When clients ask for assistance with cleaning or repairing Persian carpets, we defer to our experts in Miami. Having worked with them for decades, we recently embarked on a field trip there to witness their skills first hand.
The largest portion of the warehouse facility in which they work contains a shallow, cement basin roughly twenty feet square where rugs are laid flat to be washed. Next to this stands an intricate drying rack (think clips and pulleys, like backstage at a theater) where rugs hang amid heaters and fans after lying outside in the sun for a couple of days. Drying in the sun is the traditional Persian method, equally effective in South Florida. Also traditional are the cleaning supplies and techniques we saw in play: tons of water with a splash of shampoo and a few cups of vinegar, repeated brushing with stiff brooms to work the dirt out, and then a few tons more water.
Before our eyes, a matted, colorless lump unfurled to reveal an intricately patterned, rose-colored Bidjar runner. Purchased at a garage sale for a hundred dollars, it could now fetch $20,000 or more at auction.
In a tiny repair room next to a tiny office, other feats of magic transpire. Skeins of Persian wool in every shade of Gabbeh (25-30 rifts on red alone) and all sizes of needles and scissors filled the nook sand crannies. A single, master rug weaver hunched over a binding he was stitching with small, precise bobs of a needle and thread.
Some rugs can be patched with remnants of similar designs. Older or more unusual examples have to be painstakingly replicated, tiny knot by tiny knot, one matched strand of wool at a time. It is a craft passed down through generations, most often father to son, and it’s one of many ancient art forms that are disappearing.
After gawking, amazed, at the owner’s private rug collection, we were invited to the traditional Persian conclusion to business: a meal at a Persian restaurant called Rumi, where we feasted on stewed eggplant, chicken kebabs, and saffron rice.