Sometimes in life we need to take the time to pause, reflect and consider what has come before to enable us to move forward.
Craftsmanship is a familiar concept, but in a fast-paced world of quick fixes, the essence of the word can be lost to instant solutions and mass-produced goods.
Transcending cultures, the idea of the craftsman has always been to use what we have around us to make life better and more beautiful. The craftsman's role was to learn, practice, refine and then pass on their skill.
As well as fulfilling a practical need, the work of the craftsman's hands would adorn homes. Often inspired by nature; colours, intricate details and patterns were used to create designs that had significance to them and their identity as a community.
Over time much skill and knowledge has been lost and beautifully crafted goods loose out to lower quality, cheaper alternatives.
Thankfully there are signs that things are changing. People are becoming more informed and a consciousness to the way business is done is returning. We give thanks to the campaigners, journalists and businesses that came before us and we hope we can join them and others to move towards beauty, sustainability, and real craftsmanship.
Murat has an unique story of learning the art of weaving. Following Turkish tradition, he should have learned the art from his mother whose responsibility it was to weave for the household and pass the knowledge onto her children. However, like many other Turkish mothers during the 1970s and 80s, Murat's mother gave up her loom before he could start his weaving education. Fortunately, his father, who was a loom repairman, started bringing Murat on repair calls to commercial weaving workshops from about the age of 4. Murat got to know all the weavers, roll makers and other workshop workers. Although he showed no interest in repairing looms like his father, he was totally intrigued by the master weavers and their work.
Around his 6th birthday, all the weavers had became very fond of little Murat and they built him a mini loom. After school, he would run over to the workshop, sit at his little loom and the workers on their breaks would help him learn the basics. Once in a while, his mother would visit the workshops and spend time teaching him as well.
By the time he was 18, he was an accomplished weaver. He was offered an apprenticeship by the largest of the workshops in his village. It was also the workshop that did most of his mentoring. He learned and saved for 10 years, then bought 2 of his own looms, which he set up at his parents' home. Together with one employee Murat would weave and Murat's mother would tie the fringes and wash the finished woven fabric.
It was Murat's dream to set up a large workshop of his own, but the decline in weaving was making it difficult to grow. He was unable to move out from his parent's home and fulfill his dream. In 2008, he had to let go of his one worker, but continued to persevere. By summer 2009, Murat was one of only 9 people who had looms in the country and was still trying to seek out a living. He was discouraged, disheartened and running out of money. His brother-in-law and sister who owned a big workshop of small factory machines were trying to convince him to leave his art and move to the factory world.
Today, Murat runs small workshops in the surrounding area of his birth village; he has over 150 looms running and has brought many weavers who went bankrupt back to the loom.
İsmet was born into a long line of family weavers. By the age of 5, he was sitting next to his mother learning about fibres and how to fix problems and practicing how to pull the beader bar to get perfect tension. By the age of 9, he was helping to thread the loom and with lifts attached, he could just reach the pedals of the look and started practicing how to weave.
When he was 15, his mother, like a lot of female weavers of the time, got rid of her loom at home, so after school he would go to his father's workshops and continue his learning. İsmet became an excellent weaver and in time he proved himself capable of assisting his father in managing the workshops. Eventually he took over running of the workshops after his father died in 2001. Weaving was already in severe decline, and he had to eventually shut down several workshops and many weavers were let go. He managed to keep his father's original workshop running, but each year, as orders decreased so did the number of working looms.
By the summer of 2009, he only had 4 looms going and he was depressed, despondent and feeling a sense of absolute despair, loss and failure. Today İsmet manages hundreds of looms and weavers because sustainable businesses like Arc Lore are supporting the craft by creating demand for these traditional woven pieces with a stylish and modern twist.