Posted on: June 13, 2016
Persian Carpets: A Way of Life
Have you ever heard the music of an artistic, handmade Persian carpet? Do you know how to read the unique story contained within its borders? Has anyone ever shown you how the passion of the artisan’s soul is purposefully intertwined with the threads of the carpet’s pile?
My name is Bahram Shabahang. Even though I am well known as a purveyor of fine carpets, many of my longtime customers and friends know that my primary interest is not in selling my carpets but in sharing my passion for them. It is well established that Persian carpets are versatile and possess many practical functions. However, they are much more than beautiful floor coverings and wall hangings, they are works of art.
A true Persian carpet is a handcrafted, one-of-a-kind treasure. Unlike any other art form in the world, the carpets of Persia contain an inherent trio of artistic expression: they combine rhythmic design with Persian symbolism and history, to ultimately create a fine wool “painting”. In addition to employing artistic principles, the master weavers also use the disciplines of engineering, chemistry, and mathematics in their creations. Another important fact, though not often shared, is that the rugs of Persia are deeply rooted within the mystical traditions of Islamic Sufism.
“How do I know all this?” you might ask.
In the middle of the last century, I was born into an Iranian family with a long history of rug weaving and trading. As a child, I often saw my father buying and selling rugs, and, consequently, I began to be interested in the trade. As I matured, I began to ask questions of my father about the rugs, their designs, and their origins, and he soon directed me to “the source”. Through his direction, I was exposed to the various rug-weaving regions throughout the country, their designers, weavers, rug styles, and patterns. I talked with sophisticated traders, local market merchants, and learned much from the nomads. Several books were also at my disposal, and I studied all of them with great interest.
I spent years learning from all the sources that were available to me; but, eventually, I became dissatisfied with the knowledge I had ingested. I became overwhelmed with the biases and preferences, the repetitions and the contradictions, and even with the lack of sufficient literary information available on the subject of rugs. It seemed that the more I learned from outside sources, the more confused I became; so I finally came to a point where I just had to put aside all that I had learned and ask myself, “What is the truth?” I had to rid myself of outside influences and become clear about “what was really what” as far as carpets were concerned. Mentally stripped, from that point on, I began to approach each and every carpet individually, as a Seeker and from my heart. And that was the point at which I began to see things in carpets that no one had ever seen, or said, or felt before.
When I experienced this realization – that the carpets and I related to each other on a very intimate level – I came to respect rugs even more. My passion for them soared, so I decided to devote my whole life to them. Through them, I was determined to share the artistic and spiritual connection to Persian tradition with the world at large. I put aside my architectural degree that I received in the United States, became a citizen of this country, and immersed myself into the rug trade. I established a gallery in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin, and then others as time went on. I took on a partner, brought my children into the business, and together, we carried on the tradition of Orley Shabahang Persian Carpets.
It has always been my hope that, by sharing what I have learned about Persian rugs, more people will be aware of the long-standing traditions within them. That is the true purpose of this newsletter and of those that are to follow. In an effort to continue my goal of educating those who appreciate fine carpets, approximately once every three months, you will be mailed a brochure containing unusual facts about the beautiful carpets of Persia. This information will eventually find its way into a book called Persian Carpets: A Way of Life.
It is my sincere hope that this information will be of great interest to you, since it will contain many personal perspectives gleaned from a lifetime of loving carpets. Feel free to call or e-mail our staff and me at anytime with questions or comments. Feedback is always appreciated, as our mission is to serve you in the best way that we can.