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The Textile Blog: Bosnian Carpet Weaving

Bosnian Carpet Weaving

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Illustration: Bosnian carpet weaving Sarajevo, 1910.
Traditional Bosnian rug and carpet designs can often be confused with those of Turkey, the reason being the strong connection between the two cultures. For four hundred years, Bosnia was a province and integral part of the Turkish Empire. All aspects of society including the traditional crafts of the region were influenced by the domination of Turkey over such a long period of time. However, as with all indigenous crafts, no matter if elements originated from outside the region, the core of the craft can still be attributed to the work of the local population.
Within Bosnia itself, Sarajevo and Mostar were big centres of rug weaving. However, many rural areas were also involved with weaving and many young girls were brought up learning the skills of rug weaving from an early age. A range of styles and sizes of rug and carpet from kilim to prayer rug were produced. Wool was the traditional material used in the region and all yarn colours were produced using natural dyes, therefore the design work was much subtler than perhaps we are used to today.

Illustration: Satellite map of Bosnia.
Because of Bosnia's traditional geographical and political position, for a long time well within the borders of the Turkish Empire, but within an easy cultural distance of Central Europe and the Austro-Hungarian Empire in particular, design work underwent an element of blending. While the main influence on Bosnian carpet pattern work remained Turkish, elements of Austrian and Hungarian decorative work did become part of the vocabulary of carpet weavers throughout the region.
By the end of the nineteenth century, the carpet weaving industry in Bosnia had declined significantly. However, with the Austro-Hungarian protectorate and then eventual incorporation within the empire, Bosnia became an Austro-Hungarian province. Vienna re-energised and re-organized the carpet weaving industry in Bosnia. New looms were introduced into the province by the government and a number of Bosnian women were sent to Vienna to be taught modern methods in carpet weaving and yarn dying.

Illustration: Traditional Bosnian hand woven carpet.
The introduction of chemical dying of yarn changed aspects of traditional Bosnian carpet design significantly. Colours became much brighter and more vibrant and therefore some of the traditional design work was altered in order to emphasise and accommodate the heightened colour tones. Interestingly there was a significant difference in colour appreciation between the towns and rural areas of Bosnia. Urban weavers tended to prefer a much more muted palette, whereas rural weavers seemed to prefer heightened colours, though this can only ever be a general observation.
There is still a carpet weaving tradition in Bosnia today. However, due to the Bosnian war of the 1990s a great deal of disruption was caused, with whole communities being uprooted or even exterminated. Many traditional craftspeople were scattered across the region with some escaping Europe altogether.

Illustration: Traditional Bosnian hand woven carpet.
There are now significant attempts to rebuild at least some aspects of Bosnian crafts, including carpet weaving which can be seen as central to the traditions of Bosnian craft skills. Organizations from the United Nations down to local groups and communities are trying to build up a network of the often wide ranging and scattered Bosnian craft community and to piece together the traditions of the area so that many may be revived or at least not entirely forgotten.
There are a number of Bosnian rug and carpet collections with a reputedly strong collection at the National Museum of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in Sarajevo. Unfortunately, the museum does not have a comprehensive gallery of its rug and carpet collection on its website. However, there are also a significant number of online sites, which sell a variety of Bosnian textile crafts including rugs and carpets. BHcrafts is a good site to visit in order to see how the traditions of Bosnia are being repackaged commercially and made available to a world market.

The Textile Blog: Bosnian Carpet Weaving: Illustration: Bosnian carpet weaving Sarajevo, 1910. Traditional Bosnian rug and carpet designs can often be confused with those of T...
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