Monday, January 14, 2008

A Magic Carpet Ride & Selling Area Rugs Early Morning

I came to work at 8:00 am today, Monday Jan. 14, 2008. First, I opened the door and put up the signs and a rug rack in front of my rug gallery. I checked my e-mails and responded to few of them. This is what I do every day right after I come in and open the doors. A lady parked in the adjacent parking lot and came into our store asking for door mats that we have on sale. She did not like the doormats, but asked about the prices of our 8 x 11 area rugs. She bargained a little and bought two of these rugs. It was a quick deal.

In browsing the Internet, an article on magic carpets looked interesting to me. I read and liked it. I want to share it here with you.

Our Homes Today
A magic carpet ride

I don’t care what the interior designers say – I love Persian carpets. Or should that be Iranian carpets? Or Oriental, Middle Eastern or even Siberian carpets? Whatever they’re called, I think they look exotic, infinitely interesting, warm, soulful and most importantly, brimming over with history.

In fact, I love my Persian rug so much I think I’m going to be buried in it. Some might think this fixation with my rug to be obsessive, especially when I admit it didn’t come from an exotic location, which required me to travel there by camel. No. I bought my rug in Katikati.

Oh, I checked that it was authentic. It definitely has a number on it. And it looks the real deal. But perhaps most importantly it makes my heart sing every time I see it, and even when I vacuum it. I keep asking my husband to imagine how happy I’d be if I had an entire house full!

Alas, I only have one Persian rug but if life is good to me I might end up with a few more and have a choice about what to wear on my final outing. A slightly bigger one would be great, because the one I have wouldn’t cover me properly and I’m sure my mother would object to me being buried in something reminiscent of a woven mini skirt. “You’re not wearing THAT!” I can hear her shouting from the heavens.

But I digress. If one really is seeking a timeless piece for the home, it’s hard to go past an antique rug. In fact, experts are still arguing over how old they really are. The jury is still out over whether the Mayas made the first floor coverings (which in the early days were more for warmth than decoration), or the Chinese or Egyptians.

Of course, there is also the theory that the same idea can exist at the same time in different parts of the world, so perhaps these different groups started making rugs in unison? Whatever the truth, at about that time woven carpets became the new animal skins. Skins had obviously served their purpose well, but it was time for something different.

In those early days, patterns weren’t a priority on rugs; rather, their practical purpose was more important. Decoration came later, when life was easier and there was more downtime. Cave drawings showed the first signs of man’s creativity and it was only a matter of time before patterns appeared on flooring options too. As with cave drawings they became a way for people to express themselves, illustrate their surroundings and to show their perceived place in the world.

The Old Testament refers to carpets, as do other classical writings such as Homer’s Iliad and by 500 BC, richly woven carpets definitely were in existence and highly valued. It’s thought the earliest surviving complete carpet, made from wool and camel hair around 500BC, came from the Altai Mountains in Siberia. The Siberians would certainly have needed some warmth as surely Vodka couldn’t have been the solution to all of life’s challenges.

In an interesting twist of fate, this earliest of carpets was only discovered in 1947 by a team of Soviet archaeologists. Essie Sakhai, in her book “The Story of Carpets” says that in ancient times, the bodies of the wealthy and aristocratic were buried surrounded by possessions thought helpful in assisting with their passage into the next life.

The downside of this tradition is that tombs were often robbed for the valuables contained within as was the case of the tomb where this ancient rug was used to envelop a Scythian prince. Luckily, it was one of the few things the robbers left behind. And the good news is, when the thieves broke the seal of the tomb, water seeped inside and then froze (as it would in Siberia), protecting the rug superbly.

Although this 500-ish BC specimen is thought to be the oldest example of a complete woven carpet, woven fragments from flax coverings have been found from much earlier times. Textiles made from flax, thought to cover beds, date from 1500 BC and were excavated in near-perfect condition from the Tomb of Ka in Egypt early last century.

Sakhai says that with the advent of Islam in the seventh century carpet weaving had been around as an art form for at least 2,000 years. “From this time on, the history of Islam became in many ways the history of the carpet. Islam was spread by tribes; with a large part of the Near East and Central Asia converted to the faith. This centralization of power created a stable society and the energies which had once been put into war were now directed towards artistic and social achievements.”

As Islamic art flourished, artists began to decorate rugs with the same passion as other objects. Geometric patterns became more refined and flowing, and medallions were popular too.

Nomads, too, have been weaving for centuries, usually practical items such as bags, saddle-cloths and storage cupboards, as well as rugs for warmth and keeping out sand. It’s thought because they lived in barren, dry and harsh environments, they wanted to surround themselves with color and pattern.

While Auckland certainly isn’t dry and barren, we could, in fact, send a little more precipitation the Nomads’ way and I’m sure we’d all be happier. We live in a green and damp land but I can still relate to surrounding myself with color and pattern, until my dying day and beyond. But to keep my mother happy, it needs to be a large rug.


Khosrow Sobhe

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