by Ehsan Afzalzadeh Naini, Iran Rug Company
20 April 2005
Historical and geographical features of Markazi province
Arak City is not older than 200 years; but before Islam, which is 1400 years ago, a part of great Median Empire was called Arak. The area was razed during Arab attack.
Some 100 years later the area was named Iraq-e-Ajam (Non-Arab Iraq), which consisted of nearly 1000 villages and was 9000 km2.
For 200 years ago Fathali Shah ordered to build a castle for the royal troops in the region, which after it’s population growth was named Iraq. 100 years later in 1800s it was renamed Arak.
Arak carpet production – background
In accordance with the neighboring cities like Qum, Kashan and Isfahan carpet production history, it’s logical to consider the same history for Arak carpet production. It is said in history books that when Shapur II (an ancient emperor of Persia) was crossing the region, he was offered with a carpet. Founders of the new city called for Industries and specialists of different arts and crafts. There are reasons to say many designers and weavers from Kerman, Isfahan, and Kashan came to the new Arak.
The city being built on commercial roads, once to protect them was now a fresh opportunity for businessmen. In 1874, some traders from Tabriz were the first to export some carpets from the region. Two years later in 1876, the Swiss Ziegler company founded an office in the city, Followed by many other foreign companies like New York Tawshandchian, East company, Levan Davoodian company and many others. Most of these companies had dyeing places of their own. In 1924 a nationalization took place in Iran Carpet Industry and the business was since ran by The Iran Carpet Company.
Existing Carpets of those times are mainly named Sarough, Farahan and Arak. Before the foreign companies arrival perhaps there were many designs and colors, but according to Scissile Edwards, During 1939 to 1942, only three major patterns were accepted, Mushk-Abad, Sarough, and Mahal.
Quality wool and dyes
Being near the mountains and ranges as the main source for good quality wool, and the Kevir (Desert) as the source for many natural dyes, and being surrounded by many agricultural villages having not much to do an the land during hard and long winters made the region a perfect place for carpet production.
During Ghajar Period to World War I Arak was an important production and trade centre. The city produced 10% of Iran carpets. In 1939 there were more than 10.000 looms in the city.
The Arak carpet has Persian knots, and is hand woven. Looms are vertical and the warps are fixed on the loom on the ground. Previously double wefts were used but single thick wefts are now common. Wefts are blue and if background is simple, then deep blue or black is used.
Although 15-20 raj carpets are among the humble, low standard carpets, Mushk-Abad carpets gain international fame due to their fine dyeing, motifs and good quality wool. This is also seen in better quality carpets ( Sarough ) of that time with 35-40 and 45 Rajs. Saroughs are woven in Farahan.
Later the carpets are categorized into three major groups, Mahal, Mushk-abad and Sarough – all with Sarough designs. Imported fine fiber – Kork – became popular at that time.
Simple designs and good dyeing practices took away the need for silk and brought fame to the industry.
Arak carpets were famous for two colors, Sarough Dooghi Farahan blue and Mushk-Abad Runasi. In addition to those dominant colors, green, crème and straw yellow colors were used. Using runas (rarely red grains), vine leaf, pomegranates peel and walnut peel were common practices.
The advantages of the Arak carpets were good weaving, good knots, logical sizes, using good wefts and etc, which satisfied the customers.
Design and pattern
Another attractive aspect of the Arak carpets are their simple and primary patterns. There are no signs of Safawid Patterns with complex motifs and patterns.
Periods in Arak carpet production history.
More than 100 years ago, when native and local patterns are dominant. To be compared with current patterns, they are like West Iran village carpets with row patterns and primary motifs like Fish, Boteh, and medallions brought by weavers from Kerman and Kashan.
Beginning of commercial flourish in carpet industry of the area, where the designs are changed to satisfy European taste. Qubelene, French flower, and simple background patterns were dominant.
From the time American companies enter, imposed patterns and colors make a total change and in 30 years simple patterns, sharp colors and long wefts gives a decorative and nontraditional look to the carpets.
During the years between 1930 to 1950, a renewal takes place under support of The Carpet Institute and The Fine Arts Office. Though many skillful designers are migrated to Tehran, many good carpets were woven at the time, and the Americans came back with certain needs.
Returning to native and local patterns and leaving the world market; but no sign of the old rich patterns and dyes. Arak carpets of this era have a pattern called DASTEH-GOLI.
Great designers of Arak were Isa Bahadori, Asadollah Dahighi, Abdolkarim Rafiei, Asadollah Ghaffari, Hosein and Hasan Tehrani, Jafar Chagani, Zabihollah Abtahi, Asadollah Abtahi, Seyed Hajagha Eshghi (Golbaz), Ezzatollah Ebrahimi, Mohamad Bagheri, Parwiz Minaii, Gholamreza Baderestani and Haj Reza Saiidi.
Aspects of current carpet production in Arak
30% of today carpets are normal and Koloftun with 25 Rajs.
30 to 35 Raj carpets are woven in most parts of the province.
40 to 45 Raj carpets are produced in Delijan and a part of Farahan.
45 to 50 Raj carpets are woven in Sarough and surrounding villages with patterns and material from Qum.
55 and higher Raj carpets are woven with Kork wool and silk under support of Qum traders.
Ehsan Afzalzadeh Naini, Iran Rug Company, 20 April 2005
Note: Dates from the original article are converted from the Persian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar