This is the fourth of a 5 Part Article on the Basics of Hand Knotted is a rewrite of one Leslie Stroh wrote for the 2nd Issue of Rug News Magazine in 1978.: Part 1 Chinese Rugs, Part 2 Affordability, Part 3, Design, Part 4 Labor & Design, Part 5 Price at Retail.
You’re the designer, the artist
It is the 15th century in Persia. You are creating book covers–some of the most beautiful book covers ever created. Or you are a mathematician creating infinitely endless repeating geometric patterns most often seen in ceramic tiles. Along comes a weaver, and decides to make a textile out of your design.
So the weaver takes a free flowing design, and breaks it down into component parts that fit into a warp and weft –horizontal-vertical—construction, and for whatever reason, adds a pile. You now have a rug, or a fabric with insulating properties.
And as is true of all luxury textiles, the finer the weave, the more luxurious, the more expensive, and the more embodied labor (Karl Marx).
By coincidence the size you decide to make corresponds to our 9 feet by 12 feet, and you create a fabric structure that will accommodate an 11 by 11 warp/weft combination, and accordingly 121 knots per square inch—which just happens to accommodate 80 % of the designs in Persia. labo
Now you face your first problem. The central medallion you choose to make the focal point has to be a perfect circle.
Drawing a smooth curve is difficult. Digression: Pope Boniface VIII in searching for an artist asked a number of up and coming young artists to produce an example of their work. The artist known as “Giotto” is said to have stood in front of the messenger, and drawn a perfect circle in red, which he gave the messenger to take to the Pope. He got the job. Creating a smooth circle in a rug pattern is no less difficult.
You now start your rug design with a smooth circle on a 9 x 12 rug, at 121 knots per square inch. Before you finish designing, you will have indicated the color placement for 1,881,792 knots.
The radius of the circle was easy. Making all the other curves smooth means that their radius have to be the same or larger. Can you make a smaller or larger version? That answer is for a different article.
What is the value of the weaver’s circle?
The question we are addressing here is: At 6,000 knots a day, how many days does it take to tie 1,881,792 knots? In absolute terms that is 314 days, or nearly a year working 6 days a week. Or two years working half a day, with farming, child care, cleaning and cooking taking the rest of your time.
The question then becomes: What is the value to you of skilled human labor for one or two years, feeding a family almost certainly living on less than 1,500 calories per person per day, or a Big Mac meal.
When you are buying a hand knotted rug, you feed a family.