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Chiprovtsi Carpets - Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
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History of Rug Weaving

Substantial share of the bulgarian national heritage aspects are famous in the world handmade bulgarian rugs and tapestries. They are a phenomenon in the bulgarian folk crafts emerged in ancient, flourishing during the Renaissance, there are today. Development of color ornaments and wealth are determined by the Bulgarian national life, customs, traditions, holidays.

Historical facts for the beginning of the rug manufactoring

The historical origin of the rugs and carpets is unknown. The materials used in producing them (wool, cotton, silk) are non-durable – