We are often asked by other retailers where we go to “market” to buy our goods. Atlanta? Philadelphia? Dallas? The answer is, “none of the above.” We quite literally traverse the entire country of Turkey searching for our treasures, from west to east, from north to south, from major metropolitan areas, to the tiniest of villages. No stone goes unturned, no loom goes un-inspected, no potential source is dismissed…
We choose not to purchase from the Grand Bazaar or any other large commercial marketplace, either. Instead, we prefer to peruse the out-of-the way antique stores and small village shops. Over the years, Steve and Tove have struck up friendships with a number of collectors of antiquities, and so most trips include going to their shops or fields to make our selections.
In Steve's own words:
Finding authentic art is a passion for me...this is not a game or merely a business decision. Once I find reputable dealers, I go back to them again and again. I become accountable to them as they are to me. We never blow through a town asking, “How much?...How much?” Instead, I explain who I am, why I am visiting their village, and that I plan to “make good business” with them. For me, that means building a personal relationship that will outlast the sale, and creating an environment where I am more than another “Big Western Buyer.” We are treated completely differently once people realize we respect their culture, and are searching for real art, not trinkets.
Rugs are simple: bypass all the “touristic” rugs (mostly cheap knock-offs, from India, Pakistan, China, and Nepal), and search for the very best in every genre. Actually seeing the ladies making new pieces is a must. I look for pieces utilizing hand-spun wools and vegetal dyes. I search for high quality, and leave the "touristic" pieces for those who don’t know better. As for wood, we buy only vintage. Regardless of what it is, it has to have been used at some point, and repairs showing authenticity are a bonus. If I have to ask, “what is this?” I know I will end up buying it. That’s the same way I think about copper: the older and more utilitarian, the better!
Once I’ve found my selections, I have everything brought to one central spot on the outskirts of Istanbul, where it is packed into an cargo container and shipped via ocean freight to America. The hardest part? Definitely the waiting involved when I get home, to see everything again!
Sounds like hard work, doesn't it? But don’t let him kid you: we have fun while we're there, too! After many years and many miles traveled, Steve and Tove feel as though Turkey has become a second home to them, and we do not hesitate to tell anyone who will listen to visit this most hospitable and fascinating country!