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The Mystery Surrounding Mamluk Carpets

History
The Mamluk Dynasty came to power in Egypt and Syria in the mid thirteenth century. By the 15th century, they had established a thriving carpet industry in Cairo, the capital of Egypt. These people originally came to the Middle East as slave soldiers from Turkic, Mongol and Circassian tribes in Central Asia. They were bought and trained by Arab rulers, converted to Islam, and turned into Elite palace soldiers. The word Mamluk actually translates to “owned”. Eventually, the Mamluks revolted and seized power for themselves, ruling for two centuries. They were warriors on a fierce level, and typically killed or replaced their own leaders every five years. Surprisingly or not, they were also huge patrons of art.

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Sultan Al-Ashraf Qansuh al-Ghawri

The Mamluk era is often referred to as a “Renaissance of the Islamic Arts”. The rugs are thought to have a “sublime” quality and to be more than just fine carpets but sophisticated works of art symbolizing spiritual themes of unity. The geometric forms themselves are representational of simplicity and singularity, while the whole of the designs, many forms interconnected, are complex.

simonetti

This rug is named Simonetti after a former owner. It is one of the most famous Mamluk Carpets that exists, as well as one of the largest of its type. This rug has five medallions instead of the usual two or three. It also has a brighter color palette than most. It dates back to the year 1500, and is believed to have been made in Cairo, probably in a palace.

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This rug has a double field with two medallion-like structures. One is eight-sided; the other eight-pointed. The “eight” theme appears in many Mamluks. 
In 1517, the Mamluk territories were conquered by the Ottomans. Mamluk carpet production continued after but the Mamluk people were commissioned by the Ottoman courts to produce rugs in the “Cairene” style which competed with the Persian rugs of that time. The Mamluk carpet production slowed quickly and eventually stopped altogether. There are only around 100 original Mamluk rugs left in the world. Only one remains in Cairo, and the rest are in museums. The museum pieces are not often displayed because it is feared that too much exposure to light will fade their colors. Today, rug makers all over the world seek to replicate and draw from the Mamluk style, particularly in Egypt, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.

Characteristics
Mamluk carpets are known for their lustrous wool, fine weave, and soft colors dominated by pale greens, yellows and reds. Their designs are distinctive-complex, large medallions made up of intersecting forms. These forms are based on the tradition of Islamic geometric ornament. The borders are made of oblong medallions or “cartouches”. A variation of the Mamluk called Paramamluk, features all over patterns of smaller hexagons, octagons and squares. These are often known as the “chessboard” carpets. The Paramamluk has been attributed to Damascus, which was a large center in the Syrian portion of the Mamluk realm. One instantly noticeable characteristic of the mamluk carpets is that they appear totally mathematical and at the same time, totally mystical, similar to the existence of the rugs themselves.

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Paramamluk or “Chessboard” Carpet, origin unknown, 15th century, Philadelphia Museum of Art Website
 

Visit our Harrison avenue showroom to see these and more amazing examples of the Mamluk design in a range of colors and sizes.

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More mysterious facts about Original Mamluk Carpets

– Prior to the mamluk rugs, there was no pile-rug weaving in Egypt.

– No one knows where the rugs were originally woven. Egypt, Turkey and Spain are offered possibilities. One reason for so many places to be considered is that the rugs seemed to appear out of thin air.

– The wool is unlike the wool used in other Egyptian rugs of that time. However it is not clear that the wool is from somewhere other than Egypt.

– The wool is spun clockwise, and most carpet wools were spun counterclockwise.

– The red dye came from Indian insects known as Iac. Master weavers in Turkey and Iran were using pigment entirely different during this time period.

Sit Safely with Cisco Brothers

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This past November, HBO aired a documentary called “Toxic Hot Seat”. This film seeks to raise awareness about flame retardants, which are chemicals put into our furniture to prevent the spreading of fire. The flame retardants are used in the production of the large majority of furniture, and in the past, were even put into children’s pajamas. They sound like a good idea, but the chemicals used to make flame retardants are toxic to the human body, and studies show they are linked to cancer.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hWwfcsJXHM]

There are three major companies producing flame retardants and they have spent millions on teams of press and legal aid to prevent questions from being asked. In TOXIC HOT SEAT, film maker investigates the story of how flame retardants came to be required, and the many levels of manipulation used by Big Tobacco to convince firefighters that this was all for our safety. The film also casts light on the un truths told by the chemical companies about the threats to pubic health their products pose. These companies paid false experts to warn the public about removing flame retardants from homes, claiming it was a deadly risk.

Toxic Hot Seat shares the personal stories of a cancer-surviving firefighter, a renowned chemist whose work helped remove fire retardants from kid’s pajamas in the 1970s, and a brave and determined young Maine legislator and mom. The film represents the bravery of ordinary citizens willing to fight for the truth.
In support of the efforts and moral quest of this film, another, shorter film was made, by our friends at Cisco Hand Crafted Furniture. Cisco has been flame retardant and toxin free since their start, and has been “passionate about this issue for many years”. The goal of their company is to create sustainable furniture that is as healthy on the inside, as well as beautiful on the outside. Cisco Pinedo, the founder of Cisco, personally attended a Sacramento hearing concerning the modification of TB-117 and the removal of flame retardant requirements.

