Uşak, Ushak, Oushak carpets – all the variants refer to the category of Turkish rugs. In the past, Oushaks used to be classified as Anatolian rugs. Nowadays, due to broader knowledge about this type of carpets, they are no longer called this way. The word ‘Anatolian’ simply relates to a rug made in Turkey.
Just like in the case of Kerman, Mashhad or Malayer rugs, the name Oushak comes from the name of the city. Oushaks are popular and beloved around the world to such an extent that the word ‘Ushak’ is treated as the English one of Turkish origin.
Since the time of the Ottoman Empire, one of the largest towns in western Anatolia, Oushak, has been considered a leading center of rug production. By the 15th century, these carpets were manufactured by both factories and individual weavers near Oushak. The exact time of the beginning of Ushak carpet’s production is unknown, but it probably started between 11th and 15th century. While experts recognized plenty of Turkish Ushak carpets from the 15th-17th centuries, the period of the 18th and the early 19th centuries is quite vague. Supposedly they became more commercial that time, and as a consequence, their quality deteriorated. The fact that is also worth noting is that in the late 17th c., European consumers were more willing to buy rugs of European origin, which meant a downturn for Turkish weavers. However, by the end of the 19th c., Ushak rugs became fashionable again, being eagerly purchased by Europeans. Though a compromise was needed – the patterns and the whole design slightly changed in order to cater for European’s tastes.
What cannot be said about Oushak rugs is that they are of first-class quality, which does not in any way mean that they are less attractive and less frequently bought. Quite the contrary, they are actually chosen by plenty of top interior decorators. Despite the smaller number of knots in comparison with antique Persian carpets, antique Turkish rugs were produced in larger scale patterns. Moreover, Oushak rugs’ colors are highly remarkable – soft palette, stylish pastels, Mediterranean-inspired colors, cinnamons, terracotta tins, greens, saffron, ivory, gold and greys. The patterns in combination with the coloration result in outstandingly decorative carpets. Ushak rugs are known for their glossy wool, which is also the material for their foundation.
As for the design, famous star and medallion carpets are considered to have originated in Oushak. These are the most common patterns: rounded medallions on the background of brick red or dark blue and diagonal rows of star medallions interspersed with diamonds.
Years ago, there was a study conducted by anthropologists. They investigated the carpets of some of the mosques in Istanbul and what they found out is that the majority of those rugs came from the Oushak area. Plenty of carpets that had religious motifs on them were made in the 18th and 19th centuries for mosque worship.
Today, in the Oushak region, the hand-made carpet weaving is still flourishing, resulting in the production of beautifully decorative Turkish Ushak rugs.
Oushak ‘medallion’, early 16th c.