[...continued] I looked up and there were suddenly 10 more men in the room, assistants who had mysteriously emerged from the rolled up rugs like Children of the Corn. We seemed individually targeted—you take the short one, I’ll take the weak-looking one in the corner–by a sales team with the stealth and precision of a military unit. Smooth-skinned, soft-spoken and polite, they were a force to be reckoned with.
I had absolutely no intention of buying a rug. I strengthened my resolve and tried to avoid the guilty feelings of being a free-baklava-eater by asking
the assistant Cunning Mr. Foxypants who had just appeared at my side, to tell me more about rug history. In one rapid blur, he retrieved and rolled out several examples of 50-100 yr-old-rugs in pristine condition, whoosh-whoosh-whoosh, wouldn’t this or this be nice in your house? It soon became clear I was facing a more crafty opponent than I’d surmised. What did I expect, after all, in a region with a 5,000-yr history of merchant trade!?
I quickly adopted a three-pronged defense strategy (adding volume to the bold words for extra effectiveness): I’m poor; my house is SO small; my mother gave me two Turkish rugs last year. Somehow, I think the last prong undermined my parents’ strategy as they
defended themselves against enjoyed a lively discussion with their own Cunning Mr. Foxypants across the room, but whatever. At this point, it was every man for himself.
I observed with secret admiration these professionals who were capable of conveying in one dark-eyed glance,”So, you think this 100% silk rug with over 2,000 knots per sq. in., that took three women three years to weave, isn’t worth $5,000?”… Prices were reduced, more coffee was offered, guarantees were made. Meanwhile, I devolved into a puddle of babbling and ineffective no’s: my daughter doesn’t really need a dowry, I have bills to pay and college to plan for, plumbing to fix. Perhaps I should have been more direct.
Next thing I knew, I was downstairs signing a credit card slip. I cannot describe exactly how it happened, or why, really (I have every good reason not to buy a rug that costs roughly as much as a new computer or trip to Haiti or savings account), except that I’m an artist and have a soft spot for beautifully crafted art, and the makers of that art. And a long, bare hallway. The journey that had begun with the hospitable offer of baklava + Turkish coffee ended here:
Every day for the next 200+ years, I or my descendants–Inshallah–will enjoy walking on a tribal-made runner measuring 9′ x 2.5′, woven with a combination of tuft and embroidery techniques by a woman in the Misvani Village. Fifty years ago, this woman invested hundreds of hours of skill and her own life energy in the making of this rug for her daughter’s dowry. The rug was, in the end, not needed for that purpose. The wool used for my runner was shorn from a particular sheep grown only in the Misvani region, hand-spun and dyed with natural pigments. Rugs like mine are becoming more rare because they are so labor-intensive and the women who make them so few. Sorry I don’t have a picture of the rug–it was whooshed up and wrapped for free shipping to the US before I could finish saying ‘Do you take Discover?’[update: now you can see the rug here]
I was in good company: four of us left Caravansrais Carpet & Jewellry at 11 pm that night with rugs accompanied by “Guaranty Certificates” and a standing offer to buy back the rugs at any time for 25% more than we’d just paid. That’s how passionate Mr. Kaya is about his work and the work of Turkish women whose rugs he has spent a lifetime buying and selling, just like his father and grandfather before him.