Archive for May, 2009

Assia – One of Rug designers best hand tufters

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Hand-making carpets is a job for the patient. At a nearby carpet factory resigned-looking women knot different coloured wool onto a base by hand. They produce traditional carpets with intricate designs, gossiping steadily as they work, but it is s-l-o-o-w.

hand Made Rugs

Assia is of a different breed. 4ft 6in high, give or take an inch, make-up exactly right, hair covered correctly, but with a fine line of lace across her forehead, which adds a touch of elegance, and dressed in a neat top and jeans, she exudes competence and energy and is the most experienced carpet maker of the Rug Designer team.

The day we meet she is masking a sample rug, a complicated ‘peacocks feather’ design in cream, outlined in brown and raised against a cream background. The backing has already been printed from the picture received by email from England, with the design and the reference numbers for the colours. It is stretched onto a traditional carpet loom, then a machine that looks like a hand gun is filled with one of the colours, and a patch is filled in. The gun knots the wool almost exactly like the old ‘by hand’ method, but a lot quicker. It looks no more difficult than ‘painting by numbers’, but I suspect that keeping the colours within their boundaries and getting the correct density is more of an art than it seems!

Assia is, as I said, tiny, and petite in everything except personality. She is unmarried at thirty two, so considers herself as beyond being eligible. She lives with her parents and younger sister, and is allowed to go out to work because Abdul Kader, the foreman and general factotum, does a ‘bus run’, collecting all the women from their homes and returning them at the end of the day. Even a power-house like Assia has to fit in with the social order she lives in, though that does not stop her from being enthusiastic about work. She likes all the different patterns, and clearly enjoys trying out different texture ideas.

Carpet & Rug manufacture in Aleppo, Syria

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Getting a carpet made just for yourself is part of a long tradition that is still carried out on a fairly small scale.
A few miles down the road from here, in a small Kurdish town called Affrin, there are women doing just that. In a small factory unit, a few women sit at looms and patiently knot coloured wool by hand onto a backing. Each worker has the design they’re working on placed where he/she can refer to it easily, and the design is worked line by line until the carpet is finished. The designs are traditional ones, Turkish or Persian, and a large carpet can take more than a month of pushing pieces of coloured wool through the back, returning them to the front and knotting them off. It takes a very patient worker to concentrate for that long, though they find time to chat or to sing along with the radio. What they would make of modern patterns I cannot imagine, they are so used to their ancient designs that it would be difficult to get them to try!

Rug Designer uses a different technique to give customers exactly what they want. Instead of the drudgery of pushing the wool through by hand, and the constant referring to the picture of the pattern, the picture is printed on the backing, and the wool is knotted in using a hand machine that does the same job, but easier. Instead of putting in the wool line by line and constantly changing the colours in her hand, the Rug Designer carpet maker fills in each colour on the rug, rather like the Painting By Numbers set you had as a child. The difference is that she never gets the colours mixed up, or goes over the lines, as you used to do!

The new method has produced a new type of worker. They expect to finish a rug in days rather than weeks, and have a much brisker, more professional attitude to work. If the customer wants traditional, they’ll do that. However if another customer has ordered something completely different, they enjoys the contrast.