Turkotek Articles

What do you mean, "It's a prayer rug?" by Steven Price

There's probably nobody reading this who doesn't think he knows what a prayer rug is. More likely than not, every one of you is correct. Sort of. Let me explain...


How do we distinguish natural from synthetic dyes? By Steven Price

One of the questions that seem to keep coming up is, "How can someone tell whether a rug's dyes are natural or synthetic?" We might first ask why it makes any difference. Although most rug collectors agree that natural dyes are more attractive than synthetics, knowing whether a particular color came from a plant extract or from an organic chemical laboratory shouldn't change the aesthetics one whit. The real reason for caring is, or ought to be, that old rugs are worth a lot more than new ones are (all other things being equal), and knowing whether the dyes are natural or synthetic helps us estimate a rug's age and market value.


Woven Bags by Saul Yale Barodofsky

Folk art is a window into the consciousness of a people. The items nomads made for their personal use thus yield genuine insight into their cultures and ways of life. Of course, the converse is true as well: Knowledge about nomadic peoples gleaned from other sources help illuminate the uses and meanings of their textiles.


The Confusion about Shahsevan by Bertram Frauenknecht

Thirty years ago nobody knew the Shahsevan. Now you find the term used for all kinds of rugs, even on eBay. Who or what were or are they?
There is still a small group of nomads in southern Azerbaijan who were the subject of fieldwork by Richard Tapper in the 1960's. Later they enjoyed a number of visitors, usually rug people with different theories, describing these nomads, especially their rugs and textiles, and predominantly their soumacs. Tanavoli's book, Shahsavan, showed us a lot of different designs and the regions where they were made. This is what we know as of today.


Kilim by Michael Bischof and Memduh Kürtül

Kilim by Michael Bischof and Memduh Kürtül
If we look back we must confess that all the major exhibitions in Europe in the last years dealt with kilims. Piled pieces were not excluded but played a minor role. Specifically, the exhibitions include "Kult-Kilim" in Köln; the wonderful special show-and-tell on a castle in the Mühlviertel in northwestern Austria (collection Dr. Prammer), Traunstein (kind of "Yayla 2" ), Graz (under the leadership of Helmut Reinisch), the important congress on radiocarbon dating of kilims and the accompanying exhibition in Riehen/Basel (organized by Jürg Rageth), the combination of important kilims and steel sculpture in Essen (my, M.B, personal favourite of all kilim exhibitions until now) and now "Kelim, Textil Kunst aus Anatolien" in the Deutsches Textilmuseum in Krefeld, until May 5, 2003.


Repairs and Fakes - A Smooth Transition... by Michael Bischof and Memduh Kürtül

The most suitable method for repairing damaged textiles depends very much on the reason for repairing it. Is the textile a work of art, or of a relatively high level of home decoration? We believe that these are opposed to each other. The second includes much more than 90% of the trade, including the market for so called collectors pieces.


Star Crossed - Further Thoughts on the Design Sources of Caucasian Rugs by Sophia Gates

Daniel Deschuyteneer’s recent Salon raised some interesting and pointed questions about specific designs, for example the 2-1-2 design in Karachov rugs. He mentioned the Turkic influence on Caucasian design and questions whether there might be others and if so, what these might be. Finally, he raises the question - is there a real Caucasian design, or design pool; or is there only a "style" - a look.


Turkmen Tree-of-Life Paneled Mafrash by Steve Price

Turkmen mafrash (or kap) include a small group of Turkmen bags about which little is written, although there has been considerable collector interest in them for some time. This is the group with a layout consisting of ivory panels, each containing what is generally interpreted to be a tree of life motif. Published opinion is that this layout and design originated among the Tekke, and diffused to other Turkmen groups, although most examples are either Tekke or Yomud.


Turkmen Tree-of-Life Paneled Mafrash by Steve Price

Our work dealing with natural dying of modern carpets and kilims started within a famous wine producing area of Germany, Rheinhessen, where the dye plants for research were cultivated in a garden that formerly was a vinyard. So seeing natural dyes, oriental weavings and wine as being close to each other should not be surprising.


What Rugs will be Collected in 2101? by R. John Howe

In his great book, The Persian Carpet, Cecil Edwards expresses a great many opinions about the qualities of Persian rugs that existed during his time. Among other things, it seems clear that he considered Kerman designs to be of the highest aesthetic quality. But it is important to remember that Edwards was the employee of an English firm that organized and supported and sold the products of rug weavers in Iran. So while it is likely that he knew a "good rug" when he saw one, and although the Iranians paid him the great compliment of translating his book into Farsi, Edwards was clearly looking at rugs from the viewpoint of someone "in the business," rather than from that of a "collector.".


