We began our most excellent Turkish adventure with rug shopping in Istanbul, a visit to Antique Textile Conservation in Izmir and a stop at the ancient city of Ephesus. (See the August issue of ICS for “Rug Touring in Turkey: Part I.”
The Master Rug Cleaner tour continued from Izmir by air to Kayseri and on to Cappadocia, an ancient region mentioned in the Bible. The soft tufa stone of the area was carved into houses, shops and churches and is a protected open-air national museum. The best way to view Cappadocia is by hot air balloon (Image 1). Our stay in Cappadocia ended with rug shopping at the local government-sponsored weaving center, which included a silk rug production exhibit (Image 2).
Traveling by chartered bus from Cappadocia to the Malatya area, we visited the Kurdish villages of Kayatere and Cemberlitas to see Woven Legends’ rug weaving operation (Image 3). We were fortunate to join Nesilhan Jevremovic, an old friend of Robert Mann, as she made her quality control visits to these weaving villages. Nesilhan is the owner of Woven Legends. The rugs are world-class in design, material dyes and construction.
Traveling with the Nesilhan, we were given a royal welcome at all our stops. We visited isolated weaving workshops located in remote villages, which aren’t open to outsiders. One member of the group stated this was the highlight of the trip, as the villages felt like going back in time to a more simple but rustic era. Some of the group even tried their hand at weaving.
Woven Legends works with a local government instructor to train girls in the art of rug weaving. The company provides the looms, wool, weaving patterns, quality control and even pays the young ladies. In addition to the instructor, the government also provides a facility for the weaving – often an old school room. The standards of Woven Legends are very high and the constant quality control ensures an excellent and consistent product.
Most of the weavers are young girls right out of school, which work for several years before marrying and starting a family. One of the female weavers even attends college and purchased a car, which is quite unusual in a small village.
One of the real eye-opening experiences of the trip was seeing the importance of chemical washing and finishing the rugs. A rug off the loom looks rough and unfinished. It needs to be chemically washed to mellow the colors and remove excess fibers (Image 4). Then, the pile is sheared (Image 5), fuzzing on the back is singed off and ends and sides are secured with various techniques. It is an involved and skilled process, and if not carried out properly, the end result is a rug that cannot be sold.
James Opie, an author and nationally recognized rug expert, complimented Woven Legends rugs: “Many 19th century pieces cannot hold a candle to them, either aesthetically or in weaving integrity.” It is encouraging to see the highest quality rug weaving traditions alive and well at Woven Legends (Images 6 and 7).
Our next stop for the group is the predominantly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir for more rug weaving – this time in a city environment and to the far eastern border near Iran. We will investigate the Armenian roots of several members of the group.