Recently I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Izmir, Turkey at the Antique Textile Conservation’s workshop. We reviewed textiles we had sent them to work on. That visit was followed by two weeks of touring with a group of American rug cleaners. It was a memorable trip.
As a foreign visitor it becomes apparent that widely held assumptions about Turkey are not supported by the reality of this place and first-hand experience. The country is safe and the people you meet are dignified and generous in an outgoing and very friendly manner. As a tourist, each day brought a wealth of good experiences.
Visiting ATC (Antique Textile Conservation) is always a pleasure. Established in the early 1990’s as a joint venture with Woven Legends, the company continues to do the best textile restoration work available anywhere. The scope of their expertise is surprising and encompasses such areas as European tapestries, world class pile carpets, Navajo and Spanish textiles of the American Southwest, and much more. Their discipline and passion is an inspiration.
I traveled with a group of American rug cleaners who were all members of ARCS, the Association of Rug Care Specialists. We followed a tight schedule of historic sights interspersed with a range of rug industry visits. We visited weaving workshops, carpet dealers, rug washers, markets for buying rugs, wool processing facilities, repair men, and more. Meeting our Turkish colleagues in the industry was a pleasure for all involved and we learned a lot.
Compared to many of its neighbors, Turkey is prosperous and stable. If US politics seem complicated, just go to dinner with some Turkish friends and see what you think then. The current government was elected on a populist platform in the early 1990’s. The party in power has taken steps to consolidate control that include re-writing the terms of guaranteed freedoms in their constitution. My friends there are worried. Turkey’s president has been quoted as saying “democracy is like a train, once you get there it’s time to get off”. He shows no sign of stepping down. Judges, university professors, newsmen, and many others have been locked up on pretext. People talk about their children living abroad and worry about the future. On the other hand, this man in power showed promise when first elected and is still revered by many. As one of my Turkish friends put it, “the village people pray to him.” In Turkey today there exists a political polarization that far exceeds the situation in our own country. Day-to-day life on the street seems fine despite brutally high inflation and unemployment rates. Life simply goes on.
It was a privilege to sit with friends and hear their stories.
The following are some pictures to share from our adventure.