Ultimate Guide to Hereke Rugs

The Hereke Region and Hereke Rugs

Hereke carpet is produced in Hereke, a coastal city of Kocaeli in Turkey. Using the double knot technique and being handmade makes it different from other carpets. However, it can take years and years to make as they use first-class Silk for the decorations, especially carpets woven for palaces. 

The fact that Hereke is located on the historical Silk Road and is close to Istanbul, Bursa, and its surroundings, which are the center of traditional sericulture, has been influential in the development of carpet weaving in this region.

The Beginning of the Hereke Factory 

Hereke Factory was founded by brothers Ohannes and Bogos Dadyan and started operations in 1845 as the country's first private weaving factory. In 1845, when it began operating, the management and ownership of the factory were transferred to the Ottoman Empire. In the factory, in the beginning, only the production of cloth and silk fabric was planned. Then, the production area expanded with the machines imported from European countries. Finally, a new section with 100 carpet looms was opened, and carpet production started. 

As of 1905, the product variety was increased, and different product types started in many areas such as fez, curtain, and undershirt. After the acceptance of the quality of the products in the market, the Hereke trademark was registered and taken under protection in 1846.

Ottoman Palaces and Hereke Carpets

At the end of the 19th century, ​​Sultan Abdulmecid had an idea to furnish the Dolmabahçe Palace with the best carpets in the world. Hence, carpet production specifically started in 1891. A carpet weaving workshop called "The House of Hereke Weaving " was opened in the garden of Dolmabahçe Palace. The carpet weaving masters were brought from the Hereke Carpet factory, and the unique Hereke carpets in Dolmabahçe Palace are woven in this workshop and the factory in Hereke. Since these carpets were woven only for the palace, using these patterns and these carpets elsewhere are prohibited.

Large-scale carpets, fabrics used for armchairs, and curtains in the famous Beylerbeyi Palace were woven in this factory. Furthermore, thirteen rooms and a sofa in the Ciragan Palace were furnished with Hereke fabrics and carpets.  

The Development of The Hereke Carpets

The German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II, who visited Hereke in 1894, provided great amount of help to develope the technology used in the weaving of carpets with the chemical dyes he brought with him. The pavilion where Kaizer stayed at that time is still preserved as a museum.

After establishing the Republic in Turkey in 1923, luxury carpet production was seen as an extravagance, and Hereke carpet production was neglected until the 1950s. In the 1950s, Hereke carpet weaving gained value again as an art form with the contributions of master weavers. As a result, completely hand-woven carpets are accepted today for their craftsmanship and artistic value.

After establishing the Republic, the factory was transferred to the Ministry of Finance in 1925 and Sumerbank in 1933. In 1995, during the privatization of Sumerbank, it was transferred to the National Palaces Department of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. However, the factory continues to produce carpets and fabrics in a museum factory under the National Palaces of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.

The Common Materials Used in Hereke Carpets

Hereke carpets, woven from pure Silk or wool on cotton warp, are woven with Bursa silk. The highest quality fleece is used on cotton warps and wefts in the pattern loops of Hereke wool carpets, some of which have an average of 100 knots per square centimeter, and some of them exceed 400. They are 100% handmade unique quality carpets that last for years and are woven in knots. 

Hereke carpets are woven only with an extremely strong and durable Gordes (Turkish) knot type, also called a double knot. First, the width of the carpet is multiplied by its length (in centimeters), then by the average number of knots per square centimeter. There are one million knots in a Hereke silk carpet, which has an area of ​​1 square meter and an average of 100 knots per square centimeter. A master weaver weaves a Hereke carpet consisting of 1 million knots on average a year. 

The main tools used in the weaving of Hereke carpets are;

  • the loom, which is a small knife used to cut the knots 
  • special scissors (kirkit scissors), which are used to trim the knot row
  • an iron brush

Hereke carpets should be cleaned by professionals every 10-15 years, depending on the conditions.