In this video, Cisco explains that although their company has been creating healthy and safe furniture for over 20 years, they have gone even further in the last 7 years by creating “The Green Line”. This is a line of furniture produced by using 100% organic materials. The video then goes through all the components of putting together a single piece of furniture. A step by step list is given of each material used, the products used to wash the materials, and the socially, environmentally and economically responsible process used for producing and obtaining all of these matrials.

Check out this video, and many others on the Cisco site, giving visual insight to the world of Cisco, and healthy furniture.

Warm, Plush & Unique Gifts for the Holiday Season!

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The weather outside is… actually not that bad. But if I know New England, it’s due to get frightful any minute now. Snuggle up this Holiday season with the fluffiest pillows, coziest scarves, and an array of ornate hand woven blankets, Indian fabrics, Indian Poufs, and assorted pillows!

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Hand Embroidered Wool Scarf/Shawl
India, $68
#40140

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Kantha Stitched Scarf, Kimono Fabric Edge
$65
#131106

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Kantha Stitched Blanket
India, 60 x 86, $125
#131204-3

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Embroidered Indian Poufs
$136

#NC39496

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Cotton Pillow with Design
18 inches, Thailand, $65
#40690

Blue Pillow with Feather Insert
18 by 18, $195
#41110

Assorted Pillow, Yellow Flowers
22 by 22, $225
#41071

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Silk Cushions
$19

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Cisco Brothers Furniture: Family, Nature, Happiness

The celebrated, Los Angeles based Cisco Brothers has a new catalogue out, filled with exciting, yet timeless pieces. What’s more, every item created at Cisco is 100% organic and chemical free. At Mohr & McPherson, we value the ethics, quality and craftsmanship of the Cisco line, which is why we have been working with the company for 13 years. Here is a little about Cisco Brothers, and a preview of the designs we find irresistible. 

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Since 1990, Cisco Brothers has been using sustainable materials and building methods to create furniture that is as healthy for you as it is for the planet. Each unique item is built with pride by local craftspeople at our headquarters in the heart of Los Angeles. Every piece, big or small, brings timeless style and beauty to your home.

While still in high school, Cisco Pineda discovered his passion for furniture when he started working at a small upholstery shop. By his early twenties he was making custom furniture out of the garage of his home, where he recruited the help of his family to run the thriving business. Cisco’s close ties to family and nature are felt in every design. It’s his belief that health, happiness and one’s home are all closely related – and that his furniture combines these elements in a comfortable and responsible way.

A brief selection of some of our favorites is below. Click here to view a small selection of our Cisco case goods in stock!

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Rotor Tables
19” by 12”, Sizes vary
SKU: 131119-4, $585

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Morse Sconce (Left)
8”w by 7.5”d by 19”h, Hand blown glass and Iron in flat black
SKU: 40440, $960 

Insulator Sconce (Right)
6”w by 4.25”d by 12”h, Recycled Insulator and Iron
SKU: 40441, $555

  BARR_MIR_HANG_RD_01BARR_MIR_HANG_RD_04
Wine Barrel Hanging Mirror
23”diameter by 2”deep, Rusted metal ring, leather strap and walnut knob
SKU: 40417, $675

Stanford_Swivel_chairs

Vino Side Table
27”d by 25”h, Mirror top, repurposed wine barrel, reclaimed Douglas fir, oiled
SKU: 41076, $900

Stanford Swivel Chairs
30”w by 34”h by 38”d, Soft fill seat, feather cloud back, Fabric: Guiseppe Blue Grade J
SKU: 131120-4, $3,945

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Wine Box Coffee Table Single
40” by 27” by 16”
SKU: 131119-3, $1,695

Seda Sectional Couch
100”w by 31”h by 110”l, Slip covered, feather cloud seat and black waterfall skirt. Fabric: Vanocur pewter
SKU: 38735, Starts at $7,185

Lotus: The Sacred Flower of Peace and Love

Ksitigarbha_Statue_Mural_Vietnam

Your home is your haven. Why not fill it with signs of peace, harmony and healing? In Asia, the Lotus leaf is a symbol of exactly those things.

These beautifully unique wall panels are covered in real Lotus leaves from Thailand. The leaves have been covered by hand with acrylic resin and gilt in gold dust. The leaves vary in size, shape and color and no two are alike. Colored richly with gold, rust, crimson, and forest green, these panels add instant warmth to a room. The autumnal aesthetic of the colors conjures up the traditional festivity of the New England Holiday season, and blend seamlessly together with harmonic, Eastern imagery.

