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Iranian carpets weave their magic spell

Age Like any art collector’s piece, the older it is, the more valuable it becomes. There is a distinction between antique and “new” – those made after the 1930s. A carpet made at a workshop of a well known master weaver will obviously be more expensive than one made in a regular workshop. Some of the names sought by the international auctioneers Christie’s and Sotheby’s are Kashan Mohtasham, Tabriz Haji Jalili, and Laver Kerman.

Iranian carpets
Colour A good carpet will have a diverse colour palette, with a strong contrast between the colours – no one wants a dull carpet. Buyers should ask the dealer whether it is made from natural dyes – from fruits, vegetables or mashed insects – or modern manmade chemical dyes.
Material The price of a carpet will also be determined by the type of material used, usually silk, imported or domestic, or wool, imported or domestic. Carpets made of Manchester wool, produced in the northern English city of the same name, have appreciated extremely well, says Ali Al Bayaty, the chief executive of Estuary Auctions in Abu Dhabi. Rug commissioners in Iran stopped using Manchester wool, bringing an end to carpets made of expensive imported wool, after the Great Depression when British and German companies defaulted on their commitments to Iran.
Weave The fineness of the rug is determined by the number of knots per square metre. A coarse rug could have 36,000 to 50,000 knots per square metre, whereas fine or rare rugs could have more than 1 million knots per square metre.

The effort to produce a work of such staggering beauty was so immense that his family hosted parties for weeks and exchanged elaborate gifts to celebrate its completion.
The Paradise Garden, a 160 square metre Persian rug that can only fit in a palace, features more than 90 shades of colour and is decorated with the Shah Abbasi Flowers pattern , which originated in the 15th century. But it is more than just a rug.

The carpet, made in the weaving centre of Tabriz city in north-west Iran, has been a backdrop to the struggles of Mr Hossein-Zadeh’s Iranian rug trading business, which he has operated in Abu Dhabi since the early 1970s. Whatever was happening in the region, in the business, even in the world, the dream carpet was always there.
There was the opening of his branch in Abu Dhabi, the Iranian Revolution, cash disputes with the weavers and a two-year hiatus when the project was completely halted, not to mention rounds of international trade sanctions with Iran and other geopolitical tensions.
At every stage of manufacture, it is almost as if the dream carpet represented Mr Hossein-Zadeh’s prosperity and that of his business.
And for the millions of knots tied to weave the beautiful and intricate rug there is a similar number of business deals struck between traders of the UAE and its Iranian neighbour.

For many years Dubai has been a re-export hub for Tehran for goods including fruit and nuts, cars and carpets. Trade between the UAE and Iran between 2005 to 2009 tripled to US$12 billion (Dh44.07bn), according to figures from the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Re-exports to Tehran jumped 29 per cent to $31bn last year, according to Reuters.
Even as sanctions tighten over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, trade remains and so, too, does Mr Hossein-Zadeh’s dream carpet, which today is kept under lock and key until the right buyer is found.
“There were times when my father wondered why he even began that project, but by then he had invested so much money that he just had to complete it,” says Dawood, Mr Hossein-Zadeh’s son, who was a child when the carpet was envisioned and an adult, married with children, by the time it was completed.

