Posted by R. John Howe on 05-29-2007 06:18 AM:

A Bow to DOBAG

Dear folks -

As one goes down the Agean coast of Turkey, one encounters the town of Ezine. Ezine is of interest at that point, primarily, because the guide books warn that there are no ATMs in Assos further on.

Going out of Ezine, toward Ayvacik, one is reminded that the outlet for the DOBAG project is close by and we found it without difficulty.

The building is right off the road with a large parking lot and a restaurant downstairs. We ate lunch, I drank my first Efe beer (not bad), and we climbed the stairs to a large display room above.

The room is open with a kind of stage area on the far end. There is a demonstration loom (with a working weaver) set up on one side on the near end. Rugs are laid out on the floor and the stage and one walks between them examing the project's work which is for sale.

I liked, but didn't photograph, a rug, perhaps 3 X 5, but we didn't know how we would get it home in our luggage. So instead we made our bow to DOBAG by buying two simple, inexpensive bags with good color.

Here is the front of the first one:

Its back:

The front of the second:

Its back:

It is hard to exaggerate how influential Harald Bohmer's work with the DOBAG project has been in getting natural dyes used more frequently in rug weaving today.


R. John Howe

Posted by Marty Grove on 05-29-2007 08:53 AM:


G'day John and all,

We can see the sometime roadway aging process is an especially quick way to take off the rawness from new weavings but seriously, these beaut bags, their natural colours glorious in a drab environment, brightening ones demenour is their obvious intent.

DOBAG's are for the wide world, and it might be unlikely they would be used in a carrying capacity in the West. With their gentle fading over the years on the wall or chest, eventually they will approximate the condition we especially like.

I especially liked the orange dominant bag, to me it has a mellow whole and a comfortable design which wouldnt be difficult to live with. Both are interesting examples of how individual natural hues can be - Im sure each dyer attempts to make a difference, which the weaver responds to.

They wouldnt look new like that after a while with me John, they would just definitely need being used...


Posted by Ivan Sønderholm on 05-29-2007 01:12 PM:

Hi John

I visited the DOBAG Cooperative in Ayvacik in 2005.

Here is a photo of one of their rugs:

Best regards
Ivan Sønderholm

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 05-30-2007 07:31 PM:

Hi John,

This will probably sound funny coming from me, but actually, I find those bags particularly unattractive. To summarize:

They are so incredibly garish that, had you not told anyone, my bet would be that the "old" gang would be carping loudly about bad synthetic jobs. I feel a little better knowing that vegetal dyes and synthetics aren't always that hard to tell apart. Where is Michael when I need him ?

Can't say I think very much of the piece that Ivan shows us either; the stiff design and that dreary combination of red & blue looks like Soviet era goods from Azerbaijian

Sorry; I do like several of your other finds !

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by R. John Howe on 05-30-2007 07:43 PM:

Hi Chuck -

Turkish rugs naturally dyed are not to everyone's taste. Often Turk weavers choose color combinations that are, how shall we say it, surprising at least. Someone said to me once that some Turkish color combinations are something of an "acquired taste."

And these pieces don't claim to be anything really, excepting an illustration of what can be done with natural dyes. We see them as give away items for an appropriate occasion.

I found the colors in them, face-to-wool, not at all offputting, but would not press approval on anyone having a different experience.

As I said to someone (I think off board) it's to a degree the sort of thing that results in our all not being attracted to the same woman (or man). And is that person ever glad.

Thanks for your frank thoughts. We need to reach beyond good middle class manners in these conversations.


R. John Howe

Posted by Chuck Wagner on 05-31-2007 08:57 PM:

Hi John,

Well, as you know (remember the thread on ORANGE ?), I'm not one to shrink from synthetic dyes if I like the overall appearance of the piece. I do tend to stay away from excessive saturation, but we do have one or two pretty intense pieces (our Moroccan cape comes to mind...).

Thinking about it a little more, I think what puts me off more than anything else is the uniformity of the colors and the strong saturation. They're indicative of a well run vegetal dye production shop, with good temperature control and a high level of consistency in the dye preparation and the dyeing process. Not what we tend to seek in the rustic pieces - no obvious abrash - and on the screen, the colors look a little opaque.

So, hopefully, no offense taken. They're interesting in their own right.

Chuck Wagner

Chuck Wagner

Posted by James Blanchard on 05-31-2007 09:47 PM:

Hi all,

I don't mean to be critical of any of these pieces per se, but more than the strong orange and lack of abrash mentioned by Chuck, I find the extensive use of light blue to be jarring. Is this just because I am more acquainted with the palette of the Turkoman, Baluch and S. Persian weaving groups? In any case, I think that all of these weavings would benefit from more use of a strong, deep indigo.

