If you were to enter the workplace of a Persian weaver, you would most likely find, sitting among the fine fibers and looms, an array of musical instruments.
During their long hours of concentrated effort, traditional rug makers are known to listen to music, a habit that helps them keep a steady rhythm with their hands, which is essential to success in the ancient art form.
Though their stores are hundreds of miles away from the musty rooms of their craftsmen, the Sasson family’s business bears a direct link to the source of their goods. Each member of the family, from father to son and daughter, plays a traditional Persian instrument. In fact, customers interested in swinging by may be honored with an impromptu performance.
“My dad taught me how to play,” says Michal Sasson, as she sets up her santouri on a high stack of carpets from the store’s Vintage line. Michal’s brother, David, is also known to contribute to the music on his drum set. Their father, Eli, is a regular with the Ra’anana Symphony and has recorded numerous albums of his music.
Aside from being a retail venue for fine carpets, the Sasson shop in the Tel Aviv Port offers lectures on carpet maintenance and history. An integral part of any of these meetings is the musical component. After an impressive demonstration of traditional weaving music by his sister, David talks about the deep love of rugs instilled in him by his father.
“I grew up on a handmade carpet,” laughs David, who spends most of his days managing the Tel Aviv location of Eli Sasson Carpets, leaving the Herzliya location to his father. Both stores specialize in handmade goods from a variety of sources, ranging from the classical Persian rug to the trendy patchwork carpet. David has been in the business since he completed his army service, a destiny he was aware of from an early age.
“I always knew that this was what I wanted to do. I didn’t even realize how rare it was. But now, in my travels, I meet merchants and salesmen who tell me, with tears in their eyes, how much they would have loved for their sons to follow them into their businesses. For me, it was a very natural decision,” he explains.
Now, more than two decades later, David is both an expert and an innovator in his field. Breaking away from the stuffy persona attached to the purveyor of Persian rugs, David is constantly on the lookout for fresh perspectives in the weaving world.
At present, the Sassons work with a factory in Turkey to create a unique line of patchwork rugs. One of the upsides of this new fad, which has recently swept the international weaving market, is that the carpets are made from recycled materials.
“Often,” says David, “we get antique carpets that are partly damaged, but it doesn’t mean that they aren’t absolutely beautiful.”
Once in the deft hands of Sasson’s workmen, these thrust-aside pieces are disassembled and married to form new, colorful designs. “These rugs are much more playful than classic styles, with a mixture of many different types of carpets brought together to form a harmonious whole,” he continues.
As they pass the heap of patchwork carpets, Michal and David point to a piece they call the Picasso. This carpet represents yet another trend in the international market, which takes its inspiration from famous artists. The rugs are antiques that have been dyed to replicate the paintings of such iconic artists as Jackson Pollack and Claude Monet. “These pieces add life to an apartment,” says David.
For the more conservative interior decorator, the Sassons offer an astonishing variety of classic rugs. Hailing from Persia, Serbia, Afghanistan and Germany, each Sasson carpet tells the story of the weaver whose hands crafted it.
“So much emotion goes into those fibers,” says Michal.
“These rugs were crafted by a dying generation of carpet makers. I don’t know what will happen with this craft; it’s not something that people seem to teach anymore, which is such a shame.
It’s amazing to see. They tell the story of the people of each place, their symbols and their traditions,” adds David as he points to a paisley Persian rug hung high on one wall.
It is clear that David and Michal, given an unlimited amount of time, could describe the virtues of every one of the thousands of carpets in the store.
Regardless of sales, bottom lines and profit margins, there is a strong sense that the Sasson family would inhabit the world of fibers and weaves in any reality.
“This isn’t like selling shoes or anything else. If you don’t love it, you can’t do it,” says David. Eli Sasson Carpets is located at 3 Yordei Hasira Street in Tel Aviv and 46 Ben-Gurion Street in Herzliya. For more information, visit www.sassoncarpets.co.il
Jerusalem Post Annual Conference. Buy it now, Special offer. Come meet Israel's top leaders