Is this an incredible new designer we have yet to hear about? No, not exactly but good guess.
A Gabbeh is a handmade Persian rug traditionally woven by Qashqai weavers in Iran. These rugs are simple, whimsical or modern in design, often using geometric forms. The word Gabbeh translates closely to unfinished or unclipped. Originally these rugs were woven for the weavers use with the pile left long and sometimes used as sleeping rugs. A small number of older Gabbehs were woven with un-dyed wool; the colors being ivory, beige and brown.
Most of the recent Gabbehs are filled with color with the weavers creativity being given free reign. There is nothing subtle or understated about them. The beauty of these rugs is their unmistakable uniqueness. I had one Gabbeh with a herd of camels, another with only a few simple trees. I remember one in particular that had wine glasses positioned right next to the humans on the rug! Some Gabbehs will have small animal figures whimsically placed throughout the field. You may see a simple rendition of the Tree of Life design, camels crossing the desert, a stylized sunset or the colors of the ocean with each rug having it's own individual qualities. A few of the more daring pieces have no design at all with only wool quality and variegations of color dictating the design elements.
One of the most important factors influencing the beauty of any rug is the colors. Some of the most magnificent colors have been and are being achieved on a regular basis in the contemporary production of Persian Gabbehs. Jewel tones abound and old school dyeing techniques have been given new life.
With their simple design elements, they are perfectly suited for modern interiors. Additionally, they can be easily incorporated into most eclectic decorating schemes and work well with traditional Persian tribal rugs, if the colors are in agreement. This is not a rug recommended for a formal room. If the moods and colors are in harmony and it pleases you, that is the bottom line.
In my article, "How to Buy an Oriental Rug" I have gone into detail on the difference between a Persian Rug and an Oriental Rug. To the uninitiated, a Persian rug is strictly from Iran or the former Persian Empire, if an antique.
An Indo-Gabbeh is a copy of the Persian Gabbeh woven in India. These rugs are much stiffer in body and usually have little, if any color variation, which comes from the hand-spun wool and vegetable dyes used in the Persian Gabbehs.
Gabbeh rugs are woven in villages of settled tribal groups, many of them descendants of Turkic speaking peoples. The best Gabbehs, woven with lustrous hand-spun Persian wool come from the areas near the Zagros Mountains in Southern Iran. The creation of these rugs are most often done in the home, each one a unique and splendid presentation of the weavers' art.
Gabbehs in the past were never given their due by the old school. The dealers and merchants of yesterday often disregarded these beautiful, simple rugs as crude and unrefined. It was only recently (within the last ten to fifteen years) that any interest was expressed for these rugs at all. Now they are much more widely recognized for their beauty and charm with a renaissance of new production which became available when the embargo on Persian rugs was lifted at the beginning of the last decade.
Penny Krieger is the owner of Paradise Oriental Rugs, Inc., located in the San Francisco Bay Area in Sonoma County. Her gallery at 137 North Main Street , Sebastopol , CA , specializes in tribal rugs and carpets woven with hand-spun wool and plant based dyes with a strong emphasis on Persian tribal rugs. 707-823-3355 http://www.paradiseorientalrugs.com