Turkish Rugs: Anadol, I.M. International and the Rest

Oriental Rugs Today: Chapter 4 Part 3. See the posts on Woven Legends and the DOBAG project for more about those productions.

Turkish Rug by Anadol
A gorgeous Turkish rug from Anadol with natural dyes and handspun wool pile.

One of the earliest and best productions from Turkey was created by a Turkish gentleman named Suat Izmirili, who established Anadol Oriental Rugs in 1984. At first, Anadol produced rugs with synthetic dyes, convinced that natural dyes were not practical. But when Woven Legends’ example proved them wrong, Anadol soon began using natural dyes. Today Anadol makes among the best rugs in Turkey. But, faced with production problems there, Anadol has largely shifted its production to Pakistan and Egypt.

Recently we came across a group of Turkish rugs that seemed too good to be true. They were antiques, each apparently 100 or more years old, in good though not perfect condition, and each of the dozen pieces was of a very rare and desirable type, quite collectible. I say “too good to be true” because it is unusual to find even one rug as nice as all these were. As it turned out, the rugs were only partly true. The Turkish gentleman who presented them to me explained that they had recently been woven from old wool. Weavers had unraveled fragments of ancient kilims and had used the antique wool to make new rugs. The rugs that resulted had all the patina and softness of ones well aged. I will let you sort out the issues. Can such a put-together ever be a work of art? Is such a rug more valuable than a new one — or less? Is it collectible? Before you decide, look at a photo of one, my favorite of the lot.

Turkish Sultanabad by Anadol
Turkish Sultanabad From Anadol Oriental Rugs. Probably based on an old Persian Sultanabad carpet.

Turkey was where the whole revolutionary pot started boiling: first the German project, DOBAG, then Woven Legends and all those influenced by Woven Legends, all of them experimenting with natural dyes and handspun wool. For perhaps eight years, Turkey was the only major source for the new breed of naturally dyed rugs. Now, the center has largely shifted elsewhere. I was surprised, in surveying new Turkish rugs, to realize to what extent Turkey’s present contribution to the market has fallen off.

The greatest obstacle to making importable rugs in Turkey has been the rising cost of labor, weaving especially. That is why a number of manufacturers are now having Turkish wool dyed there and sending it to other countries to weave. But beyond rising costs, manufacturers complain about a Turkish mind-set that results in inconsistent rugs. Paul McSweeny, formerly with Anadol, says that of ten rugs that come off their looms, two will be blockbusters, four will be okay, and the last four perhaps not saleable. Izi Mizrahi of I. M. International, born in Turkey and a veteran rugmaker there, reports similar frustrations that have driven him to shift much of his production to Pakistan. It is no wonder that many producers have given up on Turkey. Still, there is the phenomenon of George Jevremovic’s ‘tension’, the upshot of which is that the few blockbuster pieces that come off Turkish looms are so good that they make all the grief worthwhile — if, as a consumer, you can get your hands on them.

Turkish Kilim with Natural Dyes
A fine and unusual new Turkish kilim made in Bodrum by Mustafa Acikel. It is naturally dyed and is about 4 by 6 ft.

Turkish Kilims still pour out of Turkey. Most are inexpensive, usually 3 by 5 or 4 by 6 feet with pleasing colors, though synthetically dyed. Typically they are made in a slit-tapestry weave, on wool warps. From time to time we see fantastic new kilims from Turkey that are breathtakingly fine and beautiful and are made with natural dyes. Turkish pieces as finely woven as these have been rare in the market until recently.

Synthetically dyed rugs from western Turkey continue to be available, especially from Yagcibedir (yaj uh buh DEER) and Dosmealtu (dosh mee AL tu). They are disappointing rugs, though, to those of us who have seen their charming, naturally dyed ancestors. Essentially they have two colors, red and blue.

Turksih Hereke
Silk Hereke rug from Turkey. This fantastic rug has over 1200 knots per square inch. Note inscription in upper right-hand corner.

