When it comes to home interiors, one classic look that never goes out of style is the handcrafted Persian rug. Ideal for making a statement in a sleek modern living room, injecting a striking flourish of colour to a space, or for your kids to pretend they’re Aladdin, they’re versatile and beautiful, and can bestow rich exotic culture into your home. However, a handmade Persian carpet or rug not only jazzes up a floor; each one carries with it a unique personality and character that’s as inimitable as the individual who painstakingly crafted it.
A secret to the art of Persian carpets
Nobody understands the deep-rooted traditions and heritage of the Persian rug more than designer carpet producer and curator NASSER NISHABURI. Born into a well-respected family carpet-trading business that harks back to the 1750s, Nasser’s father established his first Persian rug store in Singapore when he moved here in 1986. (Longer-term expats may remember his auctions in Goodwood Park Hotel every Sunday.)
Nasser joined him in the company in 1992. “The name Nishaburi was given to our family due to the extensive carpet merchandising my ancestors did with the East through the Silk Road, on which the city of Nishabur was a major stop,” he explains.
Continuing in a business that has spanned three centuries, today the family boasts stores around the globe and Nasser makes it his mission to bring authentic Persian products to the local market.
Time-treasured techniques Are you looking for a carpet with 1.2 million knots per square metre? Desperate for a rug with amazing mythical symbols? Searching for a rug weaved with an infusion of pomegranate skin? Nasser Nishaburi’s collections encompass one-of-a-kind tribal rugs crafted out of time-treasured techniques, to classic and modern-day reinterpretations of the Persian rug heritage using fresh pops of colour.
It’s with the tribal Persian carpets and rugs where Nasser’s passion prevails.
“These are handcrafted with the most meticulous care by the nomadic people,” he explains. “They create such pieces entirely from scratch: the weaver will spin the wool from their own flock of sheep in their pastures, convert the wool into yarn by hand, and source the dye from natural sources and plants around them.”
The next step is developing the colours. Madder root is used for a striking red shade; indigo is dipped in yoghurt after dying to reduce the vibrancy; pomegranate and walnut skin add texture and tincture; and hay is used for a natural mild yellow hue.
The sustainable aspect of the business and the fact that it’s socially motivated are sources of both pride and responsibility for Nasser. “I enjoy working with weavers. They are the nicest people to work with and sometimes weaving a rug is the only way of generating income for some of them,” Nasser says.
Expression through pattern
According to Nasser, the average weaver can accomplish between 3,000 structured knots a day. Even at that pace – and depending on the size and finesse of the product – it can take a few months or even a few years to complete one tribal piece from beginning to end. (Talk about patience!)
With such a time-consuming task at hand, it’s no wonder that the weavers put their hearts and souls – and often their life stories – into their creations.
“Throughout history, the weavers have really expressed their feelings in the patterns of what they do,” explains Nasser, who visits the weavers in their villages to learn from their work. (And yes, he can weave himself!)
He continues: “The designs are created from memory, so will often become intuitive and influenced by the weaver’s personality and circumstances. A carpet will grow into an expression of feelings. When you look closely, you can often discover intriguing nods to stories of lost times, mixed marriages and local ceremonies.”
For this reason alone, Nasser believes that when it comes to purchasing a handmade Persian rug or carpet, it’s paramount that you find one that you can connect to.
“Look for good quality wool that isn’t too soft. It should have a decent texture and lustre that will wear well over time for that ‘antique’ look. Don’t stress about the number of knots, but rather the colours and the overall quality. Above all, search for a one-of-a-kind piece that speaks to you with its own personality.”
Then, all that’s left to do is kick off your shoes and let your feet fuse with folklore!
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This article first appeared in the November 2020 edition of Expat Living. You can purchase the latest issue or subscribe, so you never miss a copy!