I admit it. I like worn rugs.. In many circumstances they reveal the weaver’s intent while also offering the viewer the totality of the art experience. A worn rug’s secrets can still be accessible although perhaps the viewer may need to work harder to unlock the rug’s mystery.
Because of wear patterns, the viewer’s eyes may discover passages in a worn rug that may be initially overlooked in rugs in better condition. Perhaps it is a major border or secondary objects floating in the field that fascinates and delights the viewer. Then, of course, the rug’s colors, their source, their juxtaposition with other colors may create the door to an understanding of the wearer’s efforts.
Any discussion about the “worn rug” must address the issue of the color brown and its effects on the rug’s wool. The color brown in most old rugs was made from walnut husks. Over time the tannin found in this dye stuff corroded the rug’s wool. This is readily apparent in the areas of old rugs’ areas containing the color brown. The brown area will appear almost sculptured into the rug’s pile creating a relief affect resulting in the surrounding areas to be raised. This corrosion may give the appearance of wear but one can see in the adjacent areas of the rug a full pile condition. I have seen this same corrosion occurring in other colors as well, specifically green and aubergine. All old rug types, urban, village and tribal, evidence this affect. This is not caused by foot traffic, but rather the interaction of the rug’s wool with the chemical components of their dyes. At some level this may enhance the rug’s appearance causing the surrounding areas to stand out. It is also serves as indicator of the age of the rug. I have enclosed some photos of rugs exhibiting the corrosive effects of brown.
Old rugs in excellent condition generally command considerably higher prices than their worn counterparts. Besides the issues of condition, however a worn rug may still function without aesthetic compromise. I personally like worn rugs that may still have their original sides and ends. This is a preference not a requisite.
As with any art object, look, suspend judgment and you may be rewarded. With appropriate use the worn rug may still have the magic to enrich your home and your life.