Though not often seen in the American market, the silk Hereke (HAIR uh keh) is still woven in Turkey. They are scarce here because few will pay the price for these amazingly fine rugs: $300-500 per square foot for ordinary pieces (which are quite fine) and, it is said, as much as $50,000 per square foot for pieces with 3000 to 4000 knots per square inch! Herekes are made in northwestern Anatolia near Istanbul, where production dates back to at least the middle of the nineteenth century. Lavish rugs were produced there in court workshops, and lavish rugs are made there still.

Hereke also produces wool rugs on cotton foundations that are not nearly as fine as the silk pieces. For a time in the 1980s wool-piled Herekes were often seen in the market, and they were quite good. But weavers near Hereke noted the success of these rugs and began to copy them, weaving rugs of inferior quality for a bit less money, and selling them as Herekes. The result was that Hereke’s reputation was hurt and its industry suffered — a pattern repeated all too often in the rug world.

13 Comments

  1. generic user icon
    tex andrews September 26, 2008

    i’m going to be foolish enough to take issue with what i think is a sweeping generality in paragraph 6. it’s true that a whole bunch of these rugs to which you refer have an annoying sameness. but i also saw some really terrific ones, from both areas. and while it would be lovely if all carpets could be vegetable dyed, personally i’d rather have stable synthetically dyed pieces with more genuine designs than vegetable dyed pieces with what i consider to be rather phony designs, either cribbed from the past or tastefully articulated by someone who did not grow up in the culture!

    as much as i admire the impulse behind DOBAG and woven traditions, this latter aspect of them completely derails them, imo. it’s what derails pakistani, chinese, and indian copies as well. i’ll take the humbler, smaller production that’s less organized any day.

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    Emmett Eiland October 2, 2008

    I say, and I mean, “To each his own.” If you prefer the current production of Yacibedirs and Dosmealtus to their naturally dyed ancestors, that’s fine. I do disagree with you, though, when you seem to suggest that synthetic dyes (as they are found in today’s Turkish village rugs) are stable and modern natural dyes are not. In my experience, most often just the opposite is true.

    I understand your uneasiness with the concept of Westerners and others getting involved with in the production of Oriental rugs. If the West is to be taken to tasks for interfering, it is for our having introduced weavers to synthetic dyes which, inarguably, nearly destroyed the rug industry at about the turn of the twentieth century.

    Perhaps the ideal rugs for you are the handful coming from Iran today that are woven by Persians after their own ancient designs. While natural dyeing was a lost art elsewhere, one or two craftsmen kept the art alive in Iran, and today’s naturally-dyed Persian rugs are essentially not influenced by West.

  3. generic user icon
    jan January 23, 2009

    I have been repairing Oriental rugs for quite some time and I’ve become greatly saddened by the changes in production. Many of the rugs are now constructed without using the proper method of having double end warp threads. Because of this practice, many of the rugs come apart at the sides because there is nothing to hold them in place. Why are they doing this?

  4. generic user icon
    Richard January 24, 2009

    I’m sorry to say that I am unfamiliar with “Double end warp threads.” I can say I have seen many new carpets that have had selvages sewed on after the carpet was woven. You see this in many Indian carpets and the ubiquitous Pakistani Bokara. These selvages become detached after just a few years. please enlighten me as to the look of the “double end warp”

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    Randolph Hilman, Owner, Hilman Oriental Rugs & Restoration September 24, 2009

    The “double-end warp threads” to which the writer and rug repairman refers are not warps at all but rather two shots of weft that have been cut off at the sides, completely destroying the selvage and resulting in a fabric that has very little lateral strength. One can easily see the two cut weft ends, which the writer probably sees, although I am surprised that a carpet repairman would think weft threads are warps. At any rate the practice is blatantly common in Pakistani and some Indian productions. It does appear in some bazaar quality Iranian rugs. Naturally a false selvage bead is tacked on and, as Richard points out, it is structurally inferior. I spoke with one Indian producer who told me that rugs are cut from their looms in this manner to achieve straight edges.

  6. generic user icon
    swed April 13, 2011

    What do u know? I’ll be checking out all the “… ubiquitous Pakistani Bokara’s” tomorrow at our warehouse to learn whether they still cut the weft off at the sides. Strange practice! Ubiquitous or not I think buying a Bokhara and a design we call Butterfly both which are very popular in Sweden is a great way to start one’s magic carpet ride. Just a thought, sorry…

  7. generic user icon
    Bea McClain October 1, 2011

    How do you know how much you should pay?

