Exploring Iranian Rug-Making
By Aaron Groseclose
In the fall of 2016, Master Rug Cleaner hosted a group for a two-week-long Iranian rug tour sponsored by the country’s largest handmade rug producer, Zollanvari.
In part one of this article, we visited the nomadic Qashqa’i tribe in their winter camp and the Luri village in the Zagros Mountains to witness the women weavers. We also saw Zollanvari’s hand-dyeing techniques at its manufacturing facility in Shiraz.
See part one of this article here: The Beauty of Iranian Rug-Making
The next stop was Sirjan about 250 miles east of Shiraz. Our friends from Zollanvari also have a weaving and spinning operation in the Sirjan area. Luri tribe members do much of the weaving.
In Sirjan, weaving is done in a Zollanvari facility rather than in the villages. They offer bus transportation for the women, who can bring small children with them into work — which is the company’s answer to company-provided childcare.
During the time of our visit, Soumak rugs, a type of flatweave without a pile, were being woven.
As with the tribal villages we visited, Zollanvari provides the dyed wool for weaving, and the woven rugs go to the company’s finishing facility in Tehran.
Persian hospitality would not let us leave Sirjan without a very lavish home-cooked lunch. Like all other meals, there was more food than could possibly be eaten by our group. It was delicious!
We continued to the city of Kerman to stay overnight and see the local sights including rug shopping in the bazaar.
Kerman has a very old, established rug-weaving tradition. However, the city did not hold our interest like Shiraz.
During our stay in Kerman, we experienced the national holiday, “Down with U.S.A. Day.” Talking politics is unavoidable with the rocky U.S.-Iran relationship.
The demonstrators were high school students bused in for the day and given lunch. They were smiling and waving back at us.
All in all, the Persians are very friendly and hospitable. They hope for an evolution of their government, not another revolution that would destabilize their country like the region around them.
We left Kerman going northwest to the desert city of Yazd, which was the most fascinating city we visited, due to the mud wall construction, the isolation of the location and the multiple faiths we observed. Besides the ubiquitous mosques, we saw a Zoroastrian Fire Temple, a synagogue, and an Armenian Church. Other faiths besides Islam are represented in the country, however, on a smaller scale.
Rugs are produced in Yazd but not to the degree of our next stops in Nain and Isfahan. Both cities are known for finely woven city rugs employing curvilinear designs.
In Nain, we were invited into a weaver’s home where she had a loom to supplement her income with part-time rug production.
Isfahan was once the capital of Iran under the Safavid dynasty. Today it is a cultural center of the country and a university town where a degree in rug design and production is offered.
We were invited to visit the rug-weaving facility of Haghighi. They create the design, first by hand, then digitize it into print cartoons that guide the weavers.
We watched the weavers work on a 20-by-34-foot Isfahan rug, which had an estimated completion time of four years.
We departed Isfahan to Teheran to do a bit of sightseeing, and also to visit the Zollanvari washing and finishing facility south of town. It is a very impressive operation with most of the work done by Afghan refugees.
The rugs are chemically washed to soften the colors and improve the sheen while also removing soil acquired during the weaving and shipping process.
Next, the rugs are sheared to sharpen the design and give the desired pile height. Then the rugs are sent off to the repair building where the ends and sides of the rugs are finally finished.
Rugs, as they come off the loom, do not look very attractive. It requires expert washing and finishing to unveil the beauty of these hand-woven works of art.
Of course, we had to stop the visit for yet another lavish lunch.
Unfortunately, we soon had to say goodbye to our new friends and the employees of the Zollanvari Company, and we headed to the airport for the long ride home.
Aaron Groseclose is president of MasterBlend, a manufacturer of rug and carpet cleaning chemicals and equipment. He instructs carpet, upholstery and oriental rug cleaning seminars. He is the co-developer of the Master Rug Cleaner Program and co-author of A Comprehensive Guide to Oriental and Specialty Rug Cleaning.