Dawood, who has taken over the century-old family business and runs the Centre of Original Iranian Carpets in Abu Dhabi, says the rug, kept in the family private collection, is for sale at Dh4.4 million.
On one of Dawood’s walls hangs a collection of old framed photographs of Sheikh Zayed and several notable UAE Royals, along with portraits of Queen Rania of Jordan, and King Mohammed of Morocco standing behind piles of carpets laid out in the company shop.
“In this kind of business, very one-of-a-kind, rare pieces of the finest Persian rugs, you are dealing mostly with royalty wherever you are. Who can afford to buy them? Only the rich, ultra-rich and VIPs,” says Dawood.
Persian rugs, once the passion of Ottoman Caliphs and European monarchs, have long been coveted by Middle East families, not just as decorative floor coverings but as assets to be sold in times of economic hardship.
The price of a Persian rug has increased by 40 per cent in the past 12 months as Iranians inside Iran pour their money in carpets as a haven to hedge against the rapid devaluation of the local currency and subsequent rise in inflation.
“Merchants are trying to concentrate on fine, rare antique carpets by 19th century masters to buy to re-import them to Iran,” says Ali Al Bayaty, the chief executive of Estuary Auctions based in Abu Dhabi.
“Most of the rare pieces are in Europe and [Middle East and North Africa] region, while bazaars in Tehran are only selling ‘new’ pieces, by new we are talking about 1930s.”
“These carpets are currently in high demand. A lot of these pieces have wear and tear and need to be washed and maintained, and the best workshops are still in Tehran,” Mr Al Bayaty adds.
It’s the opposite of the days of the 1979 revolution, Dawood says.

“When the Pahlavi was toppled, Iranians who wanted to leave rushed to buy carpets because they were not able to transfer currency abroad. When they left the country, they sold them in Beirut, Damascus, Dubai and other Gulf states to get money, and the whole international market became flooded with carpets making the prices fall. Those were difficult times.”
And today he is facing a different set of challenges as sanctions hit Iran’s economy.

“Antique rugs from Iran are becoming more expensive and as the economic situation gets worse, you have to pay more to encourage these workers to stay in the field,” says Mr Hossein-Zadeh.

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Salehi urges removal of constraints on export of handmade rugs

Head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI) Ali Akbar Salehi called for removal of restrictions facing export of Iran’s handmade rugs.

Salehi urges removal of constraints on export of handmade rugs

He made the remarks during his visit to the 27th International Persian Handmade Carpet Exhibition and said, “effective steps should be taken in this regard to remove bottlenecks and problems facing production and export of this traditional Iranian art and industry.”

He emphasized the necessity of paying due attention to the traditional Iranian carpet industry and said, “responsible officials need to devise necessary measures to eliminate obstacles facing export of Iranian handmade rugs.”

Handmade rug in the world is known as ‘Persian carpet’, he said, adding, “Iranian handmade rugs must be exported to the world markets without any restriction, so that it will eventually be able to attract people from other countries. In this case, high-quality Iranian carpets and rugs will hit the global markets in the best form possible.”

In this visit, Head of Iran National Carpet Center (INCC) Fereshteh Dastpak said that selling Iranian handmade rugs has recently been witnessed significant growth in a way that many large merchants consider purchasing carpet in the current situation due to the lack of price hike of this Iranian product against US dollar and gold coin.”

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27th Iran Handmade Carpet Exhibition

The 27th Iran Handmade Carpet Exhibition was inaugurated on Saturday in Tehran in the presence of Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade Mohammad Shariatmadari. Over 670 producers, export companies and manufacturing units across the country are taking part in the event, running through Aug. 31.

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27th Iran Handmade Carpet Exhibition kicks off in Tehran

The 27th edition of Iran Handmade Carpet Exhibition, as the world’s most important and biggest event in the art and industry of handmade carpets, has kicked off in Tehran on Saturday.

Major handmade carpet expo opens in Tehran - Tehran Times

Known as the world’s biggest handmade carpet exhibition in terms of quality, quantity and production, the international Iran Handmade Carpet Exhibition will run through 31 Aug. 2018 at Tehran Permanent Fair Ground, with participation of over 670 producers, export companies and manufacturing units across the country.

Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade Mohammad Shariatmadari is expected to attend the opening ceremony of the event.

The exhibition is a professional showcase in demonstrating and providing handmade carpets. Iran National Carpet Center, as the sponsor and organizer of this important event, provides special facilities and options for foreign businessmen who are active in handmade carpet sector.

A number of business and trade delegations from various countries are expected to visit the exhibition and hold trade talks with Iranian producers and exporters of handwoven carpets.

Last year trade visitors from South Africa, Japan, Croatia, Brazil, India, Germany, Denmark, Serbia, Romania, Uruguay, Russia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, UAE, China, Kuwait and Sweden among other countries took part in the exhibition.

