The Rug Renaissance Part 2
By the 1950′s there simply were fewer new rugs to choose from than there had been in the past.
Many of those available to us showed unmistakable deterioration. Oddly, as weaving skills were lost, rug designs often seemed to become more elaborate, resulting in new examples that were crowded and confusing.
Materials in rugs suffered too, as the price of good wool rose after World War II and weavers substituted cheaper wool shorn from dead sheep.
The one bit of good news was that synthetic dyes had improved. By the 1950′s modern chrome dyes had nearly eliminated radical fading and bleeding, and the edginess of some early synthetic colors was no longer in evidence. But with this one exception, the quality of carpets overall fell from about 1925 into the 1980′s. Many Americans simply dropped out of the Oriental rug market and discovered the charms of wall-to-wall carpeting.
Natural Dyes Rediscovered
Then along came a German schoolteacher who changed the modern history of Oriental Rugs. Harold Bohmer, a chemistry professor, went to Turkey to teach in 1960, and while there he became interested in dyes he found in Turkish rugs and kilims. By the time his tenure expired in 1967, he was in love with rugs and with Turkey, and in 1974 signed another contract for seven years of working there. By then he was methodically analyzing the dyes in Turkish carpets, enabled by a new technique called thin layer chromatography. He was interested in natural dyes, and he endeavored to reconstruct exactly how they had been constitutes and prepared.
Faced with having to return to Germany when his contract ended, he conceived the idea of reviving the use of natural dyes among Turkish village rug weavers. He managed to get his idea funded and by 1981, had taught weavers around Turkey to produce rugs with natural dyes.