Design & Shopping: The tribal connection

Mysticism in a rug? Certainly, and at an affordable price, too. Just cut along to Liberty.

Today is the last chance to see the exhibition of Iranian tribal rugs on the fourth floor of Liberty's Tudor building in London, an exotic collection of artefacts that, Liberty reckons, will "bring a hint of mysticism to any space in which they are laid". The collection comprises three main tribal groups, Kashgai, Afshar and Lori, from southern Iran. Items on display, although they will probably all end up being used as rugs, have more varied backgrounds. Some started life as animal wrappings, others were made as tent bands; there is also a selection of bags and containers. Each is designed for a specific function and, as they are all hand-made and individually woven, each piece is unique. All of these transportable woven canvases were produced by nomadic people in southern Iran, who now weave goods for sale and export as well as continuing to produce all their own unusual and distinctive equipment. Liberty sources and buys the results directly from the producers, meaning that the manufacturers are happy and prices are kept realistic. Almost all of the artefacts on show are for sale, costing from pounds 15 (woven tent decorations) to pounds 20,000 (an antique Kashgai rug, four metres by two). Typical items include 129 x 80cm Kashgai runners, at pounds 300 each, and 158 x 113cm Afshar rugs, price pounds 325 each.

This combination of merchandise has never been seen before in London. For those who are fascinated by its production and applications, or just want to be transported to an imaginary desert world far away from the British autumn, there will also be an authentic tribal tent pitched on the fourth floor, to house the weavers who have produced this tribal art form. Previous demonstrations of weaving on a traditional gabbeh loom have proved to be most successful, leading to the installation of a video to offer further details about the techniques and skills of these nomadic tribes.

Design Details

THE RUG Company has added a collection of hand-knotted, vegetable- dyed kilims to their contemporary carpet range. There are over 60 designs to choose from, including kilims designed in New York and made in Turkey. They come in a range of sizes and start at pounds 395 for a 6' x 4' rug. Contact the Rug Company on 0171 352 0012 or email Rug.Company@ Compuserve.com

RUG CONNECTIONS is a service which allows you to buy rugs from bonded warehouses into which the public would never usually be able to gain access. This means lower prices and access to thousands of rugs, kilims, gabbehs and sofrehs from Persia, Turkey, Afghanistan, India, China and Iran. The individually designed lion rug (above) is made by the Bakhtiari and Quashqi tribes of South Iran, its lion symbol representing heroism and strength. Call Rug Connections on 0181 853 3358 or e-mail rugs@greenwich.demon.co.uk

SIMPLE KILIM runners from Roger Oates are available in 100% wool flatwoven and produced in a 70cm width. They can be joined to create area rugs or wall to wall carpeting, and their good quality, durable finish makes them ideal for stairs and hallways. Roger Oates will be showing for the first time at 100% Design this year, but in the meantime can be found at 1 Munro Terrace, Cheyne Walk, London SW10, 0171 351 2288. Call 01531 632 718 for details of mail order.

ON 23 Sept, cloudband.com will launch a facility to enable customers to buy rugs on-line. Cloudband is dedicated to carpets, textiles, Asian and tribal art and includes an interactive mall, exhibition galleries and exhibitor information. Details at www.cloudband.com or e-mail contact.us@cloudband.com

FURTHER INFORMATION on the ancient roots of tribal weaving and the significance of their common patterns and traditions can be found in Tribal Rugs by James Opie (Laurence King, pounds 28). Opie recounts the history of antique and traditional designs right up to the present day, illustrating relationships between patterns with maps, drawings and pictures of the tribes themselves.

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