I was lucky enough to be invited by Suzy Tuxen at AFOM to collaborate on a commission for Wired magazine. I've been talking about making a carpet for a long time so here was the opportunity. There were many moments where I felt like I was never going to get there! But I did in the end thanks to those with quick nimble fingers who helped weave rows and cut down the yarn to size.
Boxes of carpet presents - cut pile.
Carpets (and weaving in general) is all about graphs. At its most simple a design can be drawn on graph paper and then translated into a carpet, with a few constraints in mind. It took me a while to work out the type proportion and knot ratio, but after sampling and figuring out the right sett (weave speak for how many ends per inch) it all seemed to fall into place.
I felt such a sense of relief when I cut it off the loom before tying up some loose ends and rushing off to work bleary eyed. Not only because it was finished but also because the proportion worked and the carpet was straight. I spent a day tying it onto the loom to make sure the tension was as even as possible.
Although carpet techniques can be simple, they are among the most time consuming. Up there with tapestry weaving. Each row took about fifteen minutes to weave, with no mistakes in it. That makes it 81 knots per square inch. Sounds like a lot but just to put it into perspective, the Ardabil Carpet at the V&A has more than four times as many, totaling 340 knots per square inch. About 26 million knots in total. The Persian carpet is an immensely beautiful piece of craftsmanship dated to 1539/40 AD, most probably a royal commission and one of a pair to have come from a group of mosques in Ardabil in North West Persia. The other rug is housed in a gallery in Los Angeles and is even more densely woven. Over 10 x 5m in size, it would have taken a group of talented weavers with very nimble fingers about four years to weave! I only wish I could have seen it up close and turned a corner over.
Back view of the rug, probably my favourite bit.
It was photographed by the talented Shane Loorham and sent off to Wired to be published in the May issue. Hopefully there are more carpets to come. Thanks Suzy!