Oushak rugs were first hand knotted centuries ago in what is now western Turkey. Antique Oushak (or Ushak) carpets were knotted with high end lustrous wool in subtle glowing colors in what used to be the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century. Their city of origin was called Usak. The designs were usually sizable floral shapes and patterns that seemed to expand from the center. Although the designs were inspired by neighboring Persian rugs, Oushak weavers avoided busy intricate florals of larger flora and geometric shapes. Desire for Oushak rugs spread beyond the Ottoman Empire during the renaissance when Europeans came to know and appreciate their beauty. Production of Oushak rugs expanded and demand for the carpets continued to spread.
Their subdued colors and spread out patterns has made them highly sought after by designers today. Contemporary high quality Oushak rugs that best evoke the luminous antique originals are mostly hand knotted in Pakistan, India, and Turkey. Moderate quality Oushak rugs are woven in Afghanistan and Egypt. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes and appeal to modern tastes because they seem to inspire serenity due to their consistent symmetry and quiet hues.
Material and Weave
Oushak rugs are sometimes simply called Turkish rugs because one defining feature is the Turkish knot. This knot, called the Ghiordes knot in Turkish, differs from the Persian (or Senneh) knot. The Persian knot is an asymmetrical double knot used in most Persian rugs, as well as many carpets handmade in India, Pakistan, China, and Afghanistan. This knot is made by weaving the yarn under one warp, then over and around the adjacent warp strand so that the two ends of the yarn are separated by one warp strand even though two warp strands are utilized. This particular knot allows for intricate details that are the hallmark of many Persian rugs.
Oushak rugs, with their larger scale designs, do not need the flexibility of the asymmetrical knot and use the other most widely used knot in hand knotted pile rugs. Weavers use the traditional symmetrical Turkish Ghiordes knot instead when creating Oushak carpets. In the Turkish knot, the piece of yarn is laid over two warp strands and its ends are pulled through the space between these two strands. This knot is highly secure and makes for a sturdy pile.
Lustrous high quality wool is essential for Oushak hand knotted rugs. Much of their appeal comes from the luminosity these rugs exude. Most producers of Oushak carpets insist on the highest quality wool to achieve this extraordinary texture. In fact, many of the most beautiful Oushak rugs are woven with handspun wool dyed with organic natural vegetable dyes. The foundation (or the warp) is almost always cotton for stability. Occasionally these rugs incorporate some silk or even metal threads.
Design and Color
The colors used in Oushak rugs are known for their muted, calming quality. Soft yellows, greens and blues dominate contemporary Oushak carpets, but the palette has a wide range. If the design and quality of Oushak rugs appeals, then almost any color can be found. A muted rustic red can be paired with a dusty rose with golden yellow features. Elegant light gray is often married with an array of blues, from a muted baby blue to details that are featured in navy blue luminous wool. Olive, sage, and avocado are some of the gorgeous muted greens, while the full spectrum from cream to beige to taupe to camel to chocolates grace many understated Oushak rug designs available today.
Expansive large scale florals and some geometric patterns are the most common designs that beautify Oushak carpets. Prayer rugs and rugs with symbolic images that depict natural elements signifying rebirth, faith, and eternity can also be found among Oushak rugs, especially the vintage Oushaks.
Oushak rugs are immensely popular today precisely because of their muted colors and large scale designs. This combination of color and design elements appeals to contemporary tastes. Many professional and amateur designers want a streamlined minimalist interior with a touch of warmth that does not overpower a room. Oushak rugs are perfect for bringing warmth, nature, and elegance that works harmoniously with this particular aesthetic.
A gorgeous Oushak rug works just as well in the living room as in the bedroom and can add a warm and cozy feel. But it can also work great in modern bright kitchens, hallways, foyers, and even bathrooms. The muted colors can also work beautifully in an office. Oushak carpets are rightly in high demand because they are so versatile and can not only work in any room, but can enhance many styles of interiors. Modern, transitional, and traditional decor can all be enhanced with the placement of an Oushak rug on the floor.
Painted Oushak Rugs
An interesting piece of history involving these rugs has to do with a particular type of Oushak known as the Lotto carpets that were depicted in renaissance paintings. Once these rugs were discovered and imported into Europe the were used to adorn palaces, churches, and grand homes. When these same places were depicted in paintings, sometimes so too were the Oushak rugs. That is one of the reasons the popularity of these so called Lotto or Holbein carpets exploded in the European market.
Lorenzo Lotto, an Italian painter of the High Renaissance movement and Hans Holbein the Younger, a German painter in the Northern Renaissance style both depicted Oushak rugs in some of their paintings. The images of these rugs within the paintings seemed to glow from within even when in the background. The painters used the rug images to depict the status of the owners of these rugs, but the paintings ultimately elevated the status of the rugs themselves as well. Hence, the popularity of these Turkish rugs grew in Europe.