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In Thailand, a Buddhist country, the Lotus, or “Bua”, is a sacred flower to the people, because it is the traditional flower of Buddhism. There is a legend that the Lord Buddha was able to walk at birth, and that when he took his first seven steps, Lotus blooms opened up from underneath to support his feet. In murals around the globe, the Buddha is portrayed surrounded with Lotus blossoms.

BUDHA
The Lotus, being a water flower, is rooted in mud, and grows up above the dirty water, into a flower of great beauty. This is used as a metaphor for mans attempt to rise above his earthly existence to attain spiritual purity.

“He who is low-born may develop and improve himself like the lotus growing out of the mire. The followers of the Buddha shine above others through their wisdom like the lotus.” – Buddhist Doctrine

The Lotus is also shown surrounding many deities in the religion of Brahmanism, which is connected to Thai history. Brahman Goddesses are often holding Lotus blossoms in their hands.

LOTUS

In traditional herbal medicine, the Lotus leaf is used to aid in digestion, alleviate fever, heal bruises, reduce muscle spasms and stop bleeding. One of its most common uses is to ease dizziness and nausea. Nearly every part of the Lotus flower is edible. A popular Thai sweet is made up of dried Lotus seeds boiled in Syrup and added to crushed ice.

Here is a delicious and fairly simple recipe to try, Sticky Rice Wrapped in Lotus Leaf:

  • 3-4 cups sticky rice (uncooked)
  • 1 cup chinese sausage, cut up into bite size pieces
  • 3 dried black shiitake mushrooms, soak and cut up into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup fresh shrimp, cleaned
  • 3 salted egg yolks (optional), cut up into small pieces
  • 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 4-5 dried lotus leaves
  1. Soak lotus leaves for 30 minutes, weighing down with a small bowl if necessary. Fry Chinese sausage. Set aside.
  2. Steam sticky rice using a little less water than usual for firm rice. Cool to room temperature.
  3. Put oil into pan and fry garlic until turning golden-yellow. Add rice, mushroom, shrimp, and soy sauce. Stir until all ingredients are cooked.
  4. Pat dry softened lotus leaf and brush back of the leaf lightly with oil. Cut leaf in half. Put half the rice mixture on one leaf and top with salted egg. Wrap rice in a rounded bundle. Repeat with the other half. Either cook immediately or store in fridge for later use.
  5. Steam 10-12 minutes.
  6. Cut salted egg yolk into half. Put Chinese sausage and egg yolk on top. Serve.

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The Edge on Live Edge Furniture

Looking to add a bold, statement piece to your home decor, without sacrificing sophistication? You must be dreaming of live edge.

When the natural edge of a piece of wood is incorporated into furniture design, it is called Live Edge. Unlike conventional woodworking, Gnarly wood such as Alligator Juniper, mesquite, and Salvaged wood is often used in live edge design. The natural holes and cracks of the wood can be featured, or filled in with resin for a smoother look. Live edge is a combination of Western and Rustic furniture styles.

Every live edge slab is completely unique, and offers undeniable wow factor. At the same time, this style is understated and graceful, rooted in obvious organic nature.

Also known as Natural edge, or Free Edge, this style of furniture design originally drew from Modernism, Japanese and Shaker influences. It was first made famous by renowned woodworker, furniture maker, and architect George Nakashima. Nakashima was a Japanese American who studied Architecture at M.I.T., and traveled through Japan, Paris and India studying design. George began developing his signature free edge style while apprenticing for an elderly woodworker at an internment camp during World War 2.

Live edge bench by George Nakashima

After the camp, Nakashima moved to New Hope, Pennsylvania, where he continued to focus on the organic expressiveness of wood, approaching his work with meticulous focus and patience. He later went on to start the American Craft movement.

In 1962, Nakashima wrote a manifesto, discussing the vanishing of excellence in the design world of the modern day, and his appreciation and respect for hard work, craftsmanship, and the profound beauty of nature.

“In a world where manual skills are shunned we believe in them, not only in the act of producing a better product, but in the sheer joy of doing or becoming. We feel that pride in craftsmanship, of doing as perfect a job as possible, of producing something of beauty even out of nature’s discards, are all homely attributes that can be reconsidered.

It might even be a question of regaining one’s own soul when desire and megalomania are rampant – the beauty of simple things…”

At Mohr & McPherson, we understand Nakashima’s passion for the story telling powers of furniture and organic materials. We really love the live edge aesthetic, and currenty feature several pieces from Thailand and Indonesia. Our live edge furniture celebrates the rich beauty of teak and acasia woods.

41421Teak live edge dining table

Owner Kevin McPherson describes his discovery of the log used for four of our massive teak live edge dining tables:

“Approximately 60 years ago, a very old teak tree fell in the jungle near the Thailand/Burma border. A Thai man obtained permission and permits from the government to remove the tree and hired an elephant team to haul it to the road. 

While I was traveling, I came across this tree as it was being moved by truck to Chaing Mai, Thailand. I negotiated the purchase of the 24-foot log and had four tables made of the center of it.

This naturally aged and dried Teak wood is very rare and was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”