In the world of carpets, it’s the women weavers, those hard working ladies behind the loom, who should be appreciated for their unrelenting work and the extraordinary carpets they create. Although many of the names of these talented women weavers have been lost to history, their contributions to the art of Oriental rug weaving should not be overlooked.
When people think of the best rugs, they often recall famous Persian city carpets produced in workshops that were run by master rug weavers who were men. These ateliers have certainly produced some great works, but it’s hard to compare these well orchestrated compositions with the quirky village carpets and tribal rugs that were created largely by women.
These talented women took care of their children and tended to the household tasks needed to sustain their families. They did all of these things while taking time between chores to add knots and decorative ornaments to a carpet that would be used in the home or made to be sold at a village market.
In villages, an entire room might be dedicated to a carpet loom and the product might have been woven to be sold at market to earn extra money. For nomadic rug weavers, the process and day-to-day operations were even trickier. Although their rug weaving looms were smaller and more portable, it was still difficult to be ready to be packed up and transported at any time — but these women weavers quickly became experts.
The role women play in taking care of the home and weaving carpets is similar across countries and continents. Whatever type of carpet or kilim they are creating, women always seem to add a bit of themselves to their traditional designs. In Morocco, women weave decorative flat weave rugs and luxurious vintage shag carpets. These artists tell stories by adding age old design symbols that mean little to outsiders but have personal significance to the makers and their tribes.
In Turkmen areas, the carpet weaver’s creativity shines through in the elaborate borders, which display a vast level or originality. Women also played a role in workshops, like Kashan’s Motashem atelier. It’s purported, according to Cecil Edwards, that the wife of Haj Mullah Hassan Mohtashem contributed the famous tulip and blossom borders familiar to Arak. Of course, in Scandinavia, women carpet weavers were even more prevalent and well regarded.
While many of these women did not sign or initial their works, it’s important to remember the significant contributions women weavers have made to the world of vintage and antique rugs.