Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Flying Carpets

First, let me set the stage for the seduction. You're traveling in Istanbul and you've had a long, hot day of palaces, mosques, and the Grand Bazaar. The temperature is over 100 degrees and you've done a week's worth of walking in one day. Your water bottle was emptied an hour ago, the back of your neck is soggy from the humidity, and your feet are begging for a break. That's when the silver tongued Turkish devil invites you in for a glass of cold apple tea or a beer, and offers you a seat in an air conditioned room several floors above the crowds.

Welcome to the Turkish rug salesroom. We were drawn in by the warm hospitality, promise of education about the weaving process and, well, because we just wanted to sit down for a bit. As you are well on your way of enjoying your tasty beverage served on a silver tray, the story begins. First, you marvel at the silkworm cocoons and how the cool, broom-like tool pictured above is used to find the beginning thread of each cocoon. Next, the rug weaver, usually a young woman, arrives with her loom and shows you how deftly she ties the double knots to secure the fiber. Working from a drawing, she creates the pattern one row at a time.

But then it is show time. A team of young studs arrive and start pulling carpets from the inventory at the far end of the room. Whoop! the rug rolls out on the bare floor area in front of you, followed by a another on top of that one, and another still .... carpets in colors you're seeing for the first time, beautiful lush silks and wools, simple patterns, complex florals, whoop! whoop! one rug after another until there is a great teaming pile of overlapping rugs. The guys especially love to roll out the long hall runners, timing their release so the fringe ends just at your toes, a red carpet just for you! They save the little ones for last, because they've perfected a tossing technique that spins the carpet around two or three times like a pizza thrower before it lands on top of the pile. Real theatre!

If you find yourself in this situation, you must not let your curiosity get the best of you. I made the error of asking the price of one I saw fly by, and that was all it took to engage the salesman. We moved onto his radar screen and couldn't shake him for anything. The original price quoted was dropping by the minute "just for you, because you are from Chicago where my brother lives!" We hadn't even thought about buying a carpet on this trip, so it was easy to appear uninterested. After 10 minutes or so, the salesman followed us down the three flights of stairs to the door and we walked.

We strolled around the Grand Bazaar for about an hour and I completely forgot about the carpet. Not so, my spouse. Just out of the blue, he bet that he could get the carpet for 40% of the tagged price. We were approaching the meeting place for our tour which, not uncoincidentally, was just outside the carpet store. I told him to go for it; that I would stay outside to remove any emotional involvement with the purchase.

Thirty minutes later, he emerged from the store with a receipt and a triumphant look .. he had done exactly what he set out to do. Too large to bring home on the plane, the carpet is being shipped to us, but apparently it doesn't fly, it comes by very slow boat in about 10 weeks. Every night I pray to the carpet gods for these things: one, that it will actually arrive, and two, that it will be the same one I saw go flying past. I will post a photo when it arrives!


  1. What an amazing opportunity -- thanks for posting these pictures of things we don't get a chance to see every day!

  2. That's an amazing story, Ma! I can almost taste the air itself while reading it! Can't wait to see it at the homestead when it arrives.

    Yer Son

  3. Pam, No wonder you make such delicious books, you are also an amazing storyteller. Thank you for sharing your travels with us.

  4. Fabulous post! Loved the photos and hearing about your rug experience; we've visited Morocco and had similar experiences. Dave used to be a broker and he LOVES the haggling so fit right in with the souk merchants. They would go at it hammer and tongs until arriving at a price both could accept. Each man would almost 'cry', saying things like, "but my children won't be educated if you don't pay this price" or "You'll leave me without money to fly home"...FUN to listen and watch. We have some amazing rugs,textiles and antiques due to Dave loving to haggle. -smile- In Morocco, probably all the Middle East, shop owners enjoy the process and deem it a sign of honor when another man can haggle effectively.
    On another note...bought your book, Fabric Art Journals, and you've started me on the path to making a family art book. Using your book as guide, long time friend Sandra Hardee, SC artist, has made the Most Wonderful family fabric art book on her "Smith Women" and has graciously allowed me to photo so I can blog about her/her book...which I'll do this week from the road.
    Sorry for nattering on, wanted you to know what a wonderful influence you/your book is to me/us. My fondest wish is to take a class from you one of these days.
    Many thanks and God's blessings on you, yours and the work of your hands and heart.