Hand-made, hand-knotted carpets and rugs are broadly segregated in two categories in terms of designs & motifs Oriental, Traditional (with floral motifs) & Geometric designs. Oriental carpets have traditional, floral designs that are primarily Persian designs (of Persian origin) and motifs having a classic center medallion with accompanying corner motifs rest against fields of lotus, peony and cloud scroll. Many of the Oriental motifs have smaller designs incorporated within the main pattern, made of iris, tree-of-life motif, diamonds, blossoms and even fruits like pomegranates, grapes and berries.
The medallions come in all kinds of varied shapes and sizes and are traditionally inspired from ancient symbols of nature, culture or religious significance. Several studies have concluded that these medallions have been inspired from Palace architecture and domes of places of worship. These center-medallion designs in turn have repeated all-over pattern of interlaced garlands and arabesque foliage bobbins flawlessly woven in continuing flow of smaller and dispersed medallions in the field spread with a medley of colors and motifs. This harmony of Tulips, Chrysanthemums, Lilies and Carnations, amongst others, in all their virgin glory is then extended splendidly and deftly by expert hands in the multi-pronged borders, numbering in some cases up to even 12 on each side, in these infinitely amazing carpets of Kashmir.
Some of the motifs, such as the cypress and prunes blossom represented in Ottoman and Safavid rugs of the first half of the sixteenth century, are drawn naturalistically. This is especially true of Mughal weavings, in which beautifully observed flowers, including lilies, irises and bluebells are often represented three or five to a plant as in an herbaceous border. The Ottomans developed the so-called quatre fleurs style, composed of tulips, hyacinths and carnations, with a fourth flower interpreted variously as a rose or a peony.
Most floral forms used in carpets and rugs are however, represented in a highly stylized manner. A curious motif, certainly of Indian origin, is the pear shaped leaf known as the boteh, best known in the West for its use on Kashmiri shawls. Absent from classical rugs, it is found as both a field and border motif in many nineteenth-century rugs, particularly from Senneh and the South Caucasus. In tribal designs, it appears in the form of a gul (flower).
Perhaps the most ubiquitous floral form is the palmette, which probably takes its name from the palm frond which it initially resembled in Assyrian times. In Islamic art, the term ‘palmette’ covers a wide range of floral motifs. It may resemble a sliced artichoke, a vine leaf, or a stiffly drawn lotus blossom.
The other types of Oriental motifs that have attained tremendous popularity in today’s time are the semi-floral motifs that are available in all kinds of sizes, colors and quality types. These ‘center-less’ designs are inspired from the ‘free-flowing’ concept of scattered flowers, paisleys, and amalgamation of mosaic-liked boxes. The most obvious differentiating point between these and the ‘full-blown’ floral carpet designs is the absence (almost) of a prominent or large center medallion of any kind. The semi-floral oriental motifs that do not have any center medallion (with a structured or a focal theme) are termed as all-over designs with gracious and delicate artistry of scattered floral motifs in the entire field of the carpet. These carpets are very unique in terms of designs and motif and require a great deal of intricate workmanship. This ‘medallion-less’ facet in the carpet’s motif is a preferred choice for many people, specially, when looking to place the carpet under the dining or the coffee table and other such areas thus eliminating the notion of a medallion design getting ‘covered or hidden’, that tarnishes its beauty because of the presence of the table or an equivalent piece of hard-top furniture. Hence, in this case, the all-over motif in such a carpet can be viewed from any direction or angle without compromising on the gorgeousness and appearance of the carpet’s design irrespective of the furniture that can now be placed on the carpet.