The ancient art of hand-knotted rug making, practiced in the villages of Nepal, Turkey, and India for centuries, is on the verge of disappearing. Not because of mass production, a threat that it has withstood before, rather because improving economies are offering more lucrative employment for weavers who are migrating from the village to the city and leaving this venerable art form behind.
“The world is losing weavers to other trades like construction, and over the next decade these wonderful works of art will become rarer and more expensive,” explains John Craig of Carpet Designs in Naples. “This won’t happen overnight, but it is happening and the pace is quickening. We should treasure the hand-knotted rugs we have and be thankful for the rugs that make it to market in the future.”
On a trip to Turkey a few years ago, Craig visited a company known for its gorgeous Oushak carpets made with Angora wool and a wool warp and weft technique identical to that of a hundred years ago. Later, Craig placed an order but the company was not able to accept it because the weavers were on strike for higher wages. Eventually, the request was accepted and the rug was produced, but it is a cautionary tale for those who treasure artisanal workmanship.
The quality of a hand-knotted carpet is determined by the number of knots per square inch, and a higher density means better quality. With an average weaver tying about 10,000 knots per day, a complex pattern requiring dense knotting takes a long time to produce.
“To me, a hand-knotted rug is very special to begin with, but now the handcrafted aspect is being lost,” says Craig. “Anyone who values craftsmanship and understands that a beautiful rug is a work of art will have to be sensitive to their rising cost and rarity.”
According to Craig, the hand-knotted rugs will not disappear entirely, but will become scarcer in perhaps as little as ten years. So while most experts agree that there is a huge difference in aesthetics between a hand-knotted and machine-made carpet, it is a difference that homeowners may have to endure.
At the same time, in spite of their increasing uniqueness, Craig is hesitant to call a rug an investment piece. He believes that a carpet is a piece of art to be used, enjoyed, and valued for the pleasure it brings every day. In order for a carpet to increase in value it has to age for more than a hundred years and most carpets are not with a single owner long enough for that to happen.
In addition, carpet provenance is something that requires expert knowledge and guidance. Craig notes that as Turkey becomes more and more modern, not only are its hand-knotted rugs becoming increasingly costly, but many of the rugs being sold to tourists are actually being imported from Pakistan and India. His advice is to rely on experts as hand-knotted carpets become more difficult to acquire.
“There are still wonderful rugs to be had,” exclaims Craig. “Don’t be put off by their increasing scarcity. Just know that you are supporting a revered tradition and living with a true work of art.”
John Craig, President
121 Tenth Street South
Naples, Florida 34102
Written by Sarah Adams