A story about what makes handmade rugs so special.
When we saw a beautiful cake on the kitchen table when we were young, the first question we would ask was, "Did you make it or did you buy it?"
For thousands of years, craftsmanship has been valued by humanity. For as long as craftsmanship has been cherished, handmade rugs have been made.
Imagine, that handmade rug that you yearn for. Imagine, for a moment, how it came to be.
Brother: “What should we use for the foundation? Wool?”
Sister: “Well, we did that for the last three, and they sold well at the market. But, if I can get a hold of some good cotton for the foundation of this one it will hold its shape longer, like they do in the village. And we’ll need to move further up the mountain in seven weeks’ time; it will be more stable on the loom.”
Brother: “Let’s get enough dye from these trees, because, remember we ran out for the last big one we made? But we may not have enough wool for a big one this time, the sheep are not as thick as the last time we shaved them.”
Sister: “Ok, so we shall make it on the smaller loom.”
And so the discussion goes in the nomad's tent. A family has come together, the same way they have for thousands of years, negotiating with themselves and with destiny on the outcome of this particular rug.
Now, imagine that machine made, $300 rug you saw at the mall. The one with exactly the same pattern, available in 10 different sizes. Imagine, for a moment, how it came to be:
Designer: “I created 30 new patterns last week for our new Spring line.”
Marketer: “Our customers have told us that they prefer blue and green this season. Blue and green rugs have been featured prominently on that new reality TV show.”
Meanwhile, the CEO, while checking his email on his phone, listens passively to his team discuss this product line, one of twelve he is responsible for. He’s hoping to get out of this meeting early to play a round of golf with a local politician. Anxious, he makes a quick decision, one that will make his company money and endear him to his board of directors.
CEO: “Blue and green it is. You can’t argue with profits.”
The difference? For our nomadic family, rugs are a way of life. For a machined rug manufacturer, profits are a way of life.
Now, let us take you back for a moment to the nomadic family.
Brother: “It's time to move up the mountain. The sheep have worn out the grazing. The snows are melting, and fresh grass is sprouting further up the slopes.”
Sister: “Oh, goodness. Can we carry the loom or should we try and strap it onto the horse?”
Brother: “Well it certainly is looking good, that rug, and we haven’t evenreach the medallion yet.”
Sister: “Hey, remember that long medallion that Grandpa did on his last 2x3?”
Brother: “Yes. But we would have had to start it all the way down here. No, we should do the regular one we learned in Tabriz, and then we don't have to start until about here.”
And so it goes. Every knot hand-tied. Every day another few thousand knots.
One final time, let us take you back to the CEO, examining his spring line being manufactured:
CEO: “How many have we made today so far?”
Manufacturing manager: “We’re up to 500 per day - about 50 in each of the 10 sizes we sell.”
CEO: “Any problems?”
Manufacturing manager: “Nope. All are within our exact specifications and tolerances. These rugs have absolutely perfect patterns with no defects. Of course, I don’t want to boast, but these machines are the world's most efficient way of making rugs.”
CEO: “Yes, costs are down. It was a brilliant idea to use synthetic fibres, secured with a layer of latex.”
Designer: “I feel like we've lost the soul of the rug. On the back, all you see is a coat of non-biodegradable rubber, instead of the outline of a beautiful pattern, as clear as that on the front.”
CEO: “Our customers don’t want soul, they want cheap, big rugs.”
Without exception, all genuine Oriental rugs are handmade. An expert asked to judge a rug will first turn over the corner to look at the back.
And now, the whole story comes out. How finely were the knots made? How straight were the lines of the weft? Were there any splices where a little incompetence made the whole shape go slightly adrift, and an inch or two needed to be made up? Or has the pattern gone from one end to the other with magical regularity, a rhythmic pleasure to the eye? And if there is silk, are the tiny wool knots made smaller to blend with the size of the silk? And the fringe, long or short, does it not flow from the very being of the rug?
Manufacturers of machine-made rugs attempt to blur the lines between their product and that of the weaver. Never mind that they lack the originality and charm, the unpredictable colors in a bit of abrash here and there, the smell and the texture of genuine wool.
But your authentic handmade rug will surely be regarded as one of your most treasured possessions, a truly original and unique work of art, a mark of your good taste and refinement.