Here’s a very interesting article on the Art of carpet making, written by Alhan Keser. Alhan is in in charge of communications for Tip Top Design, a company that specializes in interior design with oriental rugs. He has lived in Turkey and France, working as a freelance journalist and documentary maker.
The story of carpet making starts with nomadic Asian tribes and their traditions. These were – many still are – self-sufficient nomads who lived off of raising animals such as sheep. They would travel hundreds of kilometers in search of pasture lands for these animals, who would become the nomads’ food, clothing, shelter, bedding, and fuel. Some of their needs such as spices and luxuries like gold were bought thanks to the sale of animals and skins to city dwellers. And at some point in their history, they began selling their tribal rugs.
For the nomads, rugs have always served both a very utilitarian and symbolic purpose. Flat woven saddlebags on the backs of donkeys carry grains while other decorative pile woven carpets can serve as dowry for brides. Young girls are passed on the knowledge of carpet-making from their older sisters and relatives. Their small hands are best at making the thousands of small knots that make up the entire carpet, similar to the pixels of a digital photo.
The carpets are woven with help of a small guide aiding them to count out the number of knots of each color to tie per row of weft. These guides are made by carpet designers looking to sell the works. The really special carpets are made by brides themselves for their future homes. On the carpet a bride will lay out the history of the tribe, her thoughts, and wishes for the future of her family. Though men were the ones who created the history of a tribe by fighting or trading, the women are the ones who record the history of a tribe through weaving. These are the truly unique works of art that are most precious.
Selective breeding of the sheep has gives the tribes people with higher quality fibers (today wool from New Zealand and high-altitude areas is regarded as the best quality wool for carpets in the world, not counting Alpaca wool, too rare to use for carpets). The wool is hand spooled, then dyed using vegetables found nearby (today superior azo-dyes are used to complement these natural dyes) before being handed over for weaving purposes. Russian philosopher P. D. Ouspensky wrote the following after his mentor G. I. Gurdjieff told him of his travels in Asia: He spoke of the ancient customs connected with carpet making in certain parts of Asia; of a whole village working together at one carpet; of winter evenings when all the villagers, young and old, gather together in one large building and, dividing into groups, sit or stand on the floor in an order previously known and determined by tradition. Each group then begins tits own work.
Some pick stones and splinters out of the wool. Others beat out the wool with sticks. A third group combs the wool. The fourth spins. The fifth dyes the wool. The sixth or maybe the twenty-sixth weaves the actual carpet. Men, women, and children, old men and old women, all have their own traditional work. And all the work is done to the accompaniment of music and singing. The women spinners with spindles in their hands dance a special dance as they work, and all the movements of all the people engaged in different work are like one movement in one and the same rhythm. Moreover each locality has its own special tune, its own special songs and dances, connected with carpet making from time immemorial.