Brief History of Oushak or Ushak Rugs

Turkish hand-knotted carpets occupy a very important place in their cultural heritage as ethnographic documents relating to the Turkish inhabitants of Anatolia in each succeeding epoch, like all other such historical documents, carpets and kilims clearly reflect the values of the period in which they were made.

The textile fragments, weaving tools and dye materials yielded by archaeological excavations support the theory that flat-weaves have been produced in Anatolia since the Neolithic period, but the amount of material so far obtained is not sufficient to provide an answer to questions such as how and when flat-woven or knotted rugs were first produced.The fact that the earliest specimens of knotted carpets so far discovered were found in Turkish regions in excavations carried out on Turkish burial mounds confirms the belief that this type of rug was first woven and used by the Turks.

In Anatolia, weaving began in the early ages in Lydian and Phrygian period followed by Seljuks. The Anatolian Seljuks are considered to have continued this tradition of carpet weaving, which became an activity of immense importance later in the Ottoman period.Most of the carpets woven in Usak(Oushak) during the early period from the first Oushak rugs dating back to the end of the 15th century until the 18th century are now collected in foreign museums and collections. The collection of Ushak carpets, which are located in the Turkish museums, is formed among the carpets of non-profit religious organizations.One of the carpets known to this name as being bought from Anatolia by the Transylvanian regional churches, which is estimated to has been woven in between  the last quarter of the 15th century and the first quarter of the 16th century, is the earliest statue of Usak.

After Seljuks carpets, the second bright period of Turkish carpet weaving art starts with carpets made in Ushak around 16th century. Ushak carpets, the largest and most prominent group in Turkish carpets, are frequently cherished by European noble families and major churches in Europe, and depicted in the paintings of many European artists such as Lorenzo Lotto and Hans Holbein.Although they are often pretty popular until the end of the 18th century, the name  “Ushak”  was not mentioned in the inventory records and these carpets basically were called as Turkish carpets. Evliya Çelebi (Ottoman explorer) reports about 40 shops  and 111 carpet merchants in Istanbul, Izmir, Thessaloniki, Cairo, Isfahan, Ushak and Kavala selling Oushak Rug. In 1674, for the first time the name Usak Carpet was shown  in the inventory records of Topkapı Palace along with major mosques.

By late 17th century has been seen a decline in Oushak rug production as European consumers tended to purchase rugs of European origin primarily Aubusson, Savonnerie and Axminster. Those that were still made throughout the late 18th and early 19th centuries were manufactured for upper-class people in the Turkish territories on Eastern Europe. Towards the end of the 19th century, when the European market began to be interested in Oriental rugs once again, the Oushak (Ushak) population did not have enough weavers still skilled in the traditional Oushak craft. Manufactures had to turn to neighboring villages and their craftsmen who still maintained traditional techniques.

The traditional Oushak carpets in the ethnographic nature are the Ushak carpets created by the Turkmen women, who have been influenced by the pattern habits of their traditions (impromptu) and also inspired from other traditional craftsmen such as Ottoman gilding art. And these ethnic art form has been presented to and appreciated by the Europeans who want to own the image of the flying eastern carpets.

The most commonly used color in the early period were dark blue and dark red while overall Oushak rugs mostly tend towards cinnamon, terracotta tints, gold, blues, greens, ivory, saffron and grays.

The Angora Osuhak Rug Project at Anadol was born as part of the research project “DOBAG- Natural Dye Research and Development Project” of the 1980s to attempt to restore the integrity of the ancient folk art of hand weaving emphasizing the revival dying or otherwise endangered natural dye art practiced by local artisans using recipes that have been passed down through many generations.