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Informative Papers  on Tribal Carpet Design:


Information Paper #4

Tribal Carpets of Persia (Iran)

Background:  The primary carpet weaving areas of Iran (Persia) are mostly known by the city names from where the typical rich and beautiful wool and silk carpets with curvilinear floral designs are made. These cities include Isphahan; Nain; Qum; Tabriz, Meshad, etc.  The woven products of this territory have characteristics that are similar to one another and are strikingly different than other weaving areas. The Persian city carpets are distinctly floral, , representing leaf, bud and flower and show a tendency to naturalistic drawing with graceful and often intricate lines. Their color schemes of delicate tones are not only beautiful, but are in perfect harmony. The similarity of  Persian carpets is partly due to past influence ­ political, as well as the common ties of race and religion.  All of this territory - including what is now western Afghanistan- was repeatedly under one central dominant power.  The peoples of Iran, with the exception of a few Parsees who cling to the Zoroastrian faith,  all are Mohammedans, who frequently make pilgrimages  to the same shrines, and thus have an opportunity for an active interchange of ideas and materials. 

Persian City Carpet Designs:   The fields of old Persian pieces are lavishly covered with intricate designs of buds and blossoms supported by vines and tendril, and frequently encircled by arabesques that interlace so as to form a harmonious whole. Modern pieces frequently have a solid color field with central medallions and triangular corners defined by graceful lines. The field is often covered by realistically drawn or conventionalized floral designs that are arranged with studied precision. Surrounding the fields are several borders containing undulating vines with pendant flowers or palmettes coordinated in design and color with the main pattern. It is in, however, the colors, which are delicate yet rich, subdued yet lustrous, that these rugs surpass all others.  Their most distinctive tones are blues, reds, browns, and greens so arranged that the ground colors of border and field generally contrast, yet remain in near perfect harmony.  On some Persian city carpets a central motif or medallion is sometimes omitted and instead an all-over design of repetitive floral icons is adopted.   To attain the fine and beautiful curvilinear designs common to Persian carpets, the intensity of knots must be increased.  Where a tribal Carpet may have 80-100 knots per square inch (KPSI), a Persian City carpet could have 200-300 KPSI, allowing the closely spaced knots to create a visually curved line. Tribal carpets, on the other hand,  usually use geometric  designs which are easier to achieve with wider spaced knots.  

Weaving Methods- City Carpets: The Persian rugs use exclusively the asymmetric Ghiordes (or Persian) knot.  The Warp is usually cotton, and the weft cotton or wool (or wool and cotton twisted together).  Warps of silk or mercerized cotton are also used ­which allow tighter knotting and finer carpets. Pile is almost exclusively sheep wool, except that in especially fine carpets , silk is used in the pile as well. The looms for creating the city carpets are vertical- with one to three weavers working on one line at a time.  In the Cities, both Synthetic and natural dyes are used, and the dyestuffs or pre-dyed wool  are usually purchased from a supplier, rather than created from scratch as is necessary for the tribal weaver in a remote location.  

Persian Tribal Carpets:  The names of tribal weaving areas in Iran are usually tied to a nearby city and/or to a tribal name.  the Baluch, for example, are found throughout southern Iran,  Afghanistan and Pakistan. Kurds are found in many areas in Northwest Iran, while in other weaving areas,  tribal people with Caucasian and Turkoman origins are found. The tribal carpets are usually made with natural materials- including dyes. The following paragraphs provide additional details on some of the predominant tribal weaving areas of Persia.

