Ahmet Bayraktar is a 47-year-old antique carpet and rug mender of many years. According to him mending a carpet is much more than just fixing it. He claims that the person who means to achieve the task also needs to be happy; adding that it is crucial to feel the magical moment as they use the pin while mending.
Carpet, is a culture presented to the World Thru Turkish tradition. Apart from being a cultural representation it is in fact an inseparable element to Turkish identity. It is a product, reflection of the imagination of the Turkish nation back when they were in Middle Asia. So much so that even today we do not feel at home unless there is a carpet in our home. As when we were nomads the place we laid our carpet in the wilderness was considered to be our home. This ancient habit has been transferred through generations in the past two thousand years and still manifests itself in our daily life style. Carpet mending has become all the more important recently when ancient rugs that are woven with songs of exertion have decreased dramatically. As we talked about mending carpets with Ahmet Bayraktar, we also talked about the tradition from which rugs are based to, how they symbolize life, along with the details and importance of mending rugs. Bayraktar mentions the stories of all the rugs and carpets he had mended throughout his life-time which makes him an expert on the issue even if he refuses to name himself as one.
Wool or Silk?
Ahmet’s workshop is on the top floor of a building in Cagaloglu. When I entered the workshop Hadji Mustafa and Iranian Eyup Bayrami were mending woolen carpets. We sit and start chatting on leather armchairs with Ahmet Bayraktar, who was born in Nigde, Aksaray and started the carpet mending profession in 1986 with the support of his brother-in-law. At first he began to mend carpets to earn his pocket money as a student. When he was in high school he visited Istanbul and worked at a carpet mending workshop to cover his expenses during the trip; he also worked as porter for an 8-month period. Then Ahmet decided to learn carpet repair when he chose to stay in Istanbul. “It was silk mending written in our fate.” As we continue to talk I ask him the difference between wool and silk mending. He informs that all three of them do both type of rugs however he had specialized in silk after which he starts to list the differences between the two. The main difference between the mending of woolen and silk carpets is the delicacy and detailed effort silk demands. While there are 9 knots in one centimeter square woolen carpet, it could go up to a thousand twenty-four knots in a silk carpet. Apart from that they use silk for silk carpets and sheep-wool for wool carpets.
When authentic things end mending ends
One of my main concerns is the future of the profession. To which he answers “The profession is in regression, coming towards the end …” The reasons behind which he lists as follows: “It is a matter of supply and demand, when young couples are getting married they go and buy cheaper, use and dispose kind of carpets to decorate their homes. Young people are more attracted to cheaper and visually appealing carpets than expensive and authentic ones. In time supply changes in accordance with preferences. Before hand-made valuable carpets were used, but today there are the synthetic machine –woven ones in demand. In developing countries handcrafts are dead because they cost more. Therefore, as the supply for authentic items decrease mending is also outdated. We have not trained apprentices for years now. If there were new menders they would make a decent living from this profession.”
Ahmet Bayraktar almost lost his vision when he had to mend the finest silk carpet in the world. The finest silk carpet made by a Turkish producer had one thousand twenty-four knots per centimeter square. He completed the mending of the carpet within a month in 2008 to make it to the millionaires fair, but he forced his eyes when he had to work under the lens magnifier. Capillary vessels in his left eye cracked. “Therefore this profession requires sacrifice, exertion,” said Bayraktar. When he claimed to be the last silk mender he also provided proof to his claim. As a matter of fact, he even mended the silk carpet of the Malaysian King a couple of years ago. The carpet which was bought from this land back in the Ottoman times by the Malaysian Royal family returned home to be mended. Ahmet said: “Don’t be fooled by the single room workshop, if you are the best in your profession they can find you in your workshop in a building in Cagalologlu.” He added that he made a living with the effort of his fingertips; therefore he said even if you do it in the attic, the master of crafts will be sought after.
Colors and Designs
The products that end up in the hands of a carpet-rug mender are endless. Ahmet Bayraktar can conduct several cultural guesses over carpets. The color purple was mainly used by nobles in the 1700s. It took 10 tons of root dye to make half a kilo of purple dye. Therefore, now when he encountered a purple color carpet dating back to 1700s he knew that it was made by a man of power. Because back in the Ottoman era Pashas and palace-folk would place special orders for rugs. On the other hand, the designs are also important visuals. Anthropologists, believe dominant designs to be analyzed inevitable, as they study different cultures. While in one culture the designs could be tattooed on the body in our culture they are woven into rugs and carpets as traces of our lives. There is neat comparison in Ahmet Abi’s observations. He informs that the mobile and nature friendly life style of Anatolian nomads have given lively colors reflected with nature depictions in Yoruk carpets. Then on the contrary the carpets from Kars have cold and defined elements in design. This is just the reflection of the differences within a single region of rugs. There could also be changes among geographical distances. Just like the Iran-Turkish comparison. The master of a profession rich in symbolic elements Ahmet Bayraktar draws attention to the time of mending along with all the cultural acquisition by the profession: “I feel the pin that goes through the carpet deep in my soul.” As I leave the small workshop I start thinking that the best part of the profession is that it is also pleasurable craftsmanship embedded within…
- Our traditional rug arts continue to preserve Vivity in all parts of Anatolia: Kayseri, Sivas, Konya, Kirsehir, Isparta, especially in old carpet centrals such as Usak, Bergama, Kula, Gordes, Milas and Canakkale.
- Carpets were first seen in regions where Turks lived in Middle Asia and are elements produced by Turks for the first time. The oldest known carpet worldwide is the old fuzz carpet of wool dating back to 5.-4. Centuries B.C: and is called the “Pazyryk Carpet” as it was discovered in Pazyryk Valley. The carpet was discovered by Sergei Ivanovich Rudenko in 1949 at a Siberian tumulus excavation. It is said that the carpet dated back to the Turkish tribes, Scythians in Siberia or Persian Ahamenishes.
There is a standard mending method in carpets, the main difference being color. The antique, historical old carpets and rugs brought to be mended are classed according to synthetically, naturally or root dye.
What is Antique Carpet?
For any carpet to be considered antique it had to be at least a century old, but not all were considered to be antiques. The materials used in the making, the root dye used were among important elements. Just like buildings which are not worthy in the following century not every carpet is considered to be antique in quality.
By: Faruk Kanber / Photo: Yağız Karahan
*This article was published in the July-August issue of Marmara Life.