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