The Suzani Technique and How It’s Used in Rug Making
Sam Presnell explains what the suzani needle-work technique is and how it’s used in rug making to make a Suzani rug.
John Maher: Welcome to the Rug Gallery with Sam Presnell. The Rug Gallery is an Oriental Rug Company and Carpet Store in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’m John Maher and I’m here with the owner of the Rug Gallery, Sam Presnell. Hi Sam.
Sam Presnell: Hi John.
John: Sam, today we’re talking about the suzani technique and how it’s used in rug making. What is the suzani technique of needlework for Iran-based textiles?
Sam: Well, suzani actually it comes from the Persian word or Farsi word which basically means needle. Right there it tells you it’s more of a needle-work than it is a knotted [technique] that you would see mostly in rugs. It’s more of a textile or a fabric than it is, per se, a rug or carpet. Most of the stuff that is woven into suzani is [done in] what we call Central Asia which could be Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, all the “stans”, whatever they’re called, but there’s a bunch of them.
It’s pretty much a tribal textile and it is more of what I would call a crewel-stitching, if you’ve ever seen crewel-stitching or embroidery stitching it is in that fashion. It appears there’s usually a cotton or a silk base like a piece of fabric and then this is stitched on top. Most of the stuff with suzani that I’ve seen is — mostly it’s done with silk, so very well done, very fine work and just a beautiful art.
John: Okay, so how does this technique carry over into rug making? Are there actually suzani rugs and what is it that makes them unique and different from other types of rugs?
Sam: Well, there are suzani rugs but I think it’s a little confusing because it’s not really what I would call a suzani. Suzani would be more of an embroidered textile fabric. Suzanis basically, rug-wise, would be something that’s mocking or taking the designs that they find in those fabrics of suzanis and creating them in knotted rugs for rug use. It’s just basically imparting the flair of style and coloring that you would see in those classic suzani fabrics and just weaving it within a rug technique.
John: Okay, can you tell me a little bit about how a suzani rug can be used in the home?
Sam: Yes, suzani rug basically when we see — I’m talking about the real suzani, not the rug type, of course, which would be a floor covering. Most suzanis are not floor coverings so they’re going to be more like if you have a bed which happens to be the right size you could use it as a bedspread or a bed coverlet, or fold it up and just accent the bed with it.
I see the majority of what I see in home use, at least in most of the interior design magazines that I frequent, would be more of a decorative piece on a bed or else it would be on a wall behind a bed or on the wall of living room. It could be anywhere and be more of a wall tapestry type of use. Also, I see it being used on tables like a table cloth or a table spread as well. And then also I see it done in pillows — it works beautifully in pillows by the way. And also in upholstery like you’ll find in most furniture, but it’s very, very common — most of it is probably going to be like an Ottoman or a back of a chair or something like that that you’ll see the design done to.
John: Okay, do you see people mixing a suzani style rug or a rug with that kind of pattern on it with maybe one of these Ottomans or a table covering or something like that to match?
Sam: Most definitely. I think that’s what’s so interesting about it is to see something that you wouldn’t expect and then say, “Wow, that’s really dramatic or really cool looking.” I think that’s very classic. I did want to talk a little bit John, about what a suzani has in history because these pieces I think they’re thinking that could be 15 to 1600s basically, when they started. They were originally made by the women in Central Asia as a dowry present to their husband. They would basically weave these or embroider these cloths and basically present it to the husband on their wedding night.
It was more of a coverlet for a bed and was a gift given by the wife to the husband. It’s a very fascinating history when you see the real suzanis and think about how they were made.
John: All right. Well, that’s really great information. Sam thanks again for speaking with me today.
Sam: All right John, you’re very welcome.
John: For more information about Sam, the Rug Gallery and Oriental Rugs and Carpets visit ruggallerycincy.com. That’s rug gallery C-I-N-C-Y dot com or call 513-793-9505. And make sure you catch the latest episodes by subscribing to this podcast on iTunes and if you can take the time to give us a review on iTunes as well we’d appreciate that. See you next time on the Rug Gallery.