Peshawar and Ziegler designs.
During my visit, I met a man who'd left Afghanistan and once settled in Pakistan, he began weaving rugs in his backyard to earn a living, one or two rugs here and there, honing the skill over time. He would go on to meet an American rug merchant who offered to invest by providing higher quality wool and new dyes. The collaboration would prove to be very successful for both the weaver and the merchant, soon growing to have a more sophisticated washing system, yarn-spinning system, and even doing their own sheering, a controlled process that yielded finished rugs with superior quality that very nearly matched the quality of original hand-knotted rugs. They would eventually set up shops where tourists could purchase a piece of hand-made art to take home.
Another weaver I met with, a member of a Pakistani Attock tribe who had no formal education but did possess the will to advance the quality of life for himself and his family, had found enough prosperity through rug weaving to send his daughter to university, making her the first graduate of their tribe. His daughter would go on to receive awards as a doctor from Switzerland and Norway -- an accomplishment that brought the weaver great pride.
Yes, a rug is simple. It is just dyed wool arranged in a pattern. But a simple rug can also be life changing to many for many reasons and in many ways.
Our new rug shipment from Pakistan has arrived -- I invite you to click here to take a look: New rug shipment from Pakistan at Main Street Oriental Rugs
Enjoy and thank you for reading!