March’s First Friday Art Walk is rolling out the Turkish carpet for you, literally.
Stan Akins has been importing hand-made Turkish rugs and kilims - a flat-weave wool carpet - for more than 30 years and he’s returning to Arts of the Albemarle for his annual Rug Show, opening Friday, 5:30 p.m.
Akins became familiar with the highly valued Turkish rugs when he was stationed in Turkey as an Air Force colonel. Akins, like many importers, realized that the hand-made rugs, with all their beautifully hand-dyed colors, would be big sellers in the United States.
He was right and for the past several decades the Turkish rug has been the staple of many interior design plans and shops featuring the rugs can be found coast to coast.
Turkish rugs have a tradition that goes back millennia. The tightly woven rugs have been the staple of village families living in the region from the Black Sea to the borders of Iraq and Iran.
They have been used as a mainstay on the famed Silk Road trading route to China, and as a dowry for the daughters who are being married off to village men.
For the past 30 years or so the rugs have been produced in villages contracted by larger Turkish exporters. They are produced for sale on the European and American markets. Arrangements between exporters and rug makers has kept families busy and employed but in recent years, thanks to economic globalization and available technology, Akins says many of the village people in Turkey are looking to other means for employment.
The traditional rug weavers are becoming fewer and fewer. And that makes Akins rugs more interesting because they are Turkish originals and they represent a dwindling art form. Akins is not interested in selling Chinese knock-offs.
While Turkey is very Westernized and borders Europe to the west and is part of the Asian continent to the east, it still maintains an ancient world atmosphere. It is home to some of the most ancient civilizations of history like the Hittites and is known for its biblical sites as well.
Over the years Akins has come to know many of the families he trades with and is now trading with the children of his first business contacts. In an effort to maintain his contacts, he makes about three trips a year to Turkey, even if he doesn’t need a new shipment.
The rugs he sells are primarily made of wool, but do have some variation in material. Akins says people living in remote villages found the hair of horses or natural fibers like hemp to be suitable for weaving as well.
He says that red and blue are common colors found in rugs but many darker colors like browns and blacks are used in rugs from more nomadic people, such as the ones he brought back from the Black Sea region.
The methods the Turkish weavers use today are virtually unchanged over the generations. A simple machine that weaves the fibers together is practically unchanged from those used more than 100 years ago and weaving looms are largely hand-operated.
Akins will also give a talk about the textiles at AOA next Wednesday.
If you don’t get lost in the rugs, there are a number of other stops on your Art Walk:
• Page After Page presents Michelle Bell;
• Two and A Half Women will host a demonstration by painted glass artist Jocelyn House.
• Spoonful of Sugar located at 106 N. Road St., will feature oils artist Jessa Davis;
• Southern Yankee Boutique presents crafter Gracie Bassett and her quilled and macramé jewelry;
• Floor 2 Ceiling Designs is hosting Outer Banks plein air artist Alta Steed;
• Port Discover will host its Kids’ Art In (member fee);
• Pasquotank Trading Company presents David McEntire and his metal art;
• Footprint Christian Resources presents featured artist Robin Price;
• Sidney’s Café & Bistro presents artist Kelly Cameron;
• Serenity Studio Arts - Kids Night Art and show art from the kid’s pottery and drawing & painting classes.
• Kelly’s Color Studio presents artist Ian Von Talee.