Modern Design Rugs Woven In Ancient Tradition
Gabbeh rugs arouse curiosity in those who have never seen them. Their bright colors and minimal design recall more aspects of contemporary decoration and early 20th century Modernism than they do of traditional Oriental rug design. Yet, the weaving of Gabbeh rugs is an ancient tradition that has been passed down through generations of women in Persia’s (Iran) seven nomadic Farsi tribes.
Gabbehs are typically smaller than 8’x10’ but today some larger carpets are contracted. They are woven on vertical looms which are easily transportable. The rugs were not originally made for commercial export, but were an essential part of everyday life for the tribal people. The small colorful pieces protected them from the harsh climate. They acted as bedding as well as floor and wall coverings.
The word “gabbeh” is Farsi and translates to “long hair”. The original tribal pieces had very long, thick pile, similar to “shag” carpeting. A combination of camel hair, goat hair, wool and cotton is used in the construction. The foundation also has 5 to 12 weft threads for additional strength while most woven rugs have 1 to 3 wefts. The wool is hand spun .
Most Gabbeh rugs have strong, intense color and minimal design. The dyes used come from all natural vegetable and plant based materials found in the local terrain. The designs follow no strict rules of symmetry. They are whimsical carpets that often speak of personal experiences. The design elements often have significance to the weaver. Abstracted human “stick” figures, animals such as deer and birds, flowers and trees are prominent but are often interspersed with geometric designs such as diamonds, squares and zig zag. Defined borders and fringe, which are traditional to most oriental rugs, are rarely used.
While their appearance may be surprising, the unique qualities of the Gabbeh carpet create feelings of joy, warmth and comfort. They are inviting.
At J. Namnoun Oriental Rug Gallery, the Gabbehs have been our best selling carpets for the past ten years. With a trade embargo now in effect with Iran, we tried to obtain as many of these pieces as was possible in the months preceding the enactment. We sincerely hope that this ruling will be short term. To deprive families in small villages of their means of support should be unlikely to have any effect of foreign policy.
Please visit our Weston Street location to see our collection of fine Gabbeh rugs.