As experts in antique rugs, our staff has accumulated a high level of knowledge by traveling the world sourcing rugs and speaking with the artisans who inherited the skills and practices used to create these valuable textiles. One of the best ways to gain a greater understanding about the history and practices of rug making is to view large collections of antique and vintage rugs in pristine condition. The Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History is a great resource for learning more about antique rugs and the techniques used to create them due to a huge donation of Navajo textiles from the William Randolph Hearst Collection. It is one of the most complete and well-preserved collections of Native American rugs in the United States.
William Hearst, a well-known newspaper publisher and adamant collector, slowly assembled his collection until he amassed over 200 quality textiles spanning more than a century of weaving techniques. The collection includes a sample of nearly every type of Native textile produced from the years 1800 - 1920. Besides the impressive diversity of the collection, the chronology of the American rug trade unfolds before your eyes.
Primarily using handspun wool as their core material, the Navajo weaving technique was highly refined, tightly woven, and centered around complex design patterns. The earliest pieces exhibit a mostly striped design but eventually grew to more elaborate zig zags, diamond patterns, and tapestry weaves with the major color palette being red, blue, and white.
Navajo weavers traditionally produced blankets worn as garments but with the increasing number of European settlers coming to America, rugs became a major market demand. Weavers began to transition into the production of rugs. The popularity of dyes also changed around the same time. The recognizable indigo dye, a major characteristic amongst many Navajo textiles, had all but disappeared by 1890. Commercial dyes began to be imported and custom designs for specific patterns began to alter the appearance of traditional Navajo rugs.
While many aspects of the Navajo weaving techniques changed with the influx of new materials and supply & demand, there were a few details that remained constant such as the finished edges often known as the “selvage”. Most Navajo rugs have a selvage along both ends as well as the sides. The selvage was usually made of two or three ply handspun yarns tied together at the corners.
At Woven Accents, we include American Indian antique rugs in our collection. These flatweave, antique rugs by Native American weavers depict the work of skilled artists through their lively patterns and well-preserved vibrant colors. If you would like to learn more about the intricacies of these rugs or understand their comparison with rugs of other regional origins such as our extensive collections of Persian and Turkish vintage rugs, contact a senior specialist in our showroom today.
The William Randolph Hearst Collection of Navajo Textiles at the LA County Museum of Natural History collection rotates in and out of public viewing but it has a permanent online home with hundreds of photos and details about each antique rug. Click here to see the online collection.
Antique Persian rugs have a reputation for their complex craftsmanship and timeless beauty. But beyond the power of their aesthetic nature, they provide a deep pull towards a design process rarely seen in our modern times of high speed pace and mass production practices. The handcrafted, artisan techniques at the foundation of antique Persian rugs are as inspiring as the rugs themselves.
Every handmade antique rug is unique and allows the distinct skill of the artist and their traditions to be woven into each design. A central characteristic of antique Persian rugs is the layout of the field of the rug. The design pattern in the field of the rug is often one that relates to the regional roots of the weaver. Antique Persian rugs depicting geometric designs were usually woven in nomadic communities. Passing down weaving techniques and symbolic patterns specific to their history, the basic elements of repeated linear designs reflected a connection to their collective culture. Nomadic weavers worked more from memory and oral traditions creating a strong regional distinction in geometric design and color.
Sketches and scaled depictions were used to capture the intricacies of the design as geometric patterns shifted more into complex fields of curvilinear designs. The handcrafted nature of antique Persian rugs remained even in the development of more detailed patterns. In today’s production practice, computers are relied on to produce the blueprints for the weaver.
The beauty inherent in antique Persian rugs results from the traditional ancient designs intersecting with the artistic process. The Persian knot used to actually create a rug is a small, tight knot that takes definitive skill and creative vision. Antique rugs woven with the Persian knot tend to have a more balanced and finely tuned design field. The highly detailed designs of antique Persian rugs emerge out of singular, tiny knots sometimes reaching up to 550 knots per square inch. Whether the weaver was producing the rug as a solo project or as a community effort, the amount of time invested in these antique rugs generally ranged from months to years.
The ancient practices of weaving antique Persian rugs is undoubtedly deeply ingrained in the flow of life that existed centuries ago. With Persian rugs dating as far back as 500 B.C., it’s impossible to separate these rugs from their vital ingredients of intergenerational skills, dedication to lifelong expertise and the simplicity of a life with less modern distractions. Our own extensive collection of antique Persian rugs reflects this connection of antiquity and artistry with rugs that were created over 120 years ago and continue to improve and tell the story of their original design.
For a deeper look at our hand-picked collection of antique Persian rugs,
check out our online catalog today.