Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Amazing Journeys to Create a KARAVAN Carpet..

Hi, I'm Willie Conner, founder and co-owner of Karavan for the past 30 years, but a total beginner blogger! As I learn this new way to communicate, I'm hoping to post some great images and worthwhile information about all sorts of people, places and products that interest me and (hopefully) you! Our focus is Asia from as far west as Turkey, heading east all the way to China and Japan and most countries in between.

Last December found me in precarious Pakistan. In between haggling with Afghan carpet merchants, I took time out to inspect our main carpet dyeing workshop in Lahore where the dye-masters are working their alchemy with traditional organic dyestuffs. The dye shop is run by a Tekke Tourkoman family originally from the far north of Afghanistan. To escape the Russian invasion of Afghanistan 30 years ago, they moved as refugees to Pakistan. They now run a most successful carpet-weaving business, the logistics of which are quite astonishing!

The carpets journey starts in the mountains of Afghanistan, the source of lustrous long-staple carpet wool. The shorn fleece is loaded onboard a truck which travels hundreds of kilometres south and over the border into remote, inhospitable and VERY tribal Belouchistan. The wool is distributed to Belouchi women who are skilled in the Art of hand-combing and hand-spinning using a drop spindle high-tech spinning wheels here! This ancient way of preparing and spinning the wool keeps the long fibres intact and achieves the desired texture in the finished carpet. The spun wool then leaves Belouchistan heading north east to Lahore in the Pakistani Punjab. It is delivered to the aforementioned dye-shop where the wool is transformed into magical colours from the deepest reds from madder root and midnight blues from indigo and a whole palette of wonderous hues from organic materials using recipes known only to the dye-masters. The natural dyed yarn now heads back home to Northern Afghanistan where it is distributed to looms in villages that are home to the Tourkoman, a people famous for their weaving skills. But the journey is not yet over! After many weeks and often months on the loom, the finished carpets are collected and transported all the way back south through the notorious Khyber Pass, bypassing Peshawar as it travels through the North West Frontier of Pakistan and back to the same dye shop in Lahore. Now starts the final processes of washing and clipping. Pure spring water is pumped into concrete washing bays and the back-breaking work of hand-washing many carpets day after day is done by young men (much fitter than me). After drying in the sun on the roofs above, the final clipping of the pile by skilled artisans prepares the rug, ready finally to be packed into bales and air-freighted halfway around the world to our Gallery here in Brisbane, Australia. The final buyer mostly has no idea of the amazing journey their new carpet has taken.

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