It takes a Village...
The craft of rug weaving has been in existence for thousands of years. It is truly an art form that has evolved little over the centuries, and for good reason. The tasks required to complete a hand-knotted rug have remained essentially the same since rug weaving began. But this art form requires far more than just the weaver....there are many, many hands that play a role in creating the rug that is now lying on your floor!
From start to finish, an Oriental rug requires the work of many skilled persons to take raw wool and turn it in to a beautiful, yet functional, masterpiece. These workers are highly skilled in their art and many apprentice for years before becoming proficient enough to work on rugs meant for the commercial market. Some of the most skilled tasks include:
- Preparing the Wool: Usually done by women, the raw wool must be cleaned and spun to create usable yarn. This is a tedious task that requires attention to detail to assure the finished product is thoroughly cleaned and ready to be dyed.
- Dyeing: Dyeing the wool is one of those tasks that require highly skilled artisans. Whether using a natural dye or a synthetic dye the dyers must use a very specific formula and the measurements have to be exact. The dye master is an esteemed profession in rug-weaving villages.
- Designers: The design of the rug has to be created as well, in very specific detail. The design is drawn up in a cartoon which indicates every single knot in the rug by color. For a 6x9 rug with 100 knots per square inch that would mean a cartoon drawn and colored by hand with 777,600 boxes, each box representing one knot.
- Weavers: The weaver will tie one knot at a time, following the color cartoon, to create the pile of the rug. Weavers often learn this skill as children weaving rugs for the family. By the time they are weaving rugs to sell they are amazingly adept at this skill.
- Finishers: Once the rug is completely woven it requires a number of finishing touches. First it is washed, then dried and blocked. The final step is shearing which is done by a master craftsman as this is an extremely delicate task. One slip of the shearers and the rug is ruined.
This video, created by an Oriental rug importer, shows the process of rug making from start to finish. It is a fascinating look at all the steps involved
The Steps of Rug Making
In today's disposable society very few things are made to last. The Oriental rug is an item unique in that the artistry and skill used to make it is still appreciated. Hopefully this won't become a dying art like so many other crafts of old. In the meantime, admire your rug and be amazed at the work that went into it!