The event attracts as many as 4,000 visitors each year.

According to statistics, Iran exports 45 percent of its hand-woven carpets to Asia, 43 percent to Europe and the rest to other continents. The Persian carpet has found several new clients for its carpet that include South Africa, Russia, Brazil, China and Indonesia.

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Exports of Iranian hand-woven carpets rise by 21.7%

Head of Iran National Carpet Center (INCC) Fereshteh Dastpak said Mon. that $ 100 million worth of handmade carpets has been exported during the first four months of the Iranian year (beginning on March 21).

Exports of Iranian hand-woven carpets rise by 21.7%

Speaking to reporters few days before 27th National Hand-Woven Carpets exhibition kicks off in Tehran, Fereshteh Dastpak said “during this period (first four months of Iranian year), a total of 1,983 tons of handmade carpets have been exported to foreign markets.”

She said that last year, 5,400 tons of carpets worth $ 425 million were exported, indicating 17.9% increase compared to the year before, during which 5.741 tons valued at $ 359 million had been exported.

The INCC chairwoman also said that the exports of handmade carpets to the United States had doubled and added “during the first four months last year, $ 21 million worth of handmade carpets was exported to United States, while this amount reached $ 38 million during the same period this year.”

Last year, $ 126 million worth of carpets was exported to the United States, and its share of the total Iranian carpet exports was 29.7%.

She said that Germany, Lebanon, Britain and Japan – after the United States – imported the largest portions of Iranian handmade carpets and added that Germany imported $ 57.5 million of Iranian carpet last year, indicating 13.6% of the carpet exports .

According to her, last year, Lebanon imported $ 30 million, Britain $ 23.4 million, and Japan imported $ 23.1 million handmade carpets from Iran, accounting for 7.1 percent, 5.5 percent and 5.5 percent of Iran’s carpets exports, respectively.

The 27th National Hand-woven Carpets Exhibition will kick off on August 25 and will run until August 31 at Tehran International Permanent Fairground located in the north of the capital.

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Ankara hosts Iranian carpets’ exhibition

A special carpet exhibition aimed to introduce Iranian culture and handicraft is being held at Ankara’s Panora Mall, Turkey.

Ankara hosts Iranian carpets' exhibition

The 10-day exhibition displays 24 hand woven rugs and pictorial carpets, the designs of which inspired by nature, Koranic verses and Iranian nomad’s culture and life style.

There is also an Iranian artist present at the center who weaves a carpet live and explains different process and aspects of making rugs.

On the sideline of this exhibition, a group of musicians perform traditional Iranian music for visitors.

Iranian hand-woven carpets are exported to 80 different countries, with US being one of the leading markets by a total share of 30 percent. The value of this export was around $424 million in the past Iranian fiscal year, corresponding to March 2017 – March 2018. This is while following US President Donald Trump decision to withdraw from Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the US Treasury Department announced it had revoked licenses to trade in Iranian carpets.

Some 2.5 million Iranians are making a living from producing and trading carpets and the country’s carpet industry plays the biggest role in employment in rural areas, said the head of Iran National Carpet Center (INCC) Fereshteh Dastpak on July 16, adding, “Countries such as China, Nepal, India and Pakistan have made a lot of efforts and investments in hand-made carpets, but Iran is still out of their reach in producing and exporting this product.”

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Golestan palace showcasing garden rugs

Golestan Palace in Tehran, a UNESCO world heritage center, is holding an exhibition of Qajar era fine rugs with garden designs. It is the first public presentation of the antique collection.

 

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Iran, Russia to remove barriers to handmade carpets export

Head of Russia-Iran Joint Chamber of Commerce Vladimir Obidnov called for holding a specialized exhibition of Iranian hand-woven carpets in Russia.

