Art & Culture | Honorary TURKISH CONSULATE for MICHIGAN

Honorary Turkish Consulate for Michigan
About Turkey: Art and Culture: Decorative Arts
16th century Ototman miniature detail

A General Overview of Anatolian Rugs

Turkish carpet making holds an important traditional and cultural perspective on the values of Anatolia throughout their creation. As such, their preservation and display is of utmost importance in the hopes of disseminating this beautiful form of art.

Archaeological evidence shows flat-loom viewing in Anatolia since the Neolithic period. Thus, the Turkic peoples in this region were one of the first peoples to utilize flat-loom weaving. The plethora of colors used—along with countless variations on designs—reflect the cultural and economic values of the rugs produced. The quality of wool, the mastery of technique, the particular colors used, the types and sources of dies all point to ways of determining these social, anthropological and economic histories.

The motifs and colors typical of Turkish carpets and kilims constituted an important medium of expression for the weaver and his community. The values of the period to which it belonged may be reflected in the twist and quality of the wool, the manner in which the dye was manufactured and from what plants or insects it was produced, the fineness or looseness of the stitch and, most important of all, the symbolic significance of the motifs and the aesthetic dimensions of the stylization. Turkish hand-woven carpets may thus be regarded as source material for the study of the anthropology, ethnology and ethnography of the periods to which they belonged, as well as of the general technical and economic background.

Carpet-weaving, carried out on various types of looms without the benefit of modern appliances and demanding most meticulous handling at every stage of its production, from the preparation by the old traditional methods of the warp, weft and knot to the application of the natural dyes, is one of the few Turkish handcrafts to have continued with the same scrupulous application to detail right up to the present day.

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The Motifs and Designs

Turkish woman weaving a carpet

Weaving a carpet in Cappadocia, Turkey

Apart from the dyeing and weaving, which form the technical basis of the knotted carpet, the most important feature from the point of view of the cultural heritage involved is the nature of the motifs employed. The Turkish artisan possessed the ability to imbue his hand-woven fabrics with his own identity, his social position and communal traditions. The marks stamped on the tents and horse-covers in the high-lands and summer pastures which are also to be found incorporated in their fabrics, have survived in their fabrics, have survived in the form of aesthetic variations the first inventors could never have foreseen. That is what distinguishes the Turkish carpet so very clearly from all other carpets in the world.

All Turkish carpets, from those of Eastern Turkestan to those produced in Baluchistan, Khorasan, the Caucasus and Anatolia, are characterised by the distinctive designs that raise our traditional handcrafts to the highest artistic level.

The motifs employed in Turkish carpets are so varied and can be classified into so many subcategories that they constitute, as it were, a great fan stretching from Thrace to Kars. From the Sivas region emerge the Sarkisla, Zara, Kangal and Divrigi carpets characterized by a remarkable wealth of symbolic expression forming one of the links in the rich chain of Turkish tradition. Motifs differing markedly in form and detail can be found in Anatolian kilims from Yagcibekir to Dosemealti, from Kula to Çanakkale.

The most important distinguishing feature of the motifs employed in Anatolian carpets is the “symbolization” imposed by the traditional weaving techniques. The linear values of these woven fabrics constitute the symbolic representation of the ideas, which the Turkish woman wishes to express. Perhaps it would be an exaggeration to say that all the motifs employed in carpets and kilims bear a symbolic significance, but it is usually possible to find a hidden connection between the “visible motif” and the “underlying motif.” The symbolic values conferred upon the objects are stylized by the Turkish weaving technique itself. The language of the motifs is the language of any one who can understand. The double “S” motif in the skirt of the garment worn by Warpalawas in the rock relief at Ivriz dating from around 1250 B.C. can be found in a number of Sarkisla carpets that we have dated to the 16th century.

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Current State of Rugs

What is the present condition of these valuable old carpets and kilims, which occupy such an important place in our traditional heritage and cultural history? Even before we diverge on this question, it is important to note the fast disappearance and deterioration of these rugs; luckily, the pious endowments such as the Madrasas which span the whole of Turkish history in Anatolia have helped to preserve these rugs for the present day.

