7 Şubat 2014 Cuma

Turkish Felt Art

The history of felt is far older than weaving, going back to the Uighur period in Central Asia and to the Hittites in Anatolia. Relief carvings found at the Hittite cities of Bogazköy and Yazilikaya depict people wearing felt caps and clothes, and fragments of felt dating from the 4th or 5th century BC was discovered at Pazirik in Central Asia, showing that the ancient Turks had also known how to make felt. On the evidence of findings in tombs archaeologists know that felt played an important part in the lives of the Scythians, Sarmatians and Malkars of Karaçay.
The Türkmens traditionally lived in tents made of white and black felt symbolizing wealth and poverty, and the Kazakhs lived in felt tents known as kiyiz üy. Felt is variously known throughout the region as kidhiz, kidiz, kiz, kiiz and kiyiz. Felt making was widespread among the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks, and these craftsmen played an important role in the mystic trade organizations known as ahi. The uncle of the famous 13th century mystic Haci Bektas Veli was Keçeci Baba (Father of the Felt Makers), who lived in the village of Keçeci in the district of Erbaa in Tokat. Although felt is mainly made by machine today, some continues to be made by hand in parts of Turkey. .

The last remaining felt makers are to be found in such Turkish provinces as Afyon, Sanliurfa, Konya, Balikesir, Izmir, Kars and Erzurum. One of their most interesting products is the stiff felt cloak known as kepenek worn by shepherds. These distinctive garments protect the wearer from heat in summer and from cold and wet in winter. Indoors, plain felt blankets made of white wool are spread over cushions for sitting on in winter, and felt mats are laid over both seats and beds. Colourfully embroidered felt saddle cloths are spread beneath horses saddles to soak up the sweat. Felt was once an indispensable part of daily life, also used to make saddle bags, shoes, headgear, mats, prayer rugs, and many other garments and household objects in various colors. In the eastern province of Agri you can still see men wearing the traditional kullik, a conical brown or white felt cap made from lamb’s wool. .


Felt is the new favorite of the designing world. A natural, warm material, it is the plainest form of wool, and for the past few years it has been presented in the trendy salons of European design fairs in a multitude of forms extending from decoration to jewelry. In all of them the feel is familiar, but the colors are now much bolder and more energetic. Felt originated in Central Asia and came to Anatolia in the 3rd century when some Turks migrated westward. As the years went by it became part of the Anatolian way of life, in the nomadic floor cloths and yurts and in the distinctive cloaks worn by shepherds.

But during the past year an exhibition of the material was held at Topkapi Palace by Selcuk Gurisik, a designer in love with felt. The idea behind the exhibition was to “achieve communication between the object and the spectator while changing his or her way of perceiving,” and it featured combinations of felt with silk, wool fibers and even denim, the felt sometimes taking on a new personality thanks to an Ottoman technique of cutting known as kaat’i. He is also the creator of the permanent felt exhibition in the British Museum.

Another designer who has lifted felt to new heights is Belkis Balpinar, who for years has devoted herself to Anatolian carpets and kilims. She first brought her felt work together last month at Galeri G-Art in an exhibition with the title ‘Relativistic Planes.’ Like Gurisik, Belkis Balpinar has worked with the venerable feltmaster Mehmet Girgic in developing her approach to this material. She draws her designs on the computer and then transfers them on a scale of one-to-one with the help of Fine Arts Academy graduates who work for the master, and she says of felt that it is a “perfect canvas for understanding and expressing oneself.”

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