Iran, Russia to remove barriers to handmade carpets export

During the meeting with head of Iran’s National Carpet Center Hamid Kargar and officials of Iran National Carpet Center, Obidnov pointed to the Russia’s interest in the Iranian hand-woven carpets, asking for holding a specialized exhibition of Iranian hand-woven carpets in Russia.

“The issues related to the temporary import of Iran’s carpet to Russia can be solved through talks and implementation of executive approaches,” he noted.

He expressed the hope that the first exhibition of Iranian hand-woven carpet would be held in Russia in October or December, 2017.

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Iran exports $84mn Persian carpet to US

 Industry Minister Nematzadeh said Iran’s exports of hand-woven carpets to the US was $84mn in the previous year indicating a significant growth compared to the figure for the year before which only stood at $2.7mn.

Iran exports $84mn Persian carpet to US

During a visit to Iran National Carpet Center, Mohammad Reza Nematzadeh pointed to the President’s order on boosting production and employment saying “over the past year, great efforts were made to connect the Iranian industry to the global one including international contracts in the auto industry which need to be extended to other fields like the carpet industry.”

He said carpet exports suffered poor conditions during sanction years stating “the process has been fortunately facilitated though all barriers faced by producers and exporters need to be removed.”

“Unique features of Persian hand-woven carpet offer great opportunities for sustainable production and employment,” highlighted Nematzadeh adding “the knowledge for production of Iranian carpets needs to be transferred to the younger generations as well as that local markets should become strengthened in line with exports.”

He deemed it as necessary to hold business and commercial courses for carpet weavers; “inscribing Persian hand-woven carpets on the national and international lists of cultural heritage proves valuable only when it prevents fraud and increases exports.”

“Increased value added in manufacturing carpets should be the main priority in order to promote economy, production and employment as well as to make successful and dynamic presence in international markets,” he concluded.

Also during the visit, Head of Iran National Carpet Center Hamid Karegar said 350 million dollar of Iranian hand-woven carpets were deployed to various countries.

“America, Germany, Lebanon, UAE, Pakistan, Japan, Britain, Qatar, South Africa and Australia were the top ten costumers of Persian carpet in the previous year with the American taking the lead in imports of the product from Iran,” he continued.

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The Persian Rug May Not Be Long for This World

For centuries, Iran’s famed carpets have been produced by hand along the nomad trail in this region of high plains around the ancient city of Shiraz.

Sheep grazed in high mountain pastures and shorn only once a year produce a thick, long wool ideal for the tough thread used in carpet making.

But high-quality production of hand-woven carpets is no longer sustainable on the migration route of the nomads, said Hamid Zollanvari, one of Iran’s biggest carpet makers and dealers.

Instead, he had built a factory with 16 huge cooking pots, where on a recent cool, sunny spring day men in blue overalls stirred the pots with long wooden sticks, boiling and coloring the thread. As the colored waters bubbled, they looked like live volcanos. The air smelled of sheep.

The century-old bazaar in Shiraz, an ancient Iranian city known for its production of hand-woven carpets.

The century-old bazaar in Shiraz, an ancient Iranian city known for its production of hand-woven carpets.

Another room was stacked with herbs. Eucalyptus leaves, indigo, black curd, turmeric, acorn shells and alum, ingredients for the different colors. “The Iranian carpet is 100 percent organic,” Mr. Zollanvari declared. “No machinery is involved.”

It is a scene that seems as ageless as the women who sit before the looms and weave the rugs, a process that can take as long as a year. And now even the factory is threatened. With six years of Western sanctions on the carpet business and punishing competition from rugs machine-made in China and India, these are hard times for the craft of Persian rug making. Many veterans wonder whether it can survive.

Over the centuries invaders, politicians and Iran’s enemies have left their mark on Iran’s carpets, said Prof. Hashem Sedghamiz, a local authority on carpets, sitting in the green courtyard of his restored Qajar-dynasty house in Shiraz. The outsiders demanded changes, started using chemicals for coloring and, most recently, imposed sanctions on the rugs. Those were blows, he said, damaging but not destructive.

Nomads and others at a carpet production center owned by a family of carpet traders outside Shiraz.

