Saturday, October 30, 2010

A verdant world within borders

After nearly 12 years in Turkey and a lifetime of loving weavings and embroideries, I’m hardly an expert despite a formal textile education. In a city like Istanbul, I’m surrounded by generations of rug merchants who could offer the equivalent of a PhD in techniques, styles and the various regions from which their wares come. While I’ve met a few visitors to our shop who have astounded me with their knowledge, most people know next to nothing. I play the role of enthusiast, trying to open eyes to the beauty and history within each unique piece. 

Like this Shiraz carpet from Iran, for example. What attracts me most about this piece are the colors – a warm chocolate brown combined with two vibrant shades of turquoise, instead of  the usual deep red and blue. These hues are offset by the rich indigo – a more typical color, though here it’s only used as a backdrop for the central field. Best is the strong acidic green used to highlight most of the motifs, though a fairly rosy pink is less successful and fortunately not used much against the brown. This weaver was not tentative about departing from tradition in terms of colors, which seem quite modern to my eye.

It’s logical that settled tribal weavers near Shiraz, this southwestern city of roses, poets and nightingales, would choose to create a lyrical garden full of floral, water and mountain motifs. These are arranged in an abundant but formal manner for most of the design, though the flowers playfully scatter at each end. The borders, like the tightly fitting triangular mosaic work for which the city is renown, contain the gardens in a series of narrow and wide boundaries. The remnants of Persepolis and Darius the Great’s Palace are only 70 km away. I like to think the stylized trees of life recall the Lebanese cedar beams and those funny motifs floating on the indigo ground are stylized animals, inspired by the palace’s two-headed animal sculptures.

Lastly, I’m attracted to the Turkish and Kurdish geometry of this piece, even though it’s single knotted in the Persian style, The center diamond-shaped lozenges, typical of the Shiraz style, have stylized crosses at their centers, symbols that have been used as far back as Catalhoyuk in Central Anatolia. This ancient motif protects against evil by dividing it in four pieces. The outermost border reminds me of the stylized bands of folk dancers that ring the outside of Kurdish kilims, heads and shoulders together, binding the community together with movement and music.

What do you see in this carpet?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Building up steam...

Our workshop project has some good exposure this week in Hand/Eye Magazine, a publication about connecting cultures and inspiring action, goals we can really agree with. Read more here:

Friday, October 1, 2010

East meets West: knitting up cultural exchange

We've launched a project on Kickstarter, the creative arts crowd-funding site, to help us fund our East meets West fiber arts workshops, in Istanbul's Sultanahmet, starting March 2011.

  • Can fiber arts bridge cultures? 
  • Will women from multiple countries knit up new versions of traditional skills?
  • Is there a common language of craft?

Read the whole story here and spread the word. Thanks!