Hannover. The graphic language of ancient textiles comprises a rich glossary of motifs specific to particular tribes and areas of the world. Many of the symbols and patterns woven into their design - from basic shapes and marks to complex and intricate decoration - have become easily recognisable even to the non-expert, and they tell the story of the rug and of the movements of peoples across the world.
However, excluding work still produced by existing tribal communities, the design of contemporary textiles concerns 'tribal identity' in a completely different way. Today's designs are driven by trends - often relatively international in scope - and the concept of individualism. The eclectic gleaning of aesthetics from different sources, eras and nations provides a rich melting-pot of visual language.
'Modernised tradition' is the name given to a current trend recognised across all design fields. In it, a classic design - or combination of designs - is appropriated and updated to make a new aesthetic, which the viewer can recognise in both a historic and a contemporary context. This can be seen in fashion, homewares and many areas of design, but no medium shows it more clearly than in the modern rug industry, where a new genre titled 'transitional' design has acquired great popularity.
The term 'transitional' does not denote one particular look; it describes the adaptation of traditional designs with devices such as disintegration, overlapping, glitches, reinterpretation and similar effects that can be aided by digital manipulation. Each of the premier rug companies producing transitional designs has its own set of devices and aesthetics. This also makes it possible to respond to individual customer requirements in terms of size and color. Products like these are part of the UNIQUE YOUNIVERSE at DOMOTEX 2018 and will reveal the opportunities for individualizing interior furnishings.
The 21st Century Persian Carpets by Iranian German-based designer Hossein Rezvani joyfully revive the rich history of Persian weaving. By taking a traditional Iranian carpet design and reducing the pattern to its essence, using dynamic colours and high-quality production, Rezvani creates a modernised traditional design highly desirable to a contemporary market that wants something fresh and innovative but with traditional grounding.
In terms of innovative rug design the work of Jürgen Dahlmanns of Berlin-based brand Rug Star is hard to beat. His new Rug Star Tuft collection of high-end tufted rugs produced in China blew the minds of visitors to Domotex Hanover in January 2017, where he launched the full production. From afar a rug like New Classic Tabriz may look like a contemporary take on an ancient Persian design, but up close it is even more revolutionary, with thick pile forming a brightly coloured raised classic design on a flatwoven ground. The effect is surreal, like a carpet from Alice in Wonderland.
Dahlmanns and Rezvani are not the only ones reviving the greatest Iranian designs. The Graffiti 2 gabbeh rug by well-respected Iranian Swiss-based company Zollanvari exemplifies the skill of blending old and new. Gabbeh are traditional nomadic Persian weavings, but in this example a glitch in the design transforms an antique rug into a contemporary piece of art for the floor. Ayka Design's Vase collection combines a classic Persian pattern and company designer Karen Michelle Evans' distinctive use of longer pile heights. The alluring result is an Iranian design we only just recognise but that can appreciate on numerous levels.
The 17th Century Modern collection by London-based brand Knot Rugs is another perfect example of modernised tradition. The company's design team researched and revisited some of the world's most prestigious classic rug designs and the resulting collection is a perfect marriage of ancient and new. Skull No.1 replicates the colours of an old Polonaise design and has a beautiful antique patina from the use of oxidisation; but the incorporated tattoo-inspired skull shape brings us slap bang into the 21st century.
Afghanistan is now a very different place from the time when Afghan carpet production was at its zenith. Despite the ravages of war, companies are still producing rugs in the region and supporting the Afghan people through the art of weaving. Erbil Tezcan, owner of US brand Wool & Silk Rugs has been working in the country over the past three years. His Afghan-produced design History Rug was exhibited at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC to demonstrate Turquoise Mountain's work in promoting local crafts in Afghanistan. For this special carpet Tezcan worked digitally to unify twenty-three traditional Afghan rug designs using contemporary colour and pattern. The resulting rug is a summation of Afghan design, following tradition in telling the story of place but with a contemporary voice.