Firstly, wool is a fragile material that wears very quickly even under normal conditions, and many of our carpets were left for centuries in damp corners under the worst possible conditions, without any thought of their value and without the slightest attempt to air and maintain them. Even at the present day, torn pieces of valuable old carpets and kilims are placed under stoves, on thresholds or ablution stools, or nailed on wooden stairs. Or these rugs in mosques are sold off to make way for large machine-made carpeting covering the whole interior. Even if not sold, the remaining rugs in mosque have a high rate of theft.Secondly, a large number of rugs are easily taken out of the country. It is alarming to discover smuggled rugs later being sold in American and European periodicals, even with the efforts of museum and the small and almost powerless expert community.

There are now a number of very useful institutions in Turkey, such as the Turkish Cultural Research Association, the Society for the Encouragement of Turkish Carpet-Weaving and the Turkish Carpet-Weaving Foundation that make it essential that we should look at the whole problem in a new light. Carpet-weaving is of great cultural and economic importance, and judicious investment in this field could provide employment for millions of workers at home and, by using the “Turkish Image”, create a wide market abroad. But to regulate the future of a cultural sector one must first have a very good knowledge of the culture itself. Anatolia might be decried as a vast treasure-house of the most valuable carpets and kilims. Those reproduced in these pages represent the few remaining specimens to have survived to the present day under the most adverse conditions. One might very well compare them to the fragmentary remains from Catalhüyük, Bogazköyü or the Kubadabad Sarayi. The whole history of the Turkish people is incorporated in their colours and motifs.

Source: Türkiyemiz, Culture and Art Magazine, October 1991
. By: Fahrettin & Naciye Kayipmaz

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Ladik Carpets: the pinnacle of rug making

Throughout the ages, the people of Anatolia have reflected their handiwork, their labors, and their assiduity as cultural and artistic sensitivity and love in the form of carpets, kilims, pillows, and tapestries.

The people of Anatolia have successfully imbued these hand-woven works with the unique qualities of the region in which they live, and with the strength of their art, their taste, their worldview, their longings and their love they have managed proudly to present these within a philosophy of existentialism to future ages.The most important of the carpet centers, consisting of Usak, Gordes and Kula, is Ladik. Ladik carpets—woven for trousseaus or prayer—are one Turkish carpet, which is eagerly sought by museums and collectors everywhere in the world.

18th century Ladik carpet with ewer and tulip motifs

18th century Ladik carpet with ewer and tulip motifs

In Ladik carpets, there exists an image and spirit, a richness of form and design, and a harmony of color of the utmost brightness and liveliness. In general, ladies and young girls weave rugs and carpets in Anatolia. When we examine Ladik carpets, we understand that the young girls are not weaving them for the purpose of selling them and earning money. Nor is that the purpose of their mothers or fathers. They stand as a form of education and motherhood. For Ladik, a region rich in agriculture, the making of rugs centers around gifts, home-use and artistic form. From the 16th century down to the last fifty years, they have presented their most beautiful examples of this.The richness of color as well demonstrates their optimism, the fact of their kind words and smiling face. A carpet weaving girl from Ladik most beautifully reflects the feelings inside herself in a work she weaves as if she were preparing a painting, whose wool she has clipped from the sheep of her own parents flocks, whose dyes she has boiled from plants from her own pastures, and whose yarn she has spun and dyed. Within a wealth of nature and the utmost in prosperity and sensitivity, a carpet-weaving girl from Ladik infuses her maidenhood longings into these carpets with each knot. In Ladik carpets, each color speaks a different language. Yellow expresses passionate love, yellowing and fading away. Green, as is usual, is one's goal. Blue is hope. White is cleanliness and happiness. Black expresses sorrow, while pink expresses innocence. In Anatolian rugs and carpets, colors also have their own forms of expression, their own things to say. The special quality of each region finds its most beautiful form in its rugs, carpets and kilims.