But now, Mr. Sedghamiz said, the end is near. Ultimately he said, it is modernity — that all-devouring force that is changing societies at breakneck speed — that is killing the Persian carpet, Iran’s pride and joy. “People simply are no longer interested in quality.”

This year, after the nuclear deal was completed, the United States lifted six years of sanctions on carpets. But even with that, the Persian carpet is in a critical state as fewer and fewer people buy them.

“These days, everyone is seeking quick satisfaction and simplicity, but our carpets are the complete opposite of that,” Mr. Sedghamiz said.

His message was not what officials of the Iran National Carpet Center had in mind when they organized a tour for a group of foreign journalists last weekend. Still, none of them could really argue with Mr. Sedghamiz’s conclusion.

One thing is for sure: Iran’s carpets are among the most complex and labor-intensive handicrafts in the world.

It is on the endless green slopes of Fars Province, in Iran’s heartland, that the “mother of all carpets,” among the first in the world, is produced: the hand-woven nomadic Persian rug.

Workers coloring wool in large cooking pots. Only natural ingredients like herbs, pomegranate peels and wine leaves are used for coloring.

The process starts with around 1.6 million sheep grazed by shepherds from the nomadic Qashqai and Bakhtiari tribes, who produce that tough, long-fibered wool so perfect for carpets.

Women take over from there, making thread from the wool by hand, twisting it with their fingers. The finished thread is bundled and then dyed, using natural ingredients like pomegranate peels for deep red or wine leaves for green. After days of boiling on a wooden fire, the threads are dried by the cool winds that blow in from the north each afternoon.

Only then does the weaving start. Weavers, almost all of them women, spend several months to a year bent over a horizontally placed loom, stringing and knotting thousands of threads. Some follow established patterns, some create their own. When the carpet is finally done, it is cut, washed and put out in the sun to dry.

“It’s so time consuming, real hand work,” said Mr. Zollanvari, the carpet dealer. “A labor of love. And what does it cost?” he asked, before answering the question himself: “Almost nothing.” A 6-by-9-foot handwoven carpet costs around $400 in Shiraz, depending on the pattern and quality.

Mr. Zollanvari, who speaks fluent English, stood alongside two other carpet dealers, Habib Bayat and Mohammed Ali Dideroushan, both of whom are United States green card holders and self-declared carpet lovers.

The sanctions were really painful, Mr. Dideroushan said, and to him, at least, inexplicable. “Let’s face it, what do carpets have to do with our nuclear program?”

The worrisome part, Mr. Bayat said, is that business still has not picked up even after sanctions were lifted early this year. With international financial transactions still a problem, he said, “even the tourists that come to Iran cannot pay us, unless they bring plenty of cash.”

Not only that, but Persian carpets have fallen out of favor even in Iran, with many middle-class Iranians preferring cheap plastic laminate floor covers. Those who still like carpets often go for cheaper Chinese and Indian knockoffs.

“We are selling around 10 percent of what we used to sell over a decade ago,” said Morteza Talebi, the head of the council of the Shiraz bazaar. The century-old bazaar was filled with carpet shops, but there were no buyers.

Nomads greeted visitors at a temporary camp near Shiraz.

Even the original producers of carpets, the nomads, are becoming harder to find. Mr. Zollanvari took the reporters to a nomadic camp outside Shiraz. There, men cheerfully blew trumpets and shot rifles into the air to celebrate the visitors. Women in colorful traditional clothes were spinning wool, others weaving a carpet.

But it turned out that several of the “nomads” were recovering drug addicts from other parts of the country who were entertaining tourists as part of an attempt to stay clean.

“Many nomads are in search of jobs and better salaries,” said Mina Bahram Abadian, a member of an Iranian group that helps nomads and drug addicts. Their situation is not that different from the problems many indigenous people have worldwide, she said.

“Divorce rates are up, as is drug use,” she said. “They cannot cope with all the changes. They get depressed and stop making carpets.”

Resource : NYTimes