What Is an Ikat Rug?
Sam Presnell from the Rug Gallery discusses what an Ikat rug is and how it can be used in the home as a stunning and unique design element.
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 am here with the owner of the Rug Gallery, Sam Presnell. Hi Sam.
Sam Presnell: Hey John.
John: So Sam, today we’re talking about Ikat rugs. Can you describe to me what an Ikat rug is?
Sam: Yes, that’s always the toughest thing is to try to put it into words to make you understand what it looks like in your head. Basically, an Ikat is a textile originally, it’s mostly from Asia or from Indonesia. It’s usually a cloth at the beginning and then basically it’s done by strings like making a loom but you’re making strings. You tie bundles but you’re doing what we call resisting, which basically you’re tying strings around the strings in order to not allow [them] to accept dye. So we call it resist dyeing. It would be similar I guess in some ways to what you would call tie dye or batik.
For us in the rug business, an Ikat can be a rug and totally different than what you would consider be a traditional Ikat, which really is more about design and the design is what we called blurred. So you look at an element in the design and you see all these jaggedness to the designs. It’s not a perfectly edged product, which is really the most beautiful thing about it. It kind of gives a really modern contemporary look to an old textile and is very, very cool.
John: Tell me a little bit more about the kinds of patterns that this unique dyeing process creates.
Sam: Well, the majority of them are geometric. So, you will see that the majority of Ikats are geometric. Some of them have a little more rounded lines. Most of the design elements are usually tribal related and a lot of the old robes and tunics and things like that, that you will see especially in Central Asia and the tribal belt, they would all use the Ikat cloth in order to make robes. Of course it was one person trying to outdo the next person in ranking, [saying] “Wow, look at my beautiful Ikat,” like us driving a Mercedes Benz or probably having a Rolex on our arm or whatever.
It’s kind of originally in the old days was more of a tribal, more geometric, and less floral look, but you can do florals on it as well. You just don’t see as much of it in the old stuff. Today we’re doing a lot of transitional stuff, which basically we’re taking that same styling sense and doing it to all kinds of patterns.
How Ikat Rugs Are Made
John: In terms of that, the old Ikat style being sort of a status symbol almost, I’d imagine it’s because creating all of those intricate patterns takes a lot longer to create that fabric. The longer that it takes to create a fabric, the more that you probably pay for that and so there’s the status symbol right there.
Sam: When you see this being made, your jaw will just drop to the floor. It is so painstaking and so tedious and time-consuming. The best thing I would recommend [to those] who would like to learn more is to go on YouTube and just [search for] an Ikat and you’ll see several videos of modern day Ikats being made and there’s all different ways of doing Ikat as you’ll see in the videos and you will be shocked what it takes to make a cloth in Ikat fashion.
Modern vs. Traditional Looks
John: Are ikat rugs better suited to a traditional or a modern-style home?
Sam: I think it’s kind of that transitional modern look, at least that’s how I interpret it. I call it transitional because to me it’s taken traditional and modern and mixed it together and kind of made something that’s really never been done in a rug before. So you have a classic look in styling, it’s been very popular for awhile, say probably for about seven or eight years now. I would at least think that definitely I first started seeing Ikats emerge into the rug market and it’s be kind of weighing a little bit now but really everybody’s getting kind of used to it, it’s been around awhile like anything that’s happening. I don’t think it’s ever going to go out of style entirely. But it really does have that nice transitional modern styling.
How to Display an Ikat Rug
John: How can a person display an Ikat rug in their home?
Sam: Well, it would be in the same way you would use any Oriental rug. For us, we see a lot of them just as the main rug in the family room or the living room and that seems to me the most popular [place. People] usually have a nice leather sofa with it and have a little modern rug that look really brightly colored rug. But Ikats can also be more neutral and monotone as well, but [they can] have a lot of bright colors and they really do brighten up a room. It’s like putting a piece of art on the floor and it’s the same as any Oriental rug and like I said, I always attribute a rug as being art for the floor and I think this is basically very, very true in that sense.
But a bit when people look at it and say, “Wow, I’ve never seen anything quite like that” or “Gee whiz, it looks Oriental but it’s not.” You just can’t put your finger on it. It’s got a very cool vibe to it.
John: That sounds very cool. We’ll make sure that when we post this onto the website that we include some of those YouTube videos and some pictures as well so that people can really get a look at that. Thanks again for speaking to me about the Ikat rugs today Sam.
Sam: All right John. It’s my pleasure. Thank you.
John: For more information about Sam, The Rug Gallery and oriental rugs and carpets visit www.ruggallerycincy.com or call 513-793-9505. 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 as well, we’d appreciate that. I’m John Maher. See you next time on The Rug Gallery.