    Let’s say I find a Herke rug, silk, 4′ x 8 or 10′ to go in front of my sofa. How do I figure out a fair price for both the seller and myself?

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    John August 11, 2012

    Hello,

    I recently spent five days in Antalya, and purchased two rugs. I have sent a few pictures as I would like to become better educated on what I bought. I was pretty trusting with the dealers, and they spent quite a bit of time talking with them. Over the period of two days, they spent lots of time showing me Turkish rugs, those that were for sale and a private hour long showing in a back room of his collection, along with books showing many of his rugs in nice large plate format that were not for sale.

    I really enjoyed learning and would say that I caught the bug and am interested in expanding my collection over time with fine quality rugs.

    I was told that my first rug was around 90 years old, was made in Anatolia province and was silk on wool. It definitely has been used in the past and has some small areas of concern, including one small stain that blends pretty well with the pattern. Was told it was a Turkish copy of a Persian design. I forgot the specific locale. It is 5.5 feet by 4 feet.

    I was told the second was 70 years old, from Hereke and was silk on silk. It is 4.5 feet by 3 feet.

    I really do love both rugs and would appreciate any help or verification on what I was sold. I didnt know to ask about synthetic versus natural dyes, and any info on that would be appreciated as well.

    As an aside, my wife and I recently moved from Monterey to Virginia, and boy do we miss the area…and our quarterly trips to Berkeley Bowl!

    All the best,
    John

  9. generic user icon
    Linda November 10, 2012

    I bought an Hereke rug made of wool and cotton. The size is about 8ft,by 10ft. How much should I have paid for it?

  10. generic user icon
    Richard November 16, 2012

    I’m sorry Linda it’s impossible to say. It’s like saying I bought an American car and it has a motor, what is it worth? So much goes into valuing a carpet that any written description will fall short. If you would like to send a photo, I’d be happy to take a look.

  11. generic user icon
    Anonymous November 29, 2013

    I just received delivery today of a 2.3 metre x 1.5 metre wool on cotton rug that I bought gleefully in Cappadocia at the beginning of November. I paid £1 300 for it, which suits me fine. It’s beautiful, and a one-of-a-kind piece of art. I’m sure I could have negotiated a lower price, but I am also certain that I could find a similar sized factory made rug in John Lewis or Selfridges here in Central London made of plastic and glue and pay double that price (and then find the same one on the floor of a friend).

    For me, it was more important to me that the woman who weaved the rug was well paid for her efforts, than whether I felt like I had haggled the salesperson down to the lowest figure possible. Money isn’t everything. I think what I paid was unbelievably cheap for the months of back-aching work that went into it, considering that as a software developer I made that money in a fraction of the time.

    The rest of my 1 week excursion cost me £700 including hotels, flights, meals and entry into museums and historical sites etc. I paid for a balloon ride above Goreme that was priced at £130 through the tour company, which I later found out was advertised on the balloon company’s website at 130 Turkish Lyra. I could care less: it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

    I spent 10 times as much money travelling to Peru and Brazil last year. I spent $1 700 US for one night’s stay at the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge and woke up to the sight of the Incan ruins a few hundred metres from my window, which I also do not regret for a second. But that was one day of 45 years of life; I will have my rug for the next 45 years, not just some lovely memories and photgraphs.

    I travelled to Turkey with an artist friend whose comment to me when I bought the rug was this: “I could run a paint roller across a bare canvas and for 5 minutes work make more than you have just paid for the efforts of many months.” You can’t haggle with that.

  12. generic user icon
    Vivora December 18, 2015

    Hi,I love all of them, but my favourite is blue. I’m linvig in a air contaminated city with smog and car noise, and I miss my born place a lot sky blue, native forest and andes mountains. Blue is what I choose because is a quiet color, perfect to match with snow white pines.

  13. generic user icon
    carpetsinbazaar.com June 2, 2017

    I love how your wrote the history

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