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The Process of Ladik Rugs

What we refer to as root dyes, the dyes employed in rugs, are obtained from the leaves of various plants, from their roots, and from their fruits. Red is obtained from the bark of the red pine and from the leaves of the hazelnut tree; yellow and its varying tones from broom and from the flowers, stems and roots of plants such as sumac, spurge, and saffron; brown from the bark of gall oak and black oak, black oat root, leaves of the walnut tree and walnuts; green from wild mint; black from sumac and soot; blue from jute. Every region in which carpet weaving is carried out possesses pasturage where the dyes used for dying wool may be obtained. Such pasturage is called boyalik (literally “dye pot”). The plants used for obtaining dye growing in these pastures are specially raised: these formulas have over the centuries entered the daily lives of carpet weavers. The designs, thus, are virtually the mirrors of the local flavor of the people. The Ladik rugs read like a book: reds and blues of joy, copper color for confidence, nested geometric designs emulating the garden of the heart, a carnation for desire and so on.

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Symbology and Meaning

Symbology in Ladik rugs range greatly: the symbols of luck and prosperity in the form of hooks, health charms, snakes and dragons, birds, stars, flowers of paradise, and ewers bespeak all the beliefs, the whole spiritual world of the people of Ladik. Among other Anatolian motifs are figures of the stylized dragon referred to popularly as tilsim (charm) which is a symbol of health and happiness; the peacock known as the bird of paradise; the mythical simurg (the Emerald Phoenix) which symbolizes charity towards people and help for the needy; and the double headed eagle or rooster known to represent the ruler and his authority. In carpet, the spike of grain expresses prosperity; the rose, tulip, carnation and other flowers represent the gardens of paradise; the branching flowers represent the infinity of life (the Tree of Life); the cypress tree represents eternity (reincarnation) owing to its permanent verdure as opposed to the ephemeral aspect of life. The pomegranate and its flower is the fruit of paradise. In Anatolia, it is considered sacred. The mihrab (Moslem prayer niche) is also common and speaks of the piousness of the Ladik peoples.

Rug fragment from Konya

Rug Fragment from Konya, Turkey

Priceless examples of Ladik carpets woven for two hundred fifty years by the hennaed fingers of the women of Ladik adorn museums. Whether in Karapinar in the vicinity of Konya, in Kavak, Karaman Kizillar,Inluce, or Sille, the colours of the rugs, their designs, their borders, and their motifs continue on and on with a habitually which undergoes little change. The principle designs and compositions are part of a whole. The carpets of Ladik must be held separate from this view. A variety of colours, ranging from pale pink to copper red, pearl white, and Seljuk indigo, with a variety of models and motifs smile at us from various Ladik carpets in the softness of their wool. The great majority of Ladik carpets are woven as prayer rugs. For this reason, when one thinks of Ladik carpets the mihrab comes to mind, as do a variety of mihrab compositions. When you look at one Ladik carpet, the mihrab is as wide as possible, lacking a single mark on it. One might race a horse on this field of Ladik red. On another mihrab its four corners are decorated with flowers like a garden of one's heart's desire, and one's eyes find not a place in which to take a step. Another carpet is wholly washed in a state of snow-white sacred belief. Or you might look and see that our carpet weaving girl from Ladik has woven on the loom of her heart a carpet which, with is three great carnations and powder pink involutes gives us a "good morning!" look, extending its hands in supplication.

One must admit one fact. Ladik carpets, which are made entirely of wool, are not knotted very tightly; in fact, they are loose. This is somewhat due to the curly nature of the woolen carpeting yarn; unlike cotton thread, woolen yarn is not entirely straight. As both the warp and woof are of wool, a loose weave must have been chosen to prevent puckering or wrinkling.

Because of Ladik carpet making. Ladik carpets have for ages been the pride of Anatolian carpet making and have taken the leading place in museums, carpet books and catalogs. As for Ladik carpet making today, unfortunately, it is entirely divorced from its old tradition, and partly owing to economic reasons never goes beyond imitations of Sivas and Kayseri rugs: though with regularization and revival Ladik carpet making could earn much for the country's economy. This sacred duty we must perform in the shortest possible time. This we are obliged to do.

Source: Antika, The Turkish Journal of Collectable Art, May 1985, Issue: 2, bBy Feyzi Halici

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