A carpet is a carpet is a carpet. Well, not quite.
It was our last day in Cappodocia, Turkey and we decided to wander through some of the shops in Goreme. In the centre of the town, there was a large shop with colourful carpets piled high and hanging from the ceiling. I really did not know a thing about carpets, nor I did I want to buy one, but it was a hot day and we ventured inside.
I’ve recently been drawn to these shows on TV about hoarders – the people that suffer from a mental health issue and just fill their homes with piles and piles of stuff. That was sort of like this store. Actually, it wasn’t really a store, it was more of a warehouse with carpets stretched across the ceiling, hanging across the walls, and rolls and rolls piled on top of each other. The place was dimly lit, yet seemed to radiate with the dark crimson tapestries around us and it was almost eerie as we walked through this giant store alone.
Finally, we ran into the owner, a tall balding man who’s family had been in the carpet business for years. It was awkward at first as we really had no intention to buy, so I said to him that we didn’t know a thing about carpets and were wondering if he could give us a quick lesson. And so, for the next 45 minutes, we learned about carpets.
Creating a carpet is like any other piece of art. Just as a painter tries to portray a scene, a photographer attempts to convey a setting, a carpet weaver is also trying to tell a story using symbols and colours. A good carpet is intricately woven with fine wool and can take months or years to build. Interestingly, the colours for a high-end piece are created naturally using ground up plants rather than artificial dyes.
In Turkey, it is an industry that is on the wane, according to the storekeeper. Mothers are no longer passing on their secrets as their daughters head off to the big cities to find jobs. Although there will always be carpets in Turkey, the talent pool is shrinking and the price of quality will only increase.
By the end of our class, we had learned how to tell a high-end carpet from a knock-off brand and my wife was sitting on the ground next to an old Turkish woman learning how to properly stitch. With prices starting at 400 lira, we didn’t buy a carpet that day, but the storekeeper told me that if I ever wanted to, he could take me under his wing for a month and train me to be his distributor in Ottawa.
I just might take him up on that.