It's Not the Knots... Sort of. 'Mameluka V A' by Rica Basagoiti. The Ruggist.

It’s Not the Knots. Sort of…!

The knot count of a handmade rug is an indicator of quality, but (k)not the only one.

Of all the technical details one could discuss regarding the craft of handknotted rug and carpet making, one stands apart as perhaps the most easily misconstrued, misrepresented, and misunderstood: knot count. This confusion arises for a variety of reasons too numerous to list, but suffice it to say knot count has tended  – rightly, wrongly, or otherwise – to be used as an indicator of rug quality due to its easily discernible and quantifiable value: the number of knots per square unit of measure. As such there is an expedience in saying a higher number of knots equates to a ‘better’ quality rug. Hmmm…. Yes, but that is not the full story.

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Materials Matter, Bailed hanks of undyed wool at Khantze & Co. in Kathmandu await dying and then knotting into fine handmade Nepali-Tibetan carpets. | Photograph by The Ruggist.

Materials Matter | Wool, et alia.

Aesthetics aside, a well crafted carpet is only as 'good' as what it is made from.

For rug and carpet traditionalists, hmm, fundamentalists, umm, aficionados, umm… …for those who adhere to the use of time honoured materials, there can be but only one material – perhaps we should say fibre – that stands proud: wool. However, as illustrated herein by the photograph of bailed hanks of undyed wool yarn awaiting processing, the crafting of carpet does start as a plain amorphous white-ish hued mass of materials; not all of which are created equal. This is true for wool – the types numerous – just as it is for the myriad fibres utilized in rug making, each with their own unique properties providing features – and the associated benefits – appropriate to equally varied uses and situations. When purchasing a rug or carpet endeavour to understand the fibres utilized and moreover whether they are appropriate or not for the intended use of the rug, be it hardworking at the front door or precious in a dressing room. 

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Make Rugs Not War - Carpets as Art, A Review - Jan Kath - The Ruggist

‘Make Rugs Not War’ | Carpets as Art!

As quintessence of the notion of rugs as art, 'Make Rugs Not War' delivers ample imbued commentary, as art must.

Calling as art the vast majority of rugs and carpets made today is intellectually dishonest and in truth no different than calling mass produced paintings from China that have ‘just the right hint of blue that ties the room together’ art as well. There are of course rare exceptions but in a world driven by design and trends, precious few carpets elevate themselves above the fray into the exalted world of art, or perhaps to best distinguish: Art! This is unquestionably a subjective opinion, one anyone is free to question or challenge, yet to accept broadly rugs and carpets as art is to invite inclusion of many a pastiche object just as it is to delegitimize the work of practicing artists, formally trained, folk, or otherwise. The ensemble of carpets which comprise ‘Make Rugs Not War’ specifically challenge the status quo, and thus, like ‘Pearls’ Passage’ by Viron Erol Vert, transcend decorative art into Art, utilizing the carpet not just as rug, but as medium upon which commentary is imbued. With that, what is it then that Jan Kath is saying via ‘Make Rugs Not War?’

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The 'Plush Solid' quality of carpet by Sambhav shown in colour Royal Blue, as seen during Domotex 2019. | Photograph by The Ruggist.

Plush Solid | Sambhav

Technicalities aside, attraction is still governed by emotion and 'Plush Solid' conjures many.

‘Your eyes may not intentionally deceive, but they do not reveal the tactile nature of carpets.’ – From a purely objective viewpoint one could rightly argue that in 2019 there is little reason to make a solid, that is to say, a single colour handknotted rug or carpet. As many other techniques – broadloom and handloom as two examples – can readily satisfy the visual requirements in order to complete the look at a fraction of the price, the expense of handknotted simply doesn’t fit the technocratic bill. Great design however is never solely governed by technicalities, rather it is a melange of fact and the seemingly irrational nature of attraction, pleasure, desire, and countless other emotions. Thus subjectively, the ‘technical’ look if you will, pales in comparison to the touch, the tactile sensations, the haptics of the particularly sumptuous and decadent ‘Plush Solid’ by Sambhav. 

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Tapisserie Ras El Hanout, the Ras el Hanout Tapestry designed by Pierre Marie, made by Manufacture Robert Four in Aubusson, France. | Photograph courtesy of Pierre Marie.

Ras El Hanout | Pierre Marie

Exploring the métier vieux of Aubusson-stitch tapestry made modern by Pierre Marie in collaboration with Manufacture Robert Four.

Pierre Marie was born in Nogent-Sur-Marne and as the child of ‘slightly hippie parents’ experienced a happy childhood filled with a passion for Disney animated films and ’an early enduring attraction to colour.’ Now as an accomplished designer in his early late thirties, he has prestigious collaborations with French brands such as Hermes and dyptique within his portfolio, or perhaps more accurately, oeuvre. He sees himself as an ‘artist-ornamentalist,’ that is it say, as Pierre Marie does, he is ‘Someone that has the talent and the knowledge to decorate any surface with a story, a pattern, a frieze. I would just say that some media are more hungry for drawing than others. And textile is definitely one of them.’

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