Tibetan rugs are an ancient craft, practiced by the nomad/farmer communities in Central and Southern Tibet. They used the wool of highland sheep from the Changthang plains of Northern Tibet, known for its high quality and long fiber and Tibet’s prime export in the first half of the twentieth century.
The technique used by Tibetan rug makers, called ‘Senna loop’, is unique in Asia, where the Persian knot or Turkish knot method is most widely used. Until the 1940’s most carpets were woven with wool in both in warp and weft, after which cotton warps became commonplace. Weaving carpets was widely practiced in the homes of farmers for domestic use, while spinning was done on a drop spin by both men and women, usually while they herded sheep. Rug weaving was a winter activity carried indoors when other farming or herding activity was at its lowest. Families wove bed and seat carpets, saddle covers, usually in the looser knotting technique that gave the piece a high pile, plush feel. This style of carpet was called a druk.
Several carpet centers existed in old Tibet, the most famous being in Gyantse, owned by an aristocratic family. This center produced larger pieces sold in Lhasa, to individuals or monasteries, where the monks used long runner carpets on their low seating platforms of their assembly halls.
Norlha began its carpet weaving in 2016, in a small workshop in Labrang with a workforce of 15. We follow the traditional path of Tibetan carpet weaving in technique, using Changthang or Northern sheep wool which is carded down to the softest wool, then handspun. We use only natural shades which we obtain by mixing different quantities of brown yak khullu with the sheep wool, obtaining about six different shades between brown and creamy white. Our artisans, all trained at Norlha, weave 100 knots per square inch. Finishing techniques include hand sewn edges and scissor work.
Though Norlha uses traditional methods to weave its carpets, we look to bring Tibetan carpets into the contemporary, timeless sphere of home décor, adapting the skill of our artisans to the creativity of our designers. Our new designs are meant to evoke themes that run in Tibetan lives; closeness to nature and environment with the abstract themes of Dandelions, Tiger Stripes, Donga and Hills, of passage of time with Rivers, Wood, Yaks on the Move and of spirituality with Bodhi leaves and Threads in the Wind. More traditional themes comprise tigers, medallions and clouds.