Learn about Rugs - Origins & Styles
Essentially every tribe, village,or region that hand weaves beautiful rugs 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 recognized by their use of wool, cotton, or silk for the warps and wefts,and further identified by the structure and number of knots in the carpet.Given the large number of varying factors it is extremely important to only compare carpets within the same region and style.
For example a wild eclectic nomadic carpet should not be compared with a refined relatively perfect silk carpet.
When I lecture on oriental carpets and kilims,I start with a simple divide between those carpets that I refer to as ‘original’ - meaning carpets oven by a young woman for her marriage dowry or for daily practical use; and those that I loosely classify as ‘commercial’, or those solely woven or the purpose of sale.
This is a loose definition and includes many generalisations, but helps people realise that carpets are not only reflective of the woman who wove 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.
Nomadic and Village
Carpet weaving was a significant part of daily life for nomadic and village women alike,with the amount of time spent 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 she wove into her carpet are passed down through generations,as well as those that symbolise 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,and dye variations (‘abrash’) as well as 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 weavers' lifes 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 produced by a team of specialists who procure the wool, cotton and silks;master dyers who create the colours,artists who design the patterns,and the weavers who knot the individual knots making possible the precise execution of highly sophisticated designs. Each of these carpets 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.
As Turkey is modernizing, the age old tradition of young women weaving carpets
and kilims is under threat as many move to more contemporary lifestyles
and higher levels of education increase for many village girls.
Over the last 40 years with modern changes,many weavers in Turkey have lost their hereditary skills.
As nomads no longer live traditionally in tents, there is no need to weave carpets,and kilims or the functional items for daily use,
so traditional weavers now purchase machine made
A similar fate has befallen village weaving,
as young women are wanting 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
The beautiful tradition of weaving functional items such as donkey bags and storage bags as well as those carpets made for traditional occasions, is now rapidly disappearing even from the most specialised shops and collections.
However,with the help of the excellent research into natural dyes from projects like DOBAG in Turkey, and an increased awareness of the need to keep this art form alive, specialist weaving projects that produce carpets with ancient designs and natural dyes now exist in many regions in Turkey.The success of this revival means that many new rugs of the highest quality,and recapture the beauty and subtlety of many older woven treasures.