Visual artist Pegah Pouyanfar lives in Iran- Tehran, where she has grown up around spectacular Persian carpets. This ignited an interest and passion, and she subsequently graduated with a BA in Carpet design and MA. She creates imaginative works, redesigning the traditional Persian and nomadic carpets in contemporary ways – and is now also occupying space in the world of NFT’s.
We talk Pegah about her journey to becoming a carpet designer, how carpets are deeply rooted in Persian cultural heritage and are a tool for storytelling.
Tell us about your background and your journey to becoming an artist? Did any particular artists inspire you?
I was born in an artist family in Iran. As a child, I grew up seeing colorful rugs and kilims, the texture of which was popular among my loved ones. As a teenager, I learned to weave kilims from my mother. I entered the university at the age of 19 and got my BA in carpet designing. The university was the first place where I became scientifically acquainted with the concepts of Persian carpets. There, I learned carpet design, dyeing, weaving and embossing. After graduating from university, I took an internship to learn the concepts of carpeta. This period was the beginning of my interest in Persian carpets. I became acquainted with nomadic and rural carpets and handicrafts, which is one of the largest styles of Persian carpets. It excites me to see these carpets being woven through improvised design that is the result of the fleeting moment by nomadic and rural women. Seeing all these colors and beauty made me find my style. It so happened that I started designing nomadic carpets. The first exhibition I participated in was in 2010 at the Tehran International Exhibition, to which I was invited by the Fars Carpet Designers Association. My second exhibition in 2014 was shown as a two-person exhibition at the Tehran International Exhibition. In 2016, I studied MBA at the university. The combination of knowledge and art, carpet design and MBA, created new perspectives in my life. Nomadic and rural carpet weavers were the greatest artists I was most influenced by.
Your work is influenced by your heritage, can you tell us more about your background?
Persian carpet is a rich art for thousands of years. From the discovery of the Pazyryk carpet in the Altai Mountains in Russian Siberia (traces of Iranian art can be seen in it and according to many scholars, this carpet belongs to Iran) to the golden period of the Safavid era, Persian carpets are well known in the world. Nomadic and rural carpets, meanwhile, have a dazzling value and grandeur. Among these, carpets woven by one of the largest tribes in Iran, the Qashqai tribe, are the most famous. Qashqai carpets are popular among many buyers and collectors of Persian carpets, and some museums around the world have such beautiful rugs. The carpets woven by Qashqai women influence any spectator because of the elegance, natural color, motifs and durability.
Nomadic and rural weavers depict everything they see in their surroundings (sun, bird, tree, plant, human, sheep, etc.) in their carpets in an abstract way. The creation of such beauties drew me to myself so that I could choose Qashqai carpets as my style from the beauties of Persian carpets. Because the weaving artists were able to depict their joys and sorrows with colors and knots. The story of these carpets is told not by writing but by knitting and the feeling of a weaving artist. By seeing many handicrafts, especially Qashqai carpets, I was able to realize that each ethnic group and subtribe in the Qashqai tribe has its own unique style that is recognizable from each other. The art shows the beauty and greatness of each tribe, which shows the superiority and glory of the members of that sub tribe.
In your work you tell stories through nomadic rug designs, can you share more about your creative process?
Every artist can discover their favorite style by seeing or through trial and error. Every artist can design a tree or a bird in different ways. One is abstract and the other is real. But they both convey the same concept. Children's paintings are full of pure emotions in which only emotion commands. I saw this childish feeling in nomadic rugs. Without any principles and rules. They just abstractly depict everything around them on the carpet. I was delighted to see and search these rugs. I was able to learn and discover this in myself. I found my favorite style. I was able to choose the colors and arrangement of the paintings and create a beautiful carpet design by seeing the nomadic and rural carpets. These weavers were my greatest teachers. I learned the combination of colors in their carpets and draw abstract drawings.
Carpets and rugs create a sense of nostalgia and feeling of home. Why are carpets a theme within your work and how do you create the patterns and styles?
Persian carpet is well known in the world. If we go back to history, we see that palaces have been decorated by Iranian hand-woven carpets. The use of first-class natural fibers and the use of designers, dyers, professional weavers in the production of Iranian hand-woven carpets is of great importance. For a carpet designer, knowledge and awareness about kind of carpet design is essential. Because the drawings used by the designer in the carpet have a long history, knowing it will help a lot in creating a different design. Seeing and studying these patterns in nomadic and rural carpets helped me to better understand and I was able to use each of these in its correct place and create a new composition.
Your works are incredibly detailed, how long does it take for you to create a piece?
One of my personal interests is the remake of antique rugs, which can either be found in books and museums or may be in personal collections. It can be said that reconstruction, whether it is a historical monument or a carpet, requires having enough information about it. In general, rugs have different shapes, either as a whole, in which none of the members of the design are similar, or as a second, in which the designer draws half of it and selects the other half from the first part. Or only a quarter of the carpet is designed and the rest is repeated. Depending on the type of design and the amount of time for the initial design and the color and dotting of the original design, as well as the design will take between 15 to 30 days.
What is your process from imagination to execution?
To create a carpet design, I constantly examined the motifs and patterns on different rugs. I studied their background. Then I drew these shapes in my design office and used Photoshop to draw them. Photoshop software helps carpet designers today and has accelerated the process of producing a beautiful carpet design. Although the traditional method of carpet design, which is drawn with a pencil and on carpet design paper and then the color and dot is done with a brush and gouache, is still common among carpet designers.
Digital art is a big part of your practice too. When did you first hear about NFT’s and what interested you in them?
I first heard the word NFT in February 2021. Someone was advertising his work on Instagram. But I did not pay attention to it. In October 2021, when I was showing my work on LinkedIn, a friend left me a comment that you can convert your work to NFT. My first search and curiosity started from that date and led me to do more research. I converted my first work to NFT in November 2021. My first NFT sold in January 2022.
What are your thoughts on the future of Islamic art, do you think it has a place in mainstream spaces, both digital and physical?
Islamic arts have a historical background. Especially in Iran, with the rulers who showed interest in art. I think this art will never disappear, but as we see today thanks to social media, it has been able to maintain its position. Artists from all over the world either use this art in their works or have made it themselves. Although technology helps artists speed up the process of performing their work, this does not mean that arts that are performed physically will be less visible. As we can see, NFT has created a space for all physical and digital artists to present their works.
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