The Specificity of Primitive Rugs

The Specificity of Primitive Rugs
September 14, 2016 Caroline Seaworth

What is a primitive rug? The answer is not so clear-cut and perhaps various people would come up with different ideas on the subject. Probably they won’t be so far away from the truth, because the notion of primitive rugs seems to be quite loose. However, we can state that the concept is undoubtedly connected with the past, or more precisely, the respect for it.

It’s a tribute to antique rugs, because they were the source of inspiration for primitive carpets that are made today. Some people use the words ‘antique’ and ‘primitive’ interchangeably, on account of their likeness in colors, motifs and the overall designs. Nevertheless antiques were made in the distant past, whereas nowadays we can create antique-looking primitive rugs.

When talking about primitive rugs, we can distinguish some typical features, like simplicity of design and the avoidance of bright colors. While those unique floor-coverings generally vary as far as size, shape, materials and motifs are concerned, they all have one thing in common – they invoke the feeling of ease and comfort. The use of odd background patterns and wider strips of fabric combined with the lack of proportion and perspective makes a primitive rug something absolutely lovable and charming. They may not be perfect, but this paradoxically, makes them really attractive, causing the room is cozy and inviting.


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The word ‘primitive’ can sometimes have pejorative associations, being described as Eurocentric, but in fact that’s the synonym for tribal. Tribal art is the material culture of indigenous people, who put a lot of symbolism and ceremony in their works. Their art is also highly religious in nature. On primitive rugs we can find scenes from everyday life, the representation of animals or plants in somewhat uneven shapes and often without proportions.

Primitive art is strictly connected with folk culture and hand-made products exhibiting features typical for a given region. One of the example of primitive rugs can be Berber carpets, which are hand-woven by the Berber people of North Africa. The rugs started to be created by them as early as in the Paleolithic era! They used natural fibers and the hand spun cloth was always named for the tribe. The tradition of Berber rugs is still alive today in some rural areas, where they are sold in local markets by the whole families.

As non-professional weavers, we can all probably create our own primitive rug, since the Internet is full of practical tips on how to do it. We won’t probably make a perfect product, experimenting with patterns, colors and proportions intuitively, but as was said before, primitive carpets are in fact not about perfection. You can also check Doris Leslie Blau’s collection of primitive rugs, which include various Antique and Vintage carpets, comprising noticeable tribal motifs on them.

Source:  Primitive Hooked Rugs for the 21st Century by Cynthia Norwood.

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