I first saw the Pomak textiles in black and
white felt form in Lutfu Timurtas’s carpet store. Lutfu
had bought these fabrics from Bekir Ucar of Sivas, Saricicekli.
He believed in and loved the fabrics and was very excited about
them. I believe it was their first appearance in both Turkish
and world markets. Purchasing the first 20-30 pieces from Lutfu
was harder than pulling his teeth out. Lutfu was encouraged
when some of the avant-garde carpet retailers bought the fabrics.
He sent a message to collectors in Darendeli to gather more
of these fabrics – Haydar Ozdemir was the one who worked
the most. But this was not enough, so he also told the gatherers
from Parcikanli, Malatya who are famous for their proficiency
and diligence. Celal and Mehmet Kaplan from this village contributed
great efforts. What these gatherers achieved was to go to the
villages of Pomak origin and exchange these hand made textiles
left from the villagers’ mothers and grandmothers with
factory woven carpets, blankets and sell them in Istanbul to
Lutfu and Muharrem Aslan for whatever price they could get.
Their ambitions nourish these gatherers’ hard work and
skills and help them to accomplish this occupation. Lutfu Timurtas’s
and Muharrem Aslan’s skills come into terms at this point
with a sensitivity that would make the conductors of New York
These fabrics are around 30-80 years old. They
were either woven for personal use (pants, vests, jackets, coats,
shepherd’s felt cloaks, underwear, shirts, dresses) or
as home textiles (curtains, tablecloths, ground cloths, blankets,
pillows, quilts, bed ticks). 8-9 thousand of these fabrics have
been gathered. As far as I understood from the gatherer’s
expressions and the way these textiles reached Istanbul, they
were either left for moths in empty parts of the houses or left
to rot in grandmother’s chests. Sometimes they were covering
barn doors. I saw all 8-9 thousand fabrics one by one and they
are mostly in fairly poor condition and I guess that the rest
200-300 thousand of them which are resting in the chests, rapidly
vanishing are also in this condition. I leave the technical
explanations of these fabrics to the textile technicians whom
I hope pay attention and do research on these Pomak fabrics.
70% of these fabrics’ wefts are hand-combed and spun wool
or wool and mohair and their warps are cotton and rarely wool.
They are woven on Arab looms as they are called in Anatolia.
Babaeski – Buyukmandira village’s
oldest lady (she did not show her age at all by the way) told
me that there are 2 or 3 weavers in every village and that the
preparation of the material needs time and care. These families
used to keep sheep and goats until 20-30 years ago when the
sparkling lights of the big cities began appearing on TV and
newspapers. Then the ‘boys’ left for the cities
to become civil servants, drivers or to be unemployed where
as the girls grow up hearing “ they don’t work,
they just sit like a lady.” And the elderly villagers
continued to chitchat with the last of the goats. Nobody knows
whether the goats or the elderly died first. But the result
is, as in most villages of Turkey, the is “East”
is gone, but “West” did not replace. Instead “labels”,
“pills”, “well-informed and bearded shrinks”,
“204 billion dollars foreign loan”, “gyms
to lose weights” surrounded us.
There are not only Pomak textiles in Turkey.
The importance of these rotten or almost rotten fabrics in all
houses from Edirne to Kars lies here. These fabrics may not
be graphically splendid or powerful in colors (except some),
but in each of them you can see the weaver’s love. French
or Japanese, in 20 years I never saw anyone touching these fabrics
and not falling in love with them.
What attracted Lutfu Timurtas to these textiles
was first of all his inner love’s reflection to the textiles.
Today some of these textiles can be used in
both domestic and foreign markets. They need finishing and a
good wash. The rest, after getting rid of the rotten parts,
can be used for Halil-Ibrahim (patchwork). With minor changes
these can burst into both the men’s and women’s
fashion worlds. Some of them can be turned into home textiles
that are used in the cities. Bags, shoes, hats, etc. can be
created. 4-5 million dollars in a year, totally 180-200 million
dollars of income can be profited.
I carry out works like this in 21 years. What
I estimated above can be achieved if firms like mine multiply.
It is possible to weave these fabrics again. If they become
trendy in other countries, the old ones won’t be enough.
It would be needed to weave the new ones as in carpets and kilims.
I do and will do as a profession what I explained here, but
this field is so wide that many carpet retailers, fashion makers,
home textile makers can profit. At such a time when the sector
is so narrowed, these felts, covers, beds and mattresses are
like a financial aid.
I would like to thank the Pomak ladies who
weaved these magnificent textiles.
(An unedited contribution, as written by the author)
by Celaleddin VARDARSUYU