By Laman Ismayilova
The art of carpet weaving is a treasure which is passed on from generation to generation. Weaving is very hard work requiring geometrical precision, supreme skill and creativity.
The basic principles and techniques of rug weaving have changed little since ancient times. The materials most commonly used to weave rugs are wool, cotton or silk.
Azerbaijan has been known as a center of many crafts since ancient times.
For many years, Azerbaijani carpets have captured millions of people from around the world, and still continue to do so. The country has long been known as the center of rug production.
The ancient history of carpet weaving is evidenced carpet weaving tools (the 4th-3rd millennium BC.) discovered during Gultapin excavations, a clay figure of a horse with its horse-cloth decorated with flowers, found in Maku city in Southern Azerbaijan (dates to the 2nd millennium BC) as well as a golden plate picturing a lion with a decorated cloth found in the hills near Hasanulu on the coast of Lake Urmiya (1st millennium BC).
Moreover, archeological excavations in Mingechevir unearthed the remnants of palases (carpets without pile) and carpets in catacombs dating back to the 1st-3rd centuries.
Bright, colored and incredibly beautiful Azerbaijani carpets are well-known all over the world for their quality and a great range of styles.
Each carpet narrates an extraordinary story is depicted beautifully in these pieces of art.
By their technical peculiarities Azerbaijani carpets are divided into fleecy carpets and carpets without pile. The weaving of the carpets without pile dates to the earliest period of the art of weaving.
Men shear sheep in spring and autumn, while women collect dyestuffs and spin and dye yarn in the spring, summer and autumn. The carpets were usually woven by women and girl in winter.
In the second half of the 18th century in the northern part of Azerbaijan there were small feudal khanates - Sheki, Baku, Guba, Garabagh, Irevan, Ganja, Nakhchivan, and Shirvan. At this time, the production of carpets greatly expanded. Each khanate had its own carpet workshop. As a result, various carpet schools appeared in the territory of Azerbaijan.
The Land of Fire has seven carpet producing regions including Baku, Shirvan, Guba, Tabriz, Karabakh, Ganja and Gazakh and each of them had its own technology, typical patterns and colors.
According to their technical aspects, Azerbaijani carpets are classified as flat-woven (pileless) and knotted (pile). The flat-woven carpets are linked to the earlier period of carpet weaving. There are several kinds of pileless carpets such as Shadda, Verni, Jejim, Zilli, Sumakh, Kilim and Palas.
Shadda is a flat weave carpet, made primarily in Nakhchivan, Agdam, Gubadly, Agjabedi. The artistic composition of shadda made by complicated whipping, as well as its constituents have a complex form.
One of the most widely spread type of the flat-weave carpet is "verni". The key pattern of "verni" is the S-element. Its shape varies, it may resemble both figure 5 and letter S. This element means "dragon" among the nomads and “water” among the village people. According to the ancient believes, a dragon featuring carpet would protect the family from foul weather. Agjabedi, Barda, Aghdam, Nakhchivan are the centers of this type of pileless carpets.
Jejims are woven on simple horizontal looms by narrow stripes 30–35 cm wide and 15–10 cm long. The resulting product is a cloth to be used as a wall carpet, a bedding coverlet, or curtains.
The major jejim production centers are Barda, Nakhchivan, Zangilan, Shusha, Shamakha.
Zilli carpet is characterized by stylized forms of animals and vegetal elements. In terms of their composition and pattern the Azerbaijani zillis are very diverse. They feature the images of large elements in the shape of big lozenges, paired horns, various stylized elements.
The Sumakh carpets have become widely spread and recognized over the last few centuries. Since the 18th century, they have been made in country's Guba and Gusar regions.
The Sumakh carpets feature the diverse stylized vegetal motifs, various geometrical elements such as large hexahedral, square, rhomboid medallions.
Kilim is the most widespread type of flat-woven carpets. They are made by passing the weft through the warp using the technique of compound interweaving. Kilim is characterized by a slot-like gap (opening) around the geometrical patterns.
The technique of kilim weaving predetermines the pattern shapes in the form of a lozenge, triangle, and trapezium. Images of animals, birds and humans are geometrized in kilims. Kilims of different regions are distinguished by their composition, pattern, and colors. In terms of their technical peculiarities kilims can be classified into five major groups based on the area of production: Kazakh, Karabakh, Absheron, Shirvan and Tabriz kilims.
Palas is one of the widely spread flat-weave carpets. The palas weaving process consists in passing the weft through the warp by a simple technique. The weavers decorate the palas by traditional patterns in the form of horizontal stripes commonly used throughout Azerbaijan. As a rule, the palas is not framed by a border.
Today Azerbaijani carpets are saved and stored at the world museums and private collections.
Thanks to the care of the country, on November 10, 2010, the Azerbaijani carpet art was included into the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of UNESCO.
Azerbaijan Carpet Museum provides a fascinating history of carpet weaving art.
Established in 1967, it became the first carpet museum in the world is the very place that can familiarize all the interested with the unique examples of the national carpets.
During its 50 years of existence, the museum has organized more than 30 exhibitions in different countries throughout the world.
The main purpose of the creation of the museum was to store, research, and demonstrate unique examples of the carpet weaving art, which are the Azerbaijan’s national heritage. The initiator of the museum was Latif Karimov – an outstanding scientist and carpet weaver, the founder of the science of Azerbaijan Carpet Weaving Art, artist and teacher, author of the fundamental work Azerbaijani carpet.
In 2007, the President Ilham Aliyev, signed a decree for the creation of a new building for the museum in the territory of Seaside National Park.
A new carpet museum, designed in the form of a rolled carpet, opened in the Baku Seaside Park in 2014 and all carpets were transferred to this museum.
Today museum hosts many events, such as exhibitions, international symposiums, and conferences.
Laman Ismayilova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Lam_Ismayilova
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