The Kurds: Kurdish carpets are woven throughout Persia (Iran), but more so in the central northwestern mountainous regions. Although all were initially from the same origin, the Kurds migrated to all areas of Iran and established colonies and tribes from the west to the east, and from the north to the south. Traces of Kurdish people can now be seen in all the provinces of the nation. They helped form a great portion of the population. They then formed other tribes with different names, but their roots were still Kurdish. The Kurdish presence has therefore had a great influence in the design and style of Persian carpet making. A few of the Kurdish tribes of the western regions include the Herki, Senjabi, Gurani, Jaffid, and Kalhors. A few major Kurdish  carpet producing centers are Senneh, Bidjar, and the district of Khamseh. Some other Kurdish villages and districts that produce rugs are Borchelu, Goltogh, Khoi, Koliai, Lylyan, Mousel, Nanadj, Songhore, Touserkan, and Zagheh. The Kurds are well established, and historic semi-nomadic and/or nomadic peoples of Iran who date back thousands of years. Many other major rug producing centers of Iran, such as Hamadan, Lorestan, or even Arak show obvious traces of Kurdish influence. Sometimes they incorporate the style and techniques of the Turkish people of Iran, who are also very widespread. The Kurds are a very peaceful and gentle group who prefer their simple nomadic lives to the frustrations of the modern technological world.

Borchelu:   Some of the most beautiful tribal carpets are made in a Kurdish nomadic district of Northwestern Iran called Borchelu. The bright colors and nature elements are typical of tribal rug design from this area of Iran. The color scheme is usually many shades of reds and burgundies predominantly, with some blues, greens, or ivories. A rug such as this takes a nomadic woman, usually working with her oldest daughter, several months of concentrated weaving to complete. The Borchelu collection of rugs are all individually unique and one of a kind. 

Zanjan: Zanjan (or Zenjan) is a northwest province of Iran. It produces many beautiful tribal rugs, by nomadic Persian tribes in such districts as Kelardasht, and Sauj Bulagh (modern Mahabad). Zanjan means “dear wife”. The colors of these rugs are usually very bright and lively.
Heriz:  Tribal hand-woven rugs are produced by Azerbaijan Turkish inhabitants of the city of Heriz in Northwestern Iran. They are famous among designers because of their soft earth tone colors and geometric pattern. While no two Heriz carpets are identical, they generally tend to have a recognizable similarity. Most have a large central medallion embedded within a lighter field, and the main color scheme of the rug is usually some shade of rust. Rugs made in this area are highly prized
for their marvelous design and sturdiness. Their charm lies mainly in the balance of the colors. Today, some of the largest carpets produced in Iran are from Heriz.
Smaller sizes are rare for this group. The richly textured pile of Heriz rugs is deep and robust and the theme isn’t too overwhelming. 

 Lori:   Lori rugs are tribal Persian rugs made by nomadic Lori people of the province of Lorrestan, in western Iran. These people are descendants of the Kurds, and their weaving styles and designs are incredibly similar to their´s. The rugs are more than often characterized by the bright and lively colors that they incorporate. The Lori carpets often have traditional floral patterns, but geometric ones are also seen. These rugs were not originally made to sell commercially. Rather, women who wove them were following an ancient custom that provides tribal families with hand-woven articles of practical value such as floor coverings, blankets, storage bags, saddle blankets, and financial security in case of future harsh times.

 Tarom: Tarom is a small village in Northern Iran’s Gilan province. It is situated just east of Rashte. Each year, Tarom produces a fair amount of handmade Persian rugs. The quality in Tarom rugs is fairly good and they have been known to last a very long time. Tarom usually makes geometric styles, and floral patterns are rarely made. The rugs of Tarom are very close in appearance to the rugs of Zanjan. The semi-nomadic makers of these rugs weave these rugs in a very primitive and simple manner. The colors in a Tarom rug may be any combination of salmon, baby blue, and navy blue. Reds are very rarely seen in Tarom rugs.

Baluch: These are tribal hand-woven rugs made in the southern part of Iran by nomadic Baluch tribes. These people are very kind and simple and weave these rugs mainly to express themselves and follow an ancient Persian tradition, which dates back 2500 years. Colors of Baluch rugs are usually predominantly a rich burgundy with some navy and ivory. They frequently have either an overall pattern, or a prayer rug design. Any Baluch Persian rug is one of a kind and has absolutely no duplicates anywhere. 

