Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Women of Carpet Design

Once there was a girl who could make glorious carpets from wool tinted with the essence of orange safflowers and pomegranates…”

If you haven’t heard of this wonderful first novel, The Blood of Flowers, I urge you to take a tour of the Blood of Flowers website. You will be mesmerized by Anita Amirrezvani's story telling. Her perspective of seventeenth century Iran is informed by her own heritage – born in Iran, and educated in the U.S., she came of age in 1979 during the Islamic Revolution in Iran. It’s evident in the way she affectionately crafts the details of her story that Amirrezvani has a deep and abiding love of the historical culture of her country of birth, and that she is as much an artist as the character she depicts.

The story is of a young girl anticipating marriage in seventeenth century Iran. With the unexpected death of her father and without a dowry, she and her mother leave the home and village they know, to join the Isfahan household of an uncle, as servants. The uncle is a carpet designer to Shah Abbas the Great and thus begins the story of a young girl whose talent for carpet design leads her into a world previously occupied by men. Though difficult, the life she eventually builds for herself and her mother is one of her own choosing rather than one dominated by the whim of others.

I was entranced by the sights and sound described by Amirrezvani – the architecture of medieval Persia, the exotic fruits and spices of the bustling bazaars, and the centuries old rituals that were the very essence of that ancient culture. Even more, I was fascinated by the heroine’s awakening to the beauty and possibilities of the dyes and the yarns she discovered under her uncle’s guidance in the Shah’s carpet workshop. As she learned the meanings of the thousand ancient patterns used in Persian rugs she quickly began to experiment with her own designs and color combinations.

One particular passage struck me – “Look how the sparkling gold lightens the density of the pattern. Notice in particular how the dull tones – the faded green, the humble beige, the pale blue – emphasize the beauty of the more brilliant colors…”

I’ve heard these very kinds of descriptions from some of the women I encounter everyday in the world of modern carpet design. While their studios are luxurious compared to the carpet workshops of medieval Persia, and state-of-the-art technology has replaced hand knotting to create spectacular designs, these women are surely gifted in their talent for carpet design. They have an innate instinct for combining just the right carpet construction, pattern, and color combination to create rich texture, luscious color and timeless appeal. Our heroine found inspiration in the architecture and culture of ancient Persia. Our modern day designers find inspiration in everything from architecture, to nature to modern technology itself.

Over the next few weeks I’ll introduce you to some of the women who design carpet today. They are unique individuals who envision design possibilities in everything they observe. Each of their creations is born of an individual perspective. As unique as their perspectives and interpretations may be, they all share one thing….a passion for the yarns, the colors and the patterns they use as the tools of their craft - carpet design.

I hope you have a chance to read the book, and I look forward to introducing you to some of the women of modern carpet design.

Note: This link will take you to an interview with Anita Amirrezvani, author of THE BLOOD OF FLOWERS.

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