Textiles in Turkey and beyond

This folder is an over-view of my experiences and practice.

Beginning with Felt-making in Tire, Izmir Province, Turkey, at Ahmet Zincircioglu’s Workshop.

The border patterns on these felts are the typical style of the towns felt makers. All the colours and shapes are from my own artwork. They are shapes and forms from my paintings of carpet and kilim stacks. The technique is called ‘Nakaşik’ [cut with scissors] where the pre-felted wool does not have soap agent in at the early stage. It is cut with scissors [makas] and arranged in its compositional place, face down on the ‘kalip’, or mat. The cut shapes add a strong sense of geometry and sharpness to the design. The soft fleece colours are laid over the design, soap is applied as the layers are built up to 30cm. The soap is the agent that causes the felting process to begin, with friction, and protein in the base material.  The mat is rolled up, tied and placed in the fulling machine. Felting by hand is not practiced in Tire.  I have only seen hand rolling in the Eastern provinces. The felting process takes time and skill, and is quite complex in its nature.

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The flat felts were all made in a week. The folded felt took 3 days to make and 3 weeks to embroider with ‘chain stitch’, a new skill for me to learn. The Saddle-makers embroider all their work.

Weaving Watercolours:

Drawing and painting in watercolour was my main concern during my early travels in Turkey. I became interested in the archeological sites and made paintings based on my studies made in-situ.

I had no idea of the changes to my practice that would follow by the experience of being in Turkey. My first exhibition of drawings and watercolours was in Ephesus Museum, Selçuk, Izmir, a major museum in western Turkey.  I visited different  parts of south western Turkey to gather more work for the show.

It was on this visit that I discovered ‘craft’ as a subject for my work. By chance

I found many interesting workshops making all sorts of products, in fibre, felt, kilim weaving, rope, fabric, metal – copper and iron, and so on.  I began to work from these subjects with no other plan in mind. Weaving and felt making became a central interest. I liked the environments, materials and technology and seeing the textile craftsmen and women at work.

I taught drawing for years in the Textiles Department at Farnham College of Art so was familiar with the process, material and methods I saw. But here in Turkey it was so traditional, even historical, hand-made looms, etc, everything made or inventively adapted by the craftworkers. The workshops were quite impoverished with earth floors, etc but the work was stunning. So began my interest in the Turkish textile arts.


[Above]   ‘Weaving Antalya’  Watercolour on paper

This is the first picture where I included some of their actual weave patterns into the composition and began painting them as though ‘woven’.  The edge format tells of its origins by the people of the south western region.


[Above]   ‘The Ambassadors’ Wives’ [Ayvacik]  Watercolour on paper

Ayvacik is believed to be the original location for the rug shown in Holbien’s painting of the ‘Ambassadors’.  Weaving without a ‘cartoon’ I asked how they knew the design? She replied, it is in my memory!  Hence you can see the feint patterns in the background; yet to be woven. Their colours are Indigo, Camomile, and Madder. 


[Above]   ‘Beledi Weaver’   Watercolour on paper

Saim Bayli is a ‘Beledi Weaver’ and very famous in the area. We call it ‘Damask’, a double  weave cloth. The warp laid across the floor, up the wall and over the ceiling to create greater length. He sits in a hole in the floor to be at the correct weaving height. He made the shuttles from Tortoise shell. The loom is Silver Birch wood with the bark still on it! He hand spins, dyes and makes all his own materials. A remarkable man, now retired.

Below:   More finished watercolour paintings based on weave and all things woven.


[Above]   ‘Woven in Shadows’    Watercolour on paper


[Above]   ‘Kaleidoscope Kilim’    Watercolour and Holographic Foil on Gesso on paper


[Above]   ‘Woven Intervals: Objects & Spaces’     Watercolour on paper

Drawing in Books:

Drawing in books when travelling is a habit for me.  I carry an A6 size, [postcard size] drawing book at all times.   Normally I have several pens, a bottle of Sepia Ink, Watercolour Paints and Pencils.  Everything is neatly packaged to take up the least amount of space.  Inspired by what I see, I begin to work.  After drawing from the source material the study normally tells me if I should begin to think about a bigger version and developing the image towards a painting or other idea. This usually requires an A3 Drawing and another visit to the site.

As is the case for the study below; this was the experience. The drawing on this page is postcard size  at A6.  I always make notes on the drawing as an aide to the thinking and possible developments.  I support every study with photographs. Everything is drawn ‘sight-sized’.


[Above]  Saim Bayli in his indoor workshop weaving ‘Beledi’ cloth.

Original sketchbook study, Ink and Colour Pencil A6 [postcard size] Notes and Photographs support the concept.


[Above]  Saim Bayli’s balcony  with Loom and Spinning equipment. 

Kilim Paintings: The Beginning


[Above]  ‘Kuşadasi Kilim Stack’    Watercolour & Gouache on paper

Original study and painting that led to all the other ‘stack’ images. The random arrangement has kilims from every province in Turkey. All made in different techniques and pattern and colour formats


[Above]  ‘Krazy Kilimz’    Watercolour on paper

(Available as a signed Limited Edition Reproduction 608mm X 444mm.  Contact the Artist)


[Above]  ‘Bejewelled Kilimz’    Watercolour & Holographic Foil  & Enamel on Gesso on paper

The stacked notion gradually takes on the appearance of a single kilim and became the composition for my first commissioned artwork.

Making Kilims: by Commission


[Above]  ‘Eşme Kilimz’     All Wool, natural Dye-stuff, Indigo, Camomile, Madder.  Woven in or near Konya, Turkey. We can see the Tire felt style transposed to the kilim design.  The weaver added her own things to the design including the ‘Wheat Ear’ [lower right] as a gift and to wish good health to me.


[Above]  ‘Krazy Kilimz Kilim’     All Wool, Natural Dye-stuff, Indigo, Camomile, Madder.           I learned from this weaving that the design comes out back-to-front!  Its wobbly shape gave rise to much criticism. I liked the transposition as it is so bold.


[Above]  ‘Kasmiri Kilimz’    Crewel Embroidery.  Made in Kashmir, India.

Hand-embroidered Crewel-work, All Wool, natural dye-stuff, hand dyed to match my full size coloured cartoon based on wool samples taken from a ‘Yun Kütüphanesi’, [a Wool Library], in Milas, Turkey. A nice example of the Indian craftworkers trying to emulate my paint strokes.  I like the concept of the Turkish / Indian cross-over.


InIndia:  The title of an exhibition of work made during a trip to India.  Being in India was quite a visual experience. I have made many works using the things I drew and studied there. I saw Ikat Weaving for the first time, visited paper making workshops, Foundries, and Stone Carving workshops in a Madras Sculpture School. But it was the architecture in Tamil Nadu south India, and colour of the local buildings and the textiles people wore which stays in my mind. The design of Typography, Street Art, all added to the visual noise. 

Below are some sample artworks that followed the visit.


[Above]   ‘Gopuram Tower’   Watercolour & Gouache on paper


[Above]   ‘Gopuram Text Tower’   Watercolour and Holographic Foil on Gesso on paper


[Above]   ‘Tanjore Tapestry’   Watercolour and Holographic Foil on Gesso on paper

More to Follow!