First Celtic area rugs emerged during the Arts and Crafts movement in the late 19th and early 20th century. This international art movement, promoted by William Morris and Christopher Dresser, began in Britain and spread to Europe, North America and parts of Asia.
It was characterized by its appreciation for traditional craftsmanship, simple forms, and medieval, romantic, or folk-inspired style, rebelling against strong industrial forms and economic abuse. It was one of the most influential movements in Europe until it was replaced by Modernism in the 1930’s, although it inspired countless artists long after that.
In Ireland and Scotland this movement was welcomed fairly well, although local artisans and artist decided to modify it to suit their needs and tastes. With time, traditional Arts and Crafts textiles were enriched by typically Celtic motifs and elements of Art Nouveau. Especially Irish carpets were known for a fascinating mix of what’s Oriental and Celtic. Among numerous motifs were well-known symbols such as the Celtic Knot (love, loyalty and eternity), Trinity Knot (a Celtic symbol of the Goddess), Triple Spiral (sun, afterlife and reincarnation). Color palettes could differ from weaver to weaver, but most popular hues usually included deep dark blues, reds and browns, commonly associated with Celtic culture. The fascination with it can be explained by strong independence movements which were active in both Scotland and Ireland. Local people felt more connected with the ancient tribes they where descendants of than the English whom they saw as invaders and strangers.
Area rugs, characterized by their set size, which covers limited space on the floor, were especially popular and sought after at that time. They did a better job at keeping the warmth than runners and small rugs and helped to define the room better. Celtic Area rugs are still popular in both Scotland and Ireland, although they differ from designs created during Arts and Crafts movement.