Craftsman keeping tradition of repairing antique carpets alive
Ramazan Yumuşak is the last representative of a family who has been repairing “antique carpets with antique carpets” for three generations in Istanbul, which is noted as one of the well-known carpet and rug centers of the world. He wants to keep the tradition alive by passing his 36-year profession, which he started at the age of 11, to future generations.
The carpet and rug culture, which spread to Anatolia at the time of the Seljuk and Ottoman Empire, maintains its popularity with valuable carpet collections in many parts of the world, especially in Europe. Along with the Hereke and Kumkapı carpets, which are known as the palace carpets in the Ottoman Empire, the ancient carpets that are produced in Kayseri, Isparta, Milas, Kula, Kars and Bergama holds a prestigious place in Turkey in terms of cultural richness and heritage.
Valuable antique carpets that wear off or fade over time are carefully repaired in the hands of few craftsmen in the Historical Peninsula, especially in the Grand Bazaar.
The tradition of repairing carpets by using other carpets with similar colors and textures was mostly maintained by non-Muslim craftsmen until the 1950s. And later on, Turkish craftsmen began to take their place in the sector.
Yumuşak, one of the few masters who maintain this tradition of “repairing carpet with another carpet,” learned this craft from his grandfather. He is now working on antique carpets with his brother, who lives in Japan.
Yumuşak said that his grandfather learned it from non-Muslim craftsmen in 1969. “My grandfather was one of the two Turks who learned this profession. When my brothers went abroad, my father wanted to drop out of school and learn this profession. In 1985, I finished school at the age of 11 and started repairing carpets. I have been working since then.”
Stating that carpet is one of the most important cultural richness of Turkey, Yumuşak said: “Carpet culture is actually a culture that Turks brought from Central Asia. It is more common especially among Turkmens and Azerbaijani Turks who came from the Oghuz tribe.”
He also noted that carpets and rugs were the main products in nomadic and highland life and people used them to hang it on their walls, as prayer rugs and sometimes used them even as a gun case.
Shedding light on carpet weaving from the Ottoman period and their value, Yumuşak said: “During the Ottoman period, palace rugs started to be woven, especially in Uşak. Later in the 19th century, Feshane carpets started to be woven. In 1843, Fabrika-i Hümayün was founded by Sultan Abdülmecid, where Hereke carpets were woven. Then, at the end of the 19th century, famous silk Kumkapı rugs were woven by the designer and weaver Zarek Usta. It is one of the rare carpets in the world and very valuable.”
He said that he continued this less known profession in order to keep the carpet culture alive. “We repair carpets with the carpets of the same region. It is necessary to find a Konya carpet to repair a Konya carpet or to find a Turkmen carpet to repair a Turkmen carpet because their textures are very different. This is our job.”
“We work two to three months on a carpet. Once we find the old carpets, we unfold them, wash them with shampoo, soften them and iron them. We use it to repair another carpet,” he said.
He also noted that the most interest in antique carpet repair comes from Europe and that they have repaired the carpets of many collectors from countries such as Germany, France, and Italy.