Keeping Up Tradition At
Halı Carpet Weavers’ Association
‘The carpet is the heart of every Turkish home,’ says Erdem Kaya, who oversees the Halı Carpet Weavers Association branch in Turgutköy, ‘It’s traditionally made by village women in winter when they can’t work on the field, and that tradition is passed down from mother to daughter. It’s a very emotional craft, as they do not only weave the traditional patterns of their respective home regions into the carpet, but also their experiences, hopes and dreams,’ he explains.
Carpets became an omnipresent part of Turkish culture during the Ottoman Empire. The oldest known knotted wool carpet, dating back to 400 BC, was found frozen into ice of the Siberian Altai Mountains in 1949, but oral and ancient written records go much further back in history. As villages were gradually abandoned and the tradition of passing the craft on from mother to daughter was interrupted, carpet weaving associations started to educate women in the art of carpet making at their centres.
There are many different types of carpets, which vary depending on the region in which they originate. Embroidered carpets are made with silk and cotton yarns, flat-woven carpets, also called ‘kilims,’ are made with sheep’s wool, and knotted carpets are made with sheep and lamb wool, and also sometimes with silk for special occasions. The weaving techniques, as well as the patterns, colours and fabrics, are regional characteristics, and the quality of any given carpet depends on the materials used to make it, the density of its knots and weaves and the complexity of its patterns. Naturally, this is reflected in the price, which may range from a few hundred Euros to hundreds of thousands.
The Halı Carpet Weavers Association Turgutköy, just a 40-minute drive from Marmaris, stocks carpets from seven different regions of Turkey. Carpets from Istanbul carry the signature floral ornaments of the Ottoman Empire, whereas the ones from central rural Turkey are more minimalist, and not dyed but instead made with natural beige, brown and black sheep wool. Armenian carpets are embroidered with silk and cotton and feature darker colours while Kurdish kilims are flatwoven in lighter woollen fabrics. The fabrics are sourced from Turkish farmers and dyed by men, while the knotting, weaving and embroidering is done by women only, who either work in collectives in their home villages or at the carpet association’s centres.
Each of the designs tells the stories of the people who make them, as the women weave their stories into the fabric. One carpet may take months to years to make, depending on the size and the complexity of patterns, and carries within its pattern a personal story that will long outlive a lifetime.