A feltshop in Tire
Ethem Tıpırdık works as a weaver in Tire, a small historic town inland from Selçuk. But Tıpırdık is no ordinary weaver.
Instead he sits at a loom whose superstructure looks rather like the rigging of a sailing ship. For he is the last man still weaving the gorgeous silk cloth known as beledi dokuma for which this area was once famous in the days when it was used to make undershirts for the Janissaries, and when thousands of men and women worked on looms set up in their own homes.
Tıpırdık shows me how he works his extraordinary loom with 24 shuttles and 13 pedals. But it’s a tough job. “I can only survive because of belediye (municipality) support,” he tells me. “In a day I can produce three meters of cloth. Factories can produce thousands of meters.”
It’s the age-old story in which speed and cost-cutting sweep aside everything in their path. But Tire’s craftsmen and women can be proud of the way they are fighting back. Tıpırdık works alone in a newly restored building that started life as a medieval hamam (Turkish bath), but down the road there is a cluster of shops in which the fine art of felt-making also lives on. The men working here are happy to show off their skills to visitors, and seem to have found a way to continue turning out the old and traditional (thick felt floor mats and seat covers) while also pushing the envelope with modern designs such as shawls so fine it’s hard to credit that they’ve been made from such a workaday material. I visit Arif Con’s felt shop at least once a year to stock up on what are surely the warmest and most comfortable slippers in Turkey......