Arak Rugs: Guide to
Sarouk/Sarough Rugs and Carpets
The American Sarouk and Cecil Edwards
In an earlier article I wrote:
"With the loss of the European market in W.W.I the
market shifted to a rug called The American Sarouk . As Cecil
Edwards told us in The
Persian Carpet the American Sarouk had certain distinctive
characteristics that made it popular: P.
R. J. Ford suggests that the American Sarouk was
originally produced by Mr. S.
Tyriakian the Arak representative of K.
S. Taushandjian of New York in the early 1920s.
11 millimeter pile (.44 inches) deep pile. This
was long enough to stand up to a double alkali bleaching after which it
Knot density from 9 by 10 to 10 by 12 knots to the
Mill spun cotton warps and the second thinner weft
is mill spun the straight weft was hand spun.
Rose field with floral sprays framed by a blue
What I did not include was the disdain that
Edwards had for the "American" Sarouk. If you are a serious student of
carpets then you need to read The
Persian Carpet but even then you would not know the whole
Carpet early 20th century Skinner's Lot 301
the late 19th century and early 20th century the Baker family managed
to use good business sense and connections at the Ottoman court to gain
control of the Armenian looms in a number of regions including Konya,
Akshehir, Niyoli, Balikesir, and Banderma, the major commercial weaving
centers in Ottoman Turkey. After the death of Charles Baker, Cecil
Edwards whose mother was a Baker took over the company.
Edwards reorganized the Baker Company into Eastern
Carpet Manufacturing Company (Eastern). The Baker Company had been
successful but by 1909 had faced a crisis. Eastern was heavily
dependent on Armenian weavers and a series of massacres broke out that
played havoc with the usually stable, hardworking, industrious Armenian
weavers. In 1920 Mark
Keshishian was running the Refugee efforts for the Save The
Children Fund of London on the Isle of Corfu. In his autobiography he
wrote about seeing some of the surviving Eastern weavers who came in on
a refugee ship to Corfu.
While still based in Izmir Turkey Edwards set up
operations in Kerman, Arak and Hamadan. With the massacres of the
Armenian Christian weavers the Turkish weaving trade dramatically
dropped off in quality and production. The rugs made in Izmir are not
greatly valued in the market so Eastern shifted production of rugs to Kerman, Arak, and Hamadan,
Iran. The company had a world wide sales operation. A continual problem
was that they were making more rugs then they could sell yet the market
pushed them into continuing production. With a big markup and an
aggressive sales Eastern had profitable years but the warehouses of
unsold rugs continued to grow. This was not a problem until the Stock
Market crash of 1928 and the resulting softening in the world market.
Still Eastern continued to produce. By 1932 the company was in serious
trouble and in 1935 Reza Shah the Shah of Iran, was forced to step in.
The Eastern Kayam OCM story was that Reza Shah nationalized the
business but that is not really an accurate picture. What really
happened was that to protect the weavers and other workers Reza Shah
took over a moribund company for its debts. Iran did not seize the
company as much as Iran saved the company. What Cecil Edwards and the
Eastern stockholders were able to preserve was the marketing end of the
business. This company OCM and later Eastern Kayam OCM had a vested
interest in down playing their problems in Iran. Still when one
understands this background it allows us to look at what Cecil Edwards
wrote in the context in which it was written. Edwards had a fairly
critical eye for his competitors and the success of the American Sarouk
was not his success. .
Carpet, Persia. Circa 1920.
Size: 8 foot 9 inch by 11 foot.
Structure: Asymmetrical knot open to the right. 10
knots per horizontal inch and 11 knots per vertical inch. 110 per
square inch (1705 per square decimeter)
Yarn Spin: Z.
Warp: White cotton.
Weft: 2 shot blue cotton.
Pile: 2 wool singles.
Ends: Stabilized .5 inch warp fringe.
Selvages: 1 cord overcastting red wool.
Handle: Light-medium, durable, soft.
Style and Quality in Sarouk Rugs
Sarouk rugs are made in a
rather narrow range of styles and qualities. Rarely do you see poor
quality rugs they are also rarely any better that good
quality. It is unheard of to see Sarouk rugs in the same grades as the
best Isfahan or Kerman rugs and carpets. I can not remember a workshop
grade Sarouk and there is no sign of the fine cartoon designers that we
see in other cities. The Sarouk from the 1900 at least seems to have
been designed by Westerners.
JBOC Notes: This is part of the
broader group of Arak Rugs. Up until the end of the 20th century this
type of rug is typical of the Sarouk production. They were attributed
to the village of Sarouk but were likely made in a number of villages
in the Province of Arak, Iran (old name Persia).
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