An Idea Takes Root
The Book Of Woven Legends presents an extensive—though far from complete—catalogue of our carpets woven between 1982 to the present, from our pioneering and experimental Azeri carpets in the 80’s to our forays through the years of many village, town and classical traditions. Included are portraits from the field, focused on the people, land, culture and processes that together help describe the revival of one of the world’s oldest arts. In an attempt to bring a sense of coherence to a daunting and little understood art, we also provide the “creation story” (Anatomy Of A Carpet) of a Woven Legends carpet, step by step, from start to finish, from village loom to the living room. Also, a selection of residential, commercial, and public views of interiors and spaces for which a wide variety of Woven Legends carpets were selected or custom designed.
Starting decades before “sustainability” and “green” gained market currency, our mission remains constant: to pursue, experiment and recover the knowledge of traditions that were, after thousands of years of research and development, abandoned, a situation that began with the invention of spinning machines and aniline dyes during the Industrial Revolution—displacing tens of thousands of artisans from the Balkans to Central Asia—and continued into the post-industrial age with its focus on program and predictability: standardized designs, sizes, color-ways, delivery schedules… Looking back to 1979, it was easy to see that all knots were not created equal, that two traditional Turkish, or Persian, or Caucasian rugs—one antique, one modern—might share the same design, size, type of knot and knot-count, but only one was “beautiful”. It didn’t require an expert or trained eye to see the difference; it was obvious. The question was, why? Answers were varied and vague: “antiques are better because they are antiques”; “the art vanished with the tribe”; “give it time and this one will be as beautiful” (a dealer favorite).
Interestingly, it took modern science and research, and a passion for antique Turkish village rugs by a German chemist (Harold Bohmer) for the Dobag project (1981) and their village cooperatives to help undo the damage. Their introduction of natural dyeing, their adherence to using only local hand-spun woolen yarn, and to commissioning designs that were indigenous and still in use in the Ayvacik and Yuntdag areas of western Anatolia, set the stage. An idea took root. Woven Legends’ task was to expand on the natural dye recipes of Dobag, to adhere to its own “only hand-spun wool” rule, and to move to eastern Anatolia, where mountainous terrain, weather and conditions supported—with the assistance of local government—the creation of a cottage industry capable of weaving large sizes in atelier settings, and where it was possible (for a variety of reasons) for us to experiment across a broad range of traditional weave structures and designs. Our goal here—long overdue—is to present a coherent picture of our work and values. We live in a new century where the teachings and work of William Morris have never had greater relevance: “To give people pleasure in the things they perforce make; to give others pleasure in the things they perforce use; that is the great office of decoration.” It is not foolish now to invoke aesthetics as a basis for thinking about the future, any more than it is romantic to say that unbridled industrial development threatens the future of our planet. It is not too late to assert that traditional art, to the degree that it can respond and embrace our common need to find work rewarding, while also allowing us to take pleasure in the beauty of the objects that fill our homes and lives, may be the best option we have in bringing human needs and desires into balance with the rest of the world.