Hamadan:   Beautiful tribal hand-woven Persian rugs, are made in the city and in the surrounding area of Hamadan in Northwestern Iran. Hamadans are quite durably constructed due to the rugged wool spun from hardy sheep in the higher, cooler altitudes. The patterns vary in rugs from this city from geometric, to floral or overall Herati designs. Hamadan is an important city in the carpet industry because along with its many surrounding villages, it produces countless numbers of floor pieces that are all unique and remarkable in their own way.  Hamadans can often be recognized because they have a fringe only on one end This is because the weft threads are looped over the top bar, rather than tied off one by one.    

Wiss: Handmade Persian tribal rugs are also made in the village of Wiss, which is just near Hamedan. The patterns of the Wiss rugs are similar to those of the rugs made in Hamedan. They also bear a resemblance to rugs from Arak and Tabriz. They usually have traditional dense floral patterns with vases, foliage, palmettes, and garden elements scattered throughout the rug. The Wiss is a very high quality rug, and perhaps a better quality than most of the rugs from the surrounding area. They usually have lively and rich colors with a dark shade of red or burgundy being the main one. There is also navy blues, greens, and many other colors as a small accent to the rugs.

Sirjan: Sirjans (or Sirjands) tribal rugs are made in the district of Sirjan, which is located in the great province of Fars, in southern Iran. The designs are very simple and favored by many people who don’t like the more detailed and busy city rugs. The theme of their rugs, often seems more sophisticated than primitive. They are never too overwhelming in their designs or color schemes. Along with geometric motifs, small animals or plants are often seen in parts of these rugs.

Hussainabad: These are tribal rugs that are handwoven by the semi-nomadic peoples of northern Iran in a village near Hamadan by the name of Hussainabad. They usually have an intricate pattern with a detailed central medallion. The coloring is predominantly shades of red, navy blue, and ivory. Both geometric and floral patterns are seen in rugs of this type. The quality of these rugs is fairly good 00and they are made with very soft wool making them very pleasant to walk on.

Shiraz: Shiraz is an ancient city in central Iran, which produces a very warm and comfortable series of handmade Persian rugs. The designs are very simple and favored by many people who appreciate the warmth of a tribal carpet. The theme of the rugs seem more sophisticated than primitive. They are often somewhat crudly done with the pile cut long (shaggy). However, some of the older Shiraz carpets are extremely finely done. They are never too overwhelming in their designs or color schemes- with a predominance of red as the main field color. Along with geometric motifs, small animals or plants are often seen in parts of these rugs. The selvages are almost always done with a barber-pole effect using two colors.

<>Qashqa’i: The QashQa’I speak a Turkic dialect similar to that of Azirbaijan and there is evidence that they are at least partially Seljuk remnants who entered Fars from the north in the 13th Century- possibly to avoid the Mongols. Qashqa’I weavers have the best reputation of the craftsmen in Fars, although their output is only a small part of the region. Qashqa’I rugs are all wool- usually with ivory colored warps and often with dark or red-dyed wefts, The Qashqa’I use the assmetric knot and only Gabbehs are symmetrically knotted. Their Carpets have alternately deeply depressed warps red wefts and a fine weave. The edges are most often finished with a barber-pole selvage, and a kelim at both ends is common.
Gabbeh: The Gabbeh is a very unique hand-woven tribal Persian rug, made by nomadic people in Southern Iran. This rug’s distinct style of weaving is especially suitable for modern, or contemporary settings. It combines thick, heavy pile with bold colors and shapes in unusual and exciting combinations. Gabbeh designs are extremely simple and uncluttered with large fields, bold stripes and geometric human or animal shapes that seem more sophisticated than primitive. The Gabbeh is often a favorite of many contemporary designers because of its beauty and utmost simplicity

Malayer:  Malayer belongs within the Hamadan disrict,  lying 30 miles south of Hamadan and 75 miles north of Arak. Malayer has produced carpets with some characteristics of both areas.  They produce predominantly single wefted rugs- but which are often much finer than the Hamadan.  In towns and villages southeast of Malayer, carpets are finer and double wefted and resemble the design of Sarouks made in the neighboring Arak district ­ sometimes with symmetrical knots at 120KPSI)

NOTE:  This paper must be considered a work in progress and will be updated and supplemented as time and will permits.  Any comments /recommendations will be greatly appreciated  ……Phil