Weaving a tradition based on knowledge

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 June, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 June, 2003, 12:00am

Knowledge passed on from one generation to another underpins the sourcing of exquisite rugs and carpets by family-owned enterprise Mir Oriental Carpets.

Founded in the late 1960s, the company has established a finely tuned network of contacts to procure rare and unusual pieces from Iran, India, Pakistan, Afghan, Turkey and Russia.

'A lot of it comes down to family connections,' says Shaziya Mir, the sixth generation of the Mir family to work in the business.

'In order to find precious pieces you need to spend time meeting a lot of families who have collections. If their grandfather was a collector, then you will find they have more exclusive pieces than what is generally available. By sourcing in this way, you are also guaranteed a more accurate history and age of the carpet.'

The family is discerning about quality, ensuring for example that the valuable Persian carpets it imports have a healthy pile and a fringe intact. Worn-looking carpets might seem impressive to the untrained eye, but Ms Mir says they do not hold their value and will have a limited lifespan.

Persian carpets stand out as 'the best of the best', created in a country with hundreds of years of carpet-making experience and where the skills of the craftsmen are passed down through generations.

'Persian artisans have taken the initiative to be more creative and skilful in terms of weaving and design, and this is how we gauge a carpet's quality,' Ms Mir says.

'However, they are just not practical in some situations, such as for a family with small children or pets.

'An alternative can be the younger carpets from India or Pakistan, where we commission our own collections using traditional methods, including vegetable dyes and hand-spun wool.'

These designs have two influences - William Morris and Ziegler & Co - and are designed to offer flexibility with interior decoration. The colour palette is mostly beige, gold, taupe and olive tones, although black and blue are occasionally used. These carpets are about a third the cost of Persian carpets.

The company has also launched a contemporary line made in Pakistan using the same techniques, adapted to modern trends in interior design.

Maintenance of your carpet involves vacuuming it on low power once a week, and having it professionally cleaned by an Oriental carpet expert every five to seven years. It is important that this is done by traditional method, and that no steam or dry cleaning is used.