For me, rugs are in the same category as literature and art. Rugs are the medium of expression of creative people with stories to tell. Stories of harsh mountainous existence and the ravages of war and the beauty, for example, of Afghanistan’s interior. On my many journeys to remote parts of the world, I always look out for rugs because of what they say about the people who live in these locations, their history and their present-day, all woven into the carpets. I love that rugs are unique, one-off works, some of them created on the loom over a year or more. No single carpet is the same as another. Those who know me know how much I love the transient, fleeting aspects of life. Along with that comes the passion for rarity, for things that will never be repeated. A rug is like this, life is woven, documented in moments and motifs. Our rugs are the history books of Central Asia. And all of them I have collected I have selected for both the stories they tell as much as their beauty.
Mick Prato of Afghan Interiors is a carpet expert par excellence with whom I am working and he has more than twenty years experience sourcing amazing rugs from Pakistan and Afghanistan and right up through Uzbekistan (where I also traveled two years ago). I have learned a great deal from Mick already. He will be joining us from January 2nd, 2015 for the last month of our pop-up but I already have a fine collection of Afghan Interiors rugs on display in the rug bazaar of our shop.
For this post, I will review some of my favorite rugs which we are selling, give you a rough price guide (although do come in a chat about this) and tell you why I love them so!
Senneh kilims are woven by Kurds settled in urban areas in Iran. They use a slit weave technique with cotton warps and the weft is pure wool. The senneh differ greatly from other Kurdish kelims produced in Iran, as they are influenced by Persian and Indian textiles with repeated floral patterns dominating the designs. Most tribal and nomadic Kurdish kelims contain large bold geometric patterns in crazy pastels and the detail give them a kind of washed out, impressionist look that I adore. Looking at these rugs is like looking through the fog at sunrise over a bustling harbor of boats. At least that’s what I see in some of them. In others, it’s a forest of fantastical creatures dancing. In fact, there are three main designs. First, a repeated floral pattern surrounded by a series of narrow borders; second, a field of small floral motifs contained in a central medallion; and third, a mihrab design mainly found in the prayer rugs which are rarely made by other weavers in Iran. The floral emblems include flowers, vines, stems, and leaves. So, here is my fantasy forest!
Senneh price guide $175 – $2700
These a traditional pile rugs and take many months to make. Taimani is one tribe of four tribes known as Chor Aimaq. ‘Chor’ means is four in Persian and ‘Aimaq’ is actually the Mongolian word for the nomad. The rest of the four tribes are the Firozkohi, the Jamshidi, and the Qala-I-Nau Hazara. The Taimani and the rest are Persian-speaking semi-nomadic people. Some of them are sedentary farmers or traders who move between Herat and Kabul and the inaccessible mountain areas of the Hazarat in central Afghanistan. It’s a harsh life for the carpet maker! But this is their bread and butter. And the Taimani tribe that make these pile weave rugs are yurt dwellers. So long as it’s not too cold, I could quite fancy living in a yurt as we once did in Uzbekistan. The Taimani are distinguished weavers, often borrowing techniques and designs from neighboring peoples, such as the Balouch. These pile rugs have rougher, longer pile than the neighboring Balouch, but represent some of the last truly nomadic production in Afghanistan, so are becoming rarer. While the pile might be classified as rough, to me they are the softest rugs we have. Their rich colors are mesmerizing and vary from deep purples, reds, and oranges to natural creams and browns (see above).
Taimani price guide $400 – $7500
Uzbeks have settled densely in Northern Afghanistan, where they now comprise the majority population, although there are plenty left in Uzbekistan, let me tell you! Maimana, the capital and market town of Faryab province in Afghanistan is the center of production for a distinctive slit-woven kilim, which uses coarse but durable Hazaragi or Ghilzai wool. Sometimes you can see that horse or goat hair is used in the fringing! Those are my favorite! The women weavers use a palette of earth colors, some of which are natural dyes, although aniline dyes are more common. A number of ancient designs are repeated across the rugs and some of these motifs we have recreated on the wall of our rug bazaar room in the shop. These patterns are often connected to the idea of family and security. Interestingly, the ‘S’ shape patterns are used to ward off the evil eye. While the common ram’s horn patterns are derived from ramparts indicating the security of the home.
Maimana price guide $150 – $1400
One of my all-time favorite rugs and a rug that has graced the living room floor of our place in Birchgrove for the past three years is the brilliant wool Mushwani. Like many rugs, these are named after the tribe that makes them. The mushwani are a displaced Pashtun clan from eastern Afghanistan now living a semi-nomadic existence in Badghis and Herat provinces. The Mushwani are noted for the production of extremely elaborate and good quality kelims. They employ a variety of techniques such as knotted pile, weft-wrapping, weft-facing, and over-embroidery, on the same kelim. And that is exactly what makes these rugs so special! It is hard to see from these photos, but the mushwani’s have a certain three-dimensional look about them due to the raised pile weave among kelim knots. Equally great is the tribe’s use of rich dark blues, purples, and reds, sometimes with central designs in ivory. They can be really vibrant. Made from natural wool, these kelims have been made to withstand the rigors of a lifestyle in one of the harshest climates on earth. They are intended to last a lifetime. If our Mushwani still looks stunning after three years with two toddlers running over it, then I’m sure your mushwani will hold up just as well!