As with many rug weaving traditions throughout the world, Tibetan
rug making began as a purely utilitarian craft, providing softness and
insulation in the often very cold and hard Himalayas. The artistic
designs that worked their way into these rugs began with aristocratic
demand for something expensive to display their status, something that
is also shared with other rug weaving cultures. What is not shared
with many other such cultures is their weaving technique, which gives
the rugs a dense but very soft feeling along with great flexibility in
terms of design, with various other art forms finding representation
in rug making through Tibetan weaving.

It is important to note that the weaving technique of these rugs
comes from Tibet, and most of the weavers to this day are originally
from Tibet, but the actual weaving happens in Nepal. This is due to
Chinese military forces moving into Tibet in 1959, which led to many
Tibetans fleeing into Nepal, Bhutan, and India. Shortly thereafter,
investors from yet another mountainous nation, Switzerland, sponsored
the revitalization of Tibetan rug making in Nepal to help the
refugees. These rugs were then largely exported to Switzerland and
spread around the world from there.

Today, Tibetan weavers in Nepal continue to make rugs with their
own traditional designs and those of neighboring countries. In
addition, these weavers can make beautiful rugs based on contemporary
Western abstract and impressionist art. Some of these rugs seamlessly
combine wool, silk, and even yak hair on occasion. These materials
spun together and woven in Tibet’s unique style with abstract designs
combine to deliver an extremely versatile yet dependable product in
our modern world of rapidly changing styles and sensibilities.

 

Written by: Alexander Lindsay

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