The Common Motifs and Patterns Found in Hereke Carpets

At the time, the palace authorities started looking for weavers all over the Ottoman Empire for the carpets made from pure Silk or wool on a cotton warp for the Hereke Carpets of the Palaces.  Talented designers, tilemakers, and weavers were invited to the palace and these aesthetic masters of the period designed beautiful motifs with intense work. Therefore, in Hereke carpets, it is possible to find motifs showing the characteristics of the Ottoman society, which embraced nature in every branch of its art. The infinity theme coming from our Sufi culture, as in our other traditional arts, is also portrayed most of the time. The patterns are placed on the carpet from the border as if coming from infinity and disappear again from the other edge as if they are going to infinity. 

Moreover, we can see more than two hundred floral motifs, including tulips, hyacinths, almonds, and flower bouquets. These motifs come together to create unique patterns. You can feel a floral softness in every touch of Hereke carpets, which have turned into a riot of flowers. 

  • Carpets with Medallions (With Cores)

Medallion compositions were applied in most of the Hereke carpets in the palaces. A medallion composition is obtained when one-fourth of the pattern is alternately brought across in width and length. Gordes knotted, large-scale rugs, which are the first examples of the Hereke Factory, fall into this group.

  • Semi-Symmetric Patterned Carpets 

This group of carpets consists of small-sized rugs with a semi-symmetrical compositional arrangement on the vertical axis. This composition scheme was generally applied to prayer rugs and small-sized carpets. Carpets with mihrab compositions are also called "Topkapi prayer rugs." In the mihrab composition, which is usually used in prayer rug size, the mihrab line on the floor is designed symmetrically. On the mihrab bases, medallions, thin curved branches, Rumi, and vase motifs are seen. 

  • Unit Patterned Carpets 

Unit patterned compositions are formed by placing motifs side by side and on top of each other with symmetrical transformations. 

  • Patterned Carpets with Paths 

In this type of carpet, the base consists of paths of various widths and colors perpendicular to the carpet. The paths are generally decorated with stylized vegetal decorations. In these carpets, the size is adjusted according to the size of the place that it will be laid. Therefore, the geometric-patterned composition was not applied as much as the other patterns. In one of the carpets in this compositional order, the floor is divided into squares, and the other two are formed with medallion and lozenge motifs.

The Common Colors Used in Hereke Carpets

A vibrant color harmony as motif colors on these carpets, as red and dark blue, attract the eye at first glance. More than thirty colors are used in each carpet, such as; white, yellow, blue, pink, and orange. 

The Meanings of the Colors that are Used

Red is an intense color, stimulating vitality, giving physical courage, creating a visual effect, tension, and aggression. It is associated with the activation of the "fight or flight" instinct. 

Yellow - Creates a feeling of excitement, self-confidence, extroversion, friendliness, and creativity. 

Blue - It has a calming, concentration-increasing, mental relaxation power and soothing effect. It can also leave a cold and unemotional impact. When used in its dark tones or intensely, it creates a depressing and gloomy effect. On the other hand, when used in light tones or mixed with white, it creates a soothing and reassuring effect.

Orange – It gives the feeling of brightness and warmth of the sun. It has an intense activity effect. It creates an extroverted and life-enhancing meaning. 

Purple – It can create feelings of pessimism, regret, and cowardice and can be perceived as the power of power and spirituality. It is traditionally associated with nobility. However, it also points to intimacy and beauty.

Green – It creates feelings such as universal love, tranquility, renewal, reassurance, environmental awareness, balance, and peace.

Black – It evokes seriousness and solemnity. It is often an expression of grief, death, and darkness.

White - It is generally a symbol of purity and cleanliness. It means the truth and the trust.

Brown - Creates feelings such as seriousness, warmth, solidity. It appeals more to adults. However, it can also create melancholic feelings from time to time.

Pink - Expresses feelings of refinement, bliss, and pleasure. These are considered feminine feelings.

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