"Stray Reds" in Turkmen Weavings by Steve Price

One commonly used criterion used for deciding whether red dyes are natural or synthetic is whether they have "run" into the white or ivory areas. Synthetic reds (even modern dyes) almost always run during washing, natural reds are said by those experienced in their use to be essentially free of this problem.


The Oriental Rug as a Work of Art by Sam Gorden

As an afficionado and collector of Oriental weavings, I have been subjected to countless lectures and expositions dealing with a great interest in art historical, ethnological and technological terms. The art historians, in general, have concentrated on tracing designs back to the ornamentation of former periods like Seljuk and Coptic art. The ethnologists have taken to visiting the more primitive rug producing tribes, whose lifestyles have remained relatively unchanged, writing about them, replete with color photographs and describing the role that this plays in their lives. Recently, there has been a plethora of dissertations, concerning dyes, the types of knots employed, the way the structural yarn has been plied, how the selvage has been bound, etc. The justification for these activities is that this technical analysis leads to a more accurate determination of age and provenance. This is based probably on Dr. Schurmann's contention that designs travel more readily than do methods of construction.


Old Motifs: The Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex as a Possible Source by Christoph Huber

The possibility that a whole corpus of designs found on oriental carpets has roots going back some thousands of years is thrilling and exciting. To find analogies in the motifs from different works of art is like seeing a hidden tradition underlying the religious and cultural backgrounds of peoples, sometimes separated by considerable time and space.


A Late Eighteenth-Century "Karapinar" Kilim by Robert Torchia, Ph.D.

R. John Howe invited me to contribute to this forum by writing about an old Anatolian kilim that I recently acquired after three years of negotiations with a dealer in Philadelphia. I want to gather as much information as possible on this specific type of kilim, and invite readers to identify other examples that I may have overlooked, and to comment on various aspects of my discussion. I am an art historian of nineteenth and early twentieth-century American painting, who somewhere along the line became obsessed with oriental rugs, particularly Anatolian kilims.


A Turkish "Village" Rug Fragment by R. John Howe

A few months ago, while traveling, I encountered a large fragment of a Turkish "village" rug in a dealer's gallery. It was coarse. It was torn. It had holes. There were areas with bare warps (only). There were other areas with warps flying. The edges had been eaten at badly and there were places with low pile or bare structure (warps and wefts). I could see the drawing was not impeccable, among other things the weaver had run out of warp and had miniaturized the main border on one end and there were some awkward, one-armed spandrel-like devices in the field.


A rare West-Anatolian rug and its ala çuval background by Daniel Deschuyteneer

During ICOC-9 a very interesting and rare rug was displayed at the Dealer Fair. Only a few examples are known, many of them fragments and half carpet.


The Language of Carpets by Costa Maroulis

The subject of languages has been a hobby of mine for many years, while carpets have only taken up the recent past. As an "armchair linguist/philologist," I have always been aware of the importance of language: language is usually the defining ethnological characteristic that delineates a people or culture. Most ethnologists would probably agree that the best way to understand a particular culture is through its language; an ignorance of the way a people communicate will effectively hide many of the more important aspects of their society, customs, traditions and beliefs. Certainly most rulers wouldn't argue: throughout history, when the goal has been to unify or centralize a country or region, the first step has been to impose an "official" language; taking away the linguistic rights of the smaller groups has usually resulted in the death knell for their cultures. The list of groups of people that have been affected by such policies would stretch for quite a distance; even today, many societies are fighting to keep their linguistic, and hence cultural, identities.


Tulu: Modern as today, with a 3,500 year tradition by Steve Price

The two illustrated rugs are examples of a peculiar kind of Anatolian sleeping rug, called tulu. Most are made around Karapinar.


The History of Rug Books: 1877-1970 by Keith Rocklin

“A judge at common law may be an ordinary man; a good judge of a carpet must be a genius.”
Edgar Allan Poe, Philosophy of Furniture
Genius has probably played a small role in the literature dealing with the Oriental rug. For over a century this vast body of work, consisting of thousands of titles, has been a fountain of misinformation and fanciful myths, reflecting the ignorance and prejudices inherent in one culture’s unfamiliarity with the undocumented but profound and essential art of another culture.


What Did Turkmen Do with That Thing? by Steve Price

Tribal textiles, like most tribal arts, were not made primarily as expressions of artistic psyches or as purely decorative objects: they were useful in one way or another. The usefulness that seems to attract most collectors first is the symbolic or supernatural powers that some objects were thought to have within the cultures they came from. There's something really fascinating about holding an object that someone believed could communicate with the Gods and maybe even get them to act according to the owner's wishes.