The Rug Renaissance Part 4
While the migration of Tibetan refugees to Nepal definitely helped kick start the rug renaissance, there are two other international political events that also played a big role: the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, as well as the civil war that followed, forced more than a million Afghan refugees to Pakistan where they lived in giant refugee camps. Like the Tibetan refugees in Nepal, Afghan refugees had limited options for making money. One such option was rug weaving. In the camps, it became evident that many of their traditional designs and color schemes were similar. These similarities made it difficult to sell rugs, so thousands of skilled weavers became available to weave rugs under contract. In 1987, Chris Walter from Cambridge, Massachusetts partnered with a Turkman named Jora Agha to establish the first production of rugs in Pakistan using natural dyes. Their success paved the way for hundreds of other Westerners to establish rug productions using natural dyes in Pakistan.
The Islamic Revolution in Iran in 1979 led to a complete boycott of Iranian carpets by 1987. American rug dealers were forced to look elsewhere. This caused other countries, like India, to improve the quality of their carpets. Rug weavers in India were much more responsive to Western needs than rug weavers in Iran had been. They were willing to make rugs in any size, style, and color scheme that Westerners requested. They even re-learned how to hand spin wool and how to dye rugs using natural dyes. American rug dealers also became more reliant on China who was also willing to accommodate Western needs. Although we lost the beautiful, high quality rugs of Iran, American rug dealers gained more control over the rugs produced for our market.
Source: Oriental Rugs Today by Emmett Eiland