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About The Persian Carpet's Arts & Crafts Rugs

Introduction. William Morris

When some people hear ”Arts & Crafts” they might think about making artwork from mixed media back in kindergarten. For those who are interested in the history of design the term “Arts & Crafts” holds added meaning. The “Arts & Crafts” design movement first emerged in England in the late 1800s with the renaissance man, William Morris, leading the way. The Arts & Crafts Movement was at its peak from 1880-1910.

William Morris Portrait
William Morris

The ethos of the movement was a backlash against the steady industrialization of all manner of product that followed the Industrial Revolution. The philosophical impetus for this design movement was the desire to return to the days of handmade goods and to revive arts that were rapidly being lost due to mechanization. This included rugs, which had also undergone mechanization in the weaving process, leading to mass manufacture and lower prices, to the detriment of traditional rug weaving as a craft. The most common and typical machine-made rugs in the 1800s came out of Brussels.

Belgian Machine-Made Rug
Belgian Machine-Made

William Morris was a jack-of-all-trades, and, like many who would follow him in the late Victorian era, was from a professional background but had turned his hand instead to the traditional trades - carpentry and furniture-making, metalwork and metallurgy, calligraphy and printing, wall-paper and design, and also rugs. Morris constructed looms and spent considerable time at the Staffordshire dye works, managing to revive blue from the indigo plant and red from the madder root, also in an attempt to use vegetal dyes in place of the newly developed synthetic dyes.

William Morris Textile Wallpaper
William Morris Wallpaper Design

The designs of Morris became enormously popular in the late Victorian era. The design movement grew and crossed paths with the Art-Nouveau movement, popular in France in the last decades of the 1800s. In time, the designs of these movements would themselves serve as templates of later designers during the earlier decades of the 1900s, including the Prairie Style of Frank Lloyd Wright and the Art-Deco.

At The Persian Carpet we have been having a revival of our own. For twenty years we have been studying the original rugs of the period so they may be reproduced in the originally intended manner. Our rugs are hand-woven on traditional upright looms. Our designs are stunning reproductions of original designs by William Morris and Archibald Knox, Charles Voysey, Gavin Morton and others, or have been taken from Arts & Crafts design elements such as stained glass windows, fabric or tiles, and then translated into a rug design.

William Morris Black Tree Design Rug William Morris Hammersmith Design Rug
Two original William Morris rug designs reproduced by The Persian Carpet are The Black Tree and The Hammersmith.

British Arts & Crafts

The British Arts & Crafts movement drew from nature and transformed botanical motifs into simpler geometric forms. New color combinations were experimented with, such as earth tones and more vibrant tints.

The pioneering work of William Morris found other outlets in the British Isles, perhaps most notably at Donegal in the Ulster Province of Ireland. Again, vegetal dyes were used and traditional looms constructed. Enterprising individuals such as Gavin Morton took his designs to Donegal to be made into rugs.

Designers were also commonly employed by the Silver Studio in London. The most successful designs produced by the Silver Studio were those made by Archibald Knox and Charles Voysey. The Silver Studio produced numerous designs in many styles, including Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts, which helps explain the overlap in influence between these styles.

Charles Voysey Donnemarra Design Rug Fintona Design Rug
Two original Donegal rug designs reproduced by The Persian Carpet are Donnemarra (PC-10A) by Charles Voysey and The Fintona (PC-22A).

Celtic Revival

Around this time a reprinting of the Book of Kells caused a resurgence of interest in archaic Celtic designs. These designs were noted by Archibald Knox, who produced popular designs through the Silver Studio. These in turn were translated into rugs made in Donegal, most often sold at the famous Liberty’s Store in London. Gold, rust, green and other earth tones were favored by these rug makers.

One uncanny coincidence is the use of so-called “Carpet Pages” in the Book of Kells. These pages are usually characterized by complete ornamentation and a lack of any text. “Carpet-Pages” were usually used to divide chapters. Some postulate that these designs were themselves taken from old carpets. In turn, design elements of these pages were used, hundreds of years later, to make new carpets. Ah, the irony...

The Book of Kells
Carpet-Page From The Book of Kells

The Persian Carpet has reproduced a number of these designs, including the Bromley and the Grafton, as well as employing Celtic design details and translating them into rugs, one example being the Celtic Knot

American Prairie Style

Good news travels fast and it did not take long for these new design trends to make their way across the Atlantic and emerge in the Prairie School of design in the United States, characterized by a return to more austere forms and the use of straight lines. The major figure to emerge from this Chicago based movement was Frank Lloyd Wright. The Prairie School is foremost known for architectural design, but these design features also carried over into furniture and metalwork.

The movement from Britain to the United States saw a shift in styles, although the fundamental philosophy behind these movements was the same. Just as William Morris had wanted to get back to the basics of artistic production, so too did the American schools which aimed to produce an “organic architecture”. The Prairie School extended into Mission Style, especially in architecture further to the west, most famously in the architectural Bungalow. In time, these styles would be superseded by Art-Deco.

The concept of a building being connected with the surrounding landscape of the natural world was a driving ideology for the Prairie School of design. As a result the color palette favored neutral and green tones, along with earth tones such as gold and red. The thought behind these designs, combined with this color palette, has inspired some of our own rug designs.

The Prairie by Persian Carpet The Gingko by Persian Carpet
Two rug designs made by The Persian Carpet, the Prairie (PC-21A) and The Gingko (PC-21A)