The DOBAG Story
Background
The story of how natural dyes came to be used again in carpet weaving in Turkey is a fascinating one.
Natural Dyed Wool - Turkey
Weaver with natural dyed wool

Antique nomadic carpets are famous for their beautiful, natural colours and powerful traditional designs. However during the last 100 years, synthetic dyes and other modern influences have displaced the traditional values and craft techniques.

Usually new carpets are endowed with ‘old patina’ by treating them with chlorine and caustic soda. Designs are changed to meet the whims of current fashion and the weavers are poorly paid.

During the 1970's Dr Harald Boehmer a young German chemist and teacher living and working in Istanbul became interested in Turkish carpets in the museums.

He was fascinated by the wonderful natural colours in the old carpets but found it impossible to find them in the new carpets being produced at that time.

Natural Dyed Wool - Turkey
Dr Harald Boehmer
He realised that with the disappearance of the knowledge of natural dyes, a craft and art form dating back thousands of years had been lost, and he decided he would like to do something about it.

His efforts resulted in the founding of the DOBAG project which revived the lost art and changed the face of carpet weaving forever.

In the process it brought prosperity to impoverished villagers and raised the status of women weavers.

 

The Project

DOBAG is a project for the revival of natural dyeing in certain areas of western Anatolia which have a long and unbroken weaving tradition.

Natural Dyed Wool - Turkey
Natural dyeing in Suleymankoy

DOBAG is an acronym and stands for “Dogal Boya Arastirma ve Gelistirme Projesi” – Natural Dye Research and Development Project.

The project was established in 1981 at the State School for Applied Fine Arts in Istanbul, where teacher and chemist Dr Harald Boehmer carried out his pioneering dye research.

In 1982, the school became the Faculty of Fine Arts of Marmara University, where the DOBAG committee is headed by the dean.

The results of Dr Boehmer’s chemical dye analyses carried out on old Turkish carpets from museums and the outcomes of his botanical research have been the bases for the revival of natural dyeing. It was in the reintroduction of home dyeing that Dr Boehmer saw the greatest potential for re-creating the rich spectrum of harmonious colours that existed in former times. The traditional designs have been traced through old carpets and flatweaves found in the mosques and homes of the weaving villages involved in the project.

Today, carpets of the original quality are once again being crafted in a traditional environment. The finest quality hand spun winter wool and natural dyes are used, producing warm radiant colours full of life and harmony.

 

Natural Dyed Wool - Turkey
Dr Serife Atlihan

Dr Serife Atlihan from Marmara University is in charge of quality control and all DOBAG carpets must meet the highest standards to be given the official leather guarantee tag from the University.

There are two co-operatives in the DOBAG project: one in the Ayvacik region of Canakkale province and the other in the Yuntdag region of Manisa province.

Both are self funding and owned and run by the weavers and their families. The co-operative in the Yuntdag is a women’s co-operative, the first in Turkey.

Making a DOBAG Rug

 

Natural Dyed Wool - Turkey
Weaver in her village home.

It takes a whole village to make a carpet and the process can take many months.

Although weaving is women’s work, the men of the village play an important role as shepherds, tending their small flocks each day to find suitable grazing.

In winter the shepherd wears a kepenek, a cape of white felted wool which is windproof, waterproof and doubles as a sleeping bag at night.

Read more about Making a DOBAG Rug.