FROM THE BLOG:

“A Cup of Tea Commits One to 40 Years Friendship,” celebrating rugs in the Turkish Weavery

Posted in: Travel & Sourcing

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I returned from Central Turkey just last month, having gone to search for treasures and to visit our weavers who are currently working on several custom rugs for our clients.

After a few days in the city, we drove out to the Central Turkish countryside to visit one of our weavers. We have great relationships with several weavers throughout Central Turkey, and we love to do site visits to check on the progress of pieces for our clients.

As sharing tea is a deeply rooted custom in Turkey, we shared tea before getting down to business. There’s an old Turkish proverb, “A cup of coffee or tea commits one to forty years of friendship.” This is taken very seriously in Turkish culture. It speaks to the importance of personal relationships and honest business.

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Though the language barrier is vast, we find common ground with conversations about family. We are often the only Americans that the women in the weavery have ever met, and we love using broken English/Turkish, gestures and photos to talk about family life at opposite ends of the world. A photo can bridge the wide gap between all the cultural differences. People can always bond over a love for their families. We really are the same on some level.

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When I first got into the rug business and began traveling abroad to personally source our pieces, I expected there to be large industrial areas or semi-modern factories that created handmade rugs but on a larger scale of manufacturing.

It was shocking to initially arrive in these small, isolated villages and to see the rugs being made in these small mud thatched buildings no larger than a small American home.

Dirt floors, many without modern plumbing and spotty electricity are the standard for good working conditions. It paints a picture that is just so different from what we are accustomed to in the United States, but it’s simply small village life in Central Turkey.

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Women typically weave from morning to the afternoon, returning to their homes to care for their children and to get dinner on the table. The entire work group will stop periodically to share tea together. Social life revolves around sitting and having tea, whether they’re at work, home or visiting friends. You don’t walk around with your tea or sip while you work. You stop everything for tea and you don’t get up until you have finished.

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An average room sized rug has three to four weavers working on it simultaneously. It typically takes about three and a half months of weaving time, and the same weavers work on a single rug until completion. Women clothespin the “cartoon” (a printed guide for their section) above them to reference as they weave a section. These women work together so frequently that they match each other’s tension in the hand knotting, it is completely uniform and seamless.

The weavers exclusively tie the knots that weave the rug together, meaning this is their sole job in the weavery. Once completed, the women cut the rug off the loom, followed by a celebratory tea. It’s a lot of fun! Everyone is in a great mood when a rug is completed. Imagine, you’ve spent months at the loom, working between the cartoon and each knot contributing to this beautiful work, and then finally you can see the entire piece as a whole! The tea almost feels like a cheers to their own work and the rug they have produced. Below, you can see that the rug has been cut from the loom, leaving the remaining warp (the same threads that make the fringe on the newly cut rug). A little dance, a little tea; it was a joyful occasion!

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Once cut off of the loom, it is then rolled up and sent to another village for finishing processes, including shearing, washing and sunning.

The celebratory tea is savored, good wishes are passed around, and then the process begins again.

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