This brings to mind another issue...

I was under the impression that the DOBAG project used traditional designs and colours, and yet even discounting the fact that they are new, they don't look very "traditional" to me in terms of palette and/or design. Is this because I am not familiar with the range of "traditional" colours and designs on Turkish weavings?


Posted by R. John Howe on 05-31-2007 11:09 PM:

James -

I do think that the DOBAG cooperative does generally weave traditional Anatolian designs in natural colors (I don't know how closely weavers are encouraged to follow traditional color usages).

Here is a link to the site one California dealer who is involved in the DOBAG effort. He provides some description of the character of the project.

It is my understanding that pile rugs produced under the cooperative must be submitted to a quality control board and approved before it can be sold as a DOBAG rug. There used to be (perhaps still is) a leather label attached to each approved DOBAG piece attesting to this approval.

These simple little flatweaves did not have such labels attached. I don't think they are serious DOBAG products, only inexpensive weavings that exhibit natural dye colors. I don't know whether the designs on them are traditional, but they may well be.

There may be others here with more experience with, and knowledge of DOBAG than I.

I am surprised a bit at the seeming intensity of the reaction to them. I saw them as pleasantly inoffensive. We may need to consider more carefully who we give them to.


R. John Howe

Posted by James Blanchard on 06-01-2007 01:08 AM:

Hi John -

If you found my reaction intensely negative, then I miscommunicated. However, I think this does raise a somewhat broader issue about various projects which are trying to "recapture the past" with traditional designs and natural dyes. Many seem not to be able to adequately capture the essence and dynamism of the old weavings. Is this because they need to age a bit, or because they have not used colour combinations effectively, or didn't appreciate the importance of various forms of abrash? Whatever the case, I find that some of these modern "traditional" producers leave me underwhelmed.


Posted by R. John Howe on 06-01-2007 09:47 AM:

Hi James -

I think it is true that often newer pieces do not, as you say, "capture the spirit and dynamism" of some older material, but again, these two modest little bags are not, to my mind an appropriate arena for that test.

I own a contemporary Ersari carpet that has a mina khani design. I actually had a hand in its creation, because I asked for the most saturated red they could manage and a particular dark ground border that I especially liked.

Closer image

I have recently shown this piece side by side with a 19th century Yomut main carpet that I also own...


...and got offers to buy (yes) the Ersari.

I've said this before but, have you noticed that we collectors often seem a little inconsistent about our stated color preferences?

Folks will ooh and and aah over the deeply saturated colors of some 15th century Turkish piece, or something 19th century woven by Turkmen, but then will also complain that colors are "too bright" and lack the nice mild shades of many seasoned naturally dyed pieces.


R. John Howe

Posted by James Blanchard on 06-01-2007 11:28 AM:

Hi John,

I think your new Ersari is attractive too, and I am not surprised that some might prefer it to the Yomut. I have more people remark on a modern Khal Mohammadi or Afghan than a really nice old Shirvan or Ersari.

I think you are right that it is not just the intensity or saturation of the colours, but there is something else that seems evident for those who like the natural colours of old weavings. My wife calls it a "je ne sais quoi" quality, and a rug must have it before it is elevated to a desirable status for her. I think many of us know what she means.

With regard to some old rugs, I think we have to admit that collectors like them because they are "collectible", not necessarily because they are stunningly attractive. I have hummed and hawed about an antique Arabatchi main carpet with excellent wool and pink and blue silk highlights, classic drawing (13 x 5 tauk nuska guls) and colours, and in great shape. I know it is probably highly collectible and at a seemingly good price, but I can't seem to get over the fact that it doesn't really appeal to me aesthetically enough to purchase. Maybe I just haven't progressed fully into the collector category.


Posted by R. John Howe on 06-01-2007 11:38 AM:

James -

Oh no. There are lots of ugly old rugs.

Likely most of them made in any given era were.

Some feel that "old" makes it more likely that a rug we encounter now will be "better" because a kind of winnowing process has gone on and the better old material has been retained more frequently.


R. John Howe

Posted by James Blanchard on 06-01-2007 12:15 PM:

Hi John,

I kind of like the "winnowing" theory that the small percentage of rugs that were preserved for over a century might represent the more attractive ones. Could that explain why so few Arabatchi rugs were preserved???


Posted by Steve Price on 06-01-2007 12:29 PM:

Hi James

Maybe. But the alternative, that not many were made to begin with, probably figures into the equation as well.


Steve Price