Unlike almost all rugs produced today, every new carpet in the Rug & Relic Collection is individually crafted by artisans into a one-of-a-kind work of art. We work individually with the designers and weavers of our rugs, rarely if ever using a middleman. This means that we can guarantee not only that our weavers are paid a living wage, but also that our rugs are woven by adult people who enjoy their craft, not prisoners, refugees, slaves, or children.
In general, our rugs are designed by men and woven by women, although it is not entirely unheard of to see a man working a loom, and women are increasingly involved in designing rugs. It is common for men to help with the weaving of some of the very large custom pieces we do for our clients, as considerable strength is needed to create the tension necessary for a well-executed rug. For example, our friend Atilla designs our Yeni Kilim Collection, and then takes those designs to a village in the Balikesir area of Turkey, to the women who execute his designs.
Rug & Relic's new carpets come from "home-looms" and small "factories" throughout the countryside of Turkey. Home-looms are generally located in the open air of the front porch during nice weather and inside during winter months. A home-loom is nice for the artist, since she is free to work as time permits. For instance, she may feed her family and send the kids off to school. Perhaps she will tend the garden next. Now she may have a few moments to herself to work on her loom. Next, she may prepare the evening meal, and, if she has time in the evening, she can sit at her loom again. The rhythmic bang, bang, bang of her comb smashing down the knots creates an hypnotic song that is difficult to pull yourself away from. Watching this fascinating artistry, and the sentimentality of it all will make you covet the rug she is weaving.
In some instances, particularly where the pieces to be made are very large, a "factory" is set up for the weavers. This is done for two purposes. First, the looms needed for making the very large pieces our customers sometimes require are simply too cumbersome for the home. Second, it is quite common for 4-5 women to work on a single rug at the same time. As much as we all love company, no one wants 4 of her friends at her home every day!
While it is often true that men design rugs, and women create them, this is not always the case. Sometimes weavers make rugs for themselves, and sometimes they make pieces on commission. It is the commissioned pieces that are most often designed by men. When working on a commissioned piece, the weaver will look at a picture of the desired piece and tie her knots accordingly. Even though she has a picture to go by, it ends up being her unique piece, because she is free-handing the design. Each flower, vine, etc, that she "draws" will be unique.
Whether a commissioned piece or one designed by the weaver, design motifs often include symbolism that may be hundreds or even thousands of years old. In fact, most regions have their own unique style and color palette, which makes a rug's origin easily identifiable. These motifs will oftentimes illustrate the weaver's hopes for a safe home, a long life, and a good, solid relationship. For instance, the motif of a woman with her hands on her hips, suggests that she is proud and ready to get married. The fedder is akin to yin and yang, and is symbolic of strong familial relationships.
Artisans will often include other symbols or messages that we are not able to decipher into pieces woven for personal use. These symbols have meaning to her and perhaps her family, but to no one else. For instance, you might see a single red dot in a field of brown. This might symbolize an event that occurred while she was weaving that piece, like the visit of a loved one, or the birth of a child. Or it might simply be a mark she weaves into each of her personal carpets. These pieces are generally passed down through the generations and it is not uncommon to see Grandma's, or Great Grandma's rugs still laying on the floor today. Just like many young people in America, however, not all modern Turkish children are interested in the belongings of their ancestors. Hence, we are sometimes able to acquire these older "home" pieces. For examples, please see our Eski Kilims and Anadol Rugs collections.