Essentially every tribe, village, or region that hand weaves a beautiful rug uses specific sizes, colours and designs that are unique to their area or group.A handmade rug is generally named after the village/town where it was made, or named after the ethnic group or tribe.
Therefore classification of rugs was historically based on geographical location or the even broader country of origin.
Each group can further be distinguished by whether they use wool, cotton, or silk for the warps and wefts, and further identified by the structure and number of knots within the carpet. Given the large number of varying factors for each region it is extremely important to only compare carpets within the same region.For example, a wild eclectic original nomadic carpet can not be compared with a highly refined relatively perfect silk carpet.
When I lecture on the subject of oriental carpets and flatweave kilims, I start with a simple divide between those hand knotted carpets that I refer to as ‘original’ - meaning carpets woven by a young woman for her marriage dowry, as well as for daily practical use; and those that I loosely classify as ‘commercial’, or those solely woven for the purpose of sale.
This is a loose definition and includes many generalisations, but I believe it helps people realise that carpets are not only reflective of the woman who made the carpet, but also of the circumstances in which the carpets were made.
Both categories of carpets are 100 % handmade, and although ‘original’ dowry carpets were never intended for sale, they find their way into carpet shops when families need money to cover a large expense.
As Turkey is modernizing, the age old tradition of carpet weaving is under threat, but still it survives today despite moves to more contemporary lifestyles
and higher levels of education for many village girls.
Nomadic and Village Carpets
Carpet weaving was a significant part of daily life for nomadic and village women alike,with the amount of time spent on her loom varying depending on her seasonal tasks.
Traditionally these woman hand spin wool from their own sheep,source natural dyes from local plants and weave using handcrafted looms;but most importantly the designs and symbols that the woman weaves into her carpet are those passed down through the generations,as well as those that symbolised her own personal hopes and 'story'.
By the very nature of her lifestyle a nomadic or village woman’s carpets were seldom perfect or finely knotted,varying in shape and symmetry, as well as having unique colour tones, dye variations (‘abrash’) and unique motifs randomly used throughout.
Nomadic carpets have a wild free form of expression that is beautiful and individual.Village carpets and kilims by comparison were less fluid as the lifestyle of the weavers' is more settled..
At the other end of the carpet weaving spectrum are more commercial carpets,or those that are solely intended for retail sale that have been hand knotted in cottage and city workshops.
Here they are generally produced by an organised team of specialists who procure the wool,cotton and silks;master dyers who create the colours, artists who design the patterns, and weavers who knot the individual knots making possible the precise execution of highly sophisticated designs.
Each of these carpest is more structurally perfect,with stricter guidelines and also subject to more rigorous quality controls.
Both categories of carpets and kilims can be equally expertly woven,but each represent vastly different traditions and hold differing values.
Modern Carpet Weaving
Gradually over the last 30 years with modern changes to ancient lifestyles,many weavers in Turkey have lost their hereditary skills.
As nomads no longer live in tents, there is no need to weave carpets,and kilims and the functional items for daily use, so traditional weavers often purchase machine made carpets instead.
A similar fate has befallen village weaving traditions, as young women are now aiming for higher education or to work in jobs outside the home, and therefore no longer have the time or the skills to weave as their mothers and grandmothers once did.
The beautiful traditions of woven functional items such as donkey bags and storage bags as well as those carpets made for traditional occasions, are now often treasures that are rapidly disappearing even from the most specialised shops and carpet dealers’ collections.
However, with the help of technology and the excellent research into natural dyes from projects like DOBAG in western Turkey, and an increased awareness of the need to keep this art form alive, the rug weaver's skill is slowly being revived in some regions.Specialist weaving projects that produce carpets with ancient designs and natural dyes now exist in many regions throughout Turkey.
The success of this revival means that many new rugs of today are of the highest quality,and recapture the beauty and subtlety of many older woven treasures.
Learn about Rugs - Origins & Styles