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The art of Oriental rugs
These handwoven masterpieces will last for generations


March 2015

No matter what its color, scale, origin or pattern, a good-quality Oriental rug never goes out of style, and it works with just about any decor. In fact, if youíre lucky enough to have an authentic Oriental, youíll likely be able to hand it down to your children and grandchildren ó just as you would a piece of fine art.

"These rugs are like fine art because true Oriental rugs are one of a kind," says Bruce Shabahang, owner of Shabahang & Sons in Milwaukee and Waukesha. "All of the work is done by hand just like a painting. Think about comparing a painting to a poster and itís like comparing a handmade Oriental rug to rugs made by machine. The poster looks like a painting, but it is mass-produced. The painting has soul and life, and so does a true Oriental rug," he says. "Someone put time and talent into making that rug; it can take over a year just to weave one of them."

The art of fine rug making is a process that has been practiced and perfected by a variety of people over hundreds of years in countries like Persia (Iran), Pakistan, Turkey and India. "They are made with superior quality wool and organic or vegetable dyes. Because the dyes are mixed by hand each time, each rug is guaranteed to be unique," Shabahang says.

The rugs are woven in relatively the same technique, but there are many designs and types of rugs that are aesthetically distinct from one another. One of the most important differences in style is between city rugs and tribal rugs. "Tribal rug designs often are improvised. These rugs are woven freestyle by the artisans, and they reflect the culture of the one weaving the rug. They feature bold geometric designs and patterns," Shabahang says. "Generally, city rugs are more sophisticated and elegant; the artist follows a pattern when weaving."

The differences in style may make the type of rug better suited to a certain type of decor. A city rug might work better in a formal setting while tribal rugs could fit into a more casual space. But it all depends on the taste of the owner. "Either style could work in any setting. People will often buy a rug and use it as a focal point, building the design of the room around it," Shabahang says.

Oriental rugs can be showcased just like art. Some owners will display them on the wall or drape them over a table or a bannister. But Shabahang stresses that the rugs are meant to be walked on. And, donít tread lightly. "Despite their beauty and value, these rugs are meant to be underfoot. The more they are walked on, the tighter the weave becomes. Just like a fine wine, they get better and more valuable as they age."



This story ran in the March 2015 issue of: