You might have heard of Oushak or Ushak rugs. These hand-crafted rugs are steeped in Turkish tradition, and the design borrows from Persian culture as well. Not only are they intricate and beautiful, with large-scale floral patterns and motifs, but they also bring a sense of calm and peace to the room. Oushak rugs are a prime example of blending rich history with modern design for a complete aesthetic look.
These Turkish rugs are named after their birthplace, namely a region called Oushak, located just south of Istanbul. Wanderers and nomads first started to craft these delicate rugs for their use. However, the demand for these rugs kept rising, and multitudes of rugs were made in Oushak between the 15th and 17th centuries.
However, the trend died down in the late 17th century, only to be picked up in the 19th. Unfortunately, artisans in Oushak had stopped producing these rugs, and other artists now made them in surrounding regions.
Quality is everything with these hand-knotted rugs. One of the unique things about these rugs was that the carpet weavers would harvest the wool themselves. They then used this fine wool to build the foundation for the rugs. The raw material was also converted into hand-spun wool, which would then be dyed using natural vegetable and plant dyes. Once this was finished, the wool was woven into making the designs for the carpets.
Oushak rugs are still produced with the finest hand-spun wool available around the world. The material comes from countries like Pakistan and New Zealand to ensure top-quality and feel.
Asides from wool and cotton foundations, Oushak rugs contain bits of silk and sometimes even metal threads, depending on the design.
Oushak rugs are made by incredibly skilled weavers who know traditional knot techniques as they’ve been passed down through history. The primary knot that goes into creating these rugs is called the Ghiordes knot. This is a loose knot compared to other styles, such as the traditional Turkish and Persian knots.
When buying an Oushak rug, keep in mind that density is vital. You must have a cursory understanding of the knot style that goes into these rugs. If you feel like the rug feels light or flimsy, this means the knots are loose. This will also make the rug weaker and less durable, meaning it will disintegrate over time. Strong Oushak rugs are made when the knots are ‘packed down’ with a tool that looks like a comb. This ensures that the hand-knotted carpet stays solid and resistant to wear and tear.
You can easily recognize an Oushak carpet. Most of them feature dark ivory or light gold background with florals and sharp shapes in the foreground. The colors used in these rugs ranged from smoky saffron, glowing terracotta, deep blues, vivid apricots to rich cinnamon and extracted from natural vegetable dyes. The wool itself looks silky, smooth and gives off a certain luminosity.
However, some commercially-produced Oushak rugs have been spotted in recent times. These vary from the original masterpieces. These imitation Oushaks have reddish backgrounds and blue fields with generic floral patterns. Here’s how to know whether you’re getting your hands on a genuine Oushak rug:
- It will feel dense and heavy, meaning it has been hand-knotted with a large number of knots
- Ask about the dye. If it has been dyed using natural dye or a vegetable dye, that’s the one you should get. Chemically dyed rugs are less desirable
- Observe the design. Most Oushak rugs have recognizable floral patterns with smaller vines and medallions trailing to the sides. There are often geometric designs incorporated with the floral, indicating the marriage between tradition and modernism
- If you’re buying the rug from a well-known carpet dealer, you will be allowed to take it to your home and try it out. If it looks good in the space and you feel like it’s adding a touch of tradition and luxury, you should purchase it.