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February 17, 2004 > Centerville has Magic Carpets

Centerville has Magic Carpets

Basir Dadajan, has been in the business for thirteen years. He knows carpets and can lead customers through the intricacies of the labyrinth of workmanship, design, color and materials used throughout the Middle East and Asia. A visit to Magic Import Oriental Rugs on Fremont Boulevard in the heart of Centerville provides a dizzying display of carpets, mostly handmade, from many countries around the world known for their excellent carpet weavers. Sizes vary from large carpets designed to cover a room to runners and weaves for small areas.

Afghan handiwork is displayed beside Persian and Iraqi craft. Basir says it can take four people up to six months of hard labor to create some of the larger carpets. Many are hand knotted and tightly woven - the result of many painstaking hours of effort by skilled craftspeople. Colors and designs are indicators of who designed and created the carpet and may include symbols that signify historical incidents. This practical artwork is designed to last a lifetime or more. Carpet making areas around the world use different materials, but those shown at Magic Import Oriental Rugs are primarily of wool, or combinations of silk and wool to create durable floor coverings. As Basir says, "you may want to change the carpet if you change the dˇcor in your home, but otherwise, these can last a lifetime."

Many Oriental Carpets come from desolate areas where imagination and tribal affiliations as well as noteworthy historical events are expressed in this textile art. In carpets dreams are realized, charms, tribal markings, and symbols are interwoven and so traditions are upheld. In many cultures carpets are representative of the wealth of families. They are handed down from generation to generation. The beauty of Oriental Carpets can be approached in a variety of ways - art, mathematics and spirituality. Historically, patterns appear in architecture and interiors to beautify the environment. Patterns reflect mathematical relationships, considered to be of divine origin by Islamic doctrine - an attribute of God. Patterns are sometimes seen as a complex view of the world where multiple ideas blend with the unity of all existence.

Traditional rug-weaving areas of the world extend from Turkey, the Caucasus, Iran (Persia), Central Asia, western China and India. During the 15th and 16th Centuries, Spain and Egypt also produced carpets. Each area created distinctive styles based on traditions of manufacture, availability of materials and dyes. Preferences for particular patterns, designs and colors in different geographical regions help identify place of origin. For instance, Basir says that many Afghan Carpets favor red colors but some colors and designs have been changing over the last ten years.

The "pile," or thickness, of Oriental carpets depends on a repeated sequence of knots. Use of colors and repetition of selected designs creates traditional and distinctive border and field patterns. A set of parallel yarns, called the "warp," are held taught on a loom. The "weft" is composed of cross-wise yarns the weave through the warp. Rows of "knots" project from the intersection of these yarns. Each knot is formed by using supplementary yarn and wrapping it around a pair of warps. After weaving is completed, the pile is cut to a uniform height. The visible portion of the carpet is from the pile and carries the colors, designs and patterns.

The type of knot used is one of the technical aspects of Oriental carpet that may indicate the area of origin. One basic difference in knots is between a "Turkish knot" (sometimes known as a Ghiordes knot) - using supplementary weft yarn that passes over two warp yarns to form a symmetrical knot - and a "Persian knot" (or Senneh knot) that passes behind a single warp yarn with an asymmetrical structure.

Basir comments that one of the most important factors of quality is the knot density. The density is measured by the number of knots in a square meter (3' x 3 ') of carpet. This can range from 100,000 knots in coarse goods to up to 10,800,000 in the finest carpet in the world. Considering the work required to tie a single knot, it is easy to see the effort involved in a single carpet!

It is easy to get lost in the technical side of Oriental Carpets, but above all, Basir cautions that these are artworks. He says, "What appeals to one person, may not to another. People must look at the inventory in the shop to find the colors and designs that will fit in their home or office and decide what fits." With an inventory of thousands of carpets, and a constant influx of more from his import business, Basir is confident that customers will find the carpet that is just right for their circumstance.

At an interesting web site ( devoted to Oriental Rugs, a question is posed of how to pick a dealer. The answer is to look for someone with a large inventory of attractive rugs, where you do not feel under pressure to buy and "feel as many as you can." It goes on to say (with tongue firmly in cheek!) that a simple way to become an expert is to "feel 10,000 of each kind." In short, find someone you can trust and understand that this is a dual purchase - fine art and practical carpeting.

An extreme example of Oriental Carpeting is now being shown at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through May 11th. This "world renowned" carpet, called "The Ardabil Carpet" is a huge (23 ft. x 13 ft.) sixteenth century masterpiece considered "among Iran's most brilliant expressions of aesthetic and technical achievements." Created during the Safavid Dynasty (1501-1732) when carpet weaving evolved from a rural craft into a national industry and internationally acclaimed art form.

The silk and wool carpet is so finely worked that it has approximately 350 knots per square inch. This equates to 15.5 million knots in the carpet and is estimated to have required six weavers, working side by side, at least four years to complete! There are two identical carpets from the Persian court (the other is at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England) that have survived throughout the centuries. The following is woven into the carpet's wool pile:

Other than thy threshold I have not refuge in this world
My head has no resting place other than this doorway.
-Work of a servant of the court, Maqsud of Kashan, [in] the year 946 [1539-40]

Although carpeting displayed in local shops is far from the age and quality of this example, the admiration and appreciation of the manufacture and craft gives a glimpse of an art form that can be a practical addition to home or office. Come by and visit Basir and his staff at Magic Import Oriental Carpet and touch a bit of history for yourself.

Magic Import Oriental Rugs
27468 Fremont Blvd., Fremont
(Centerville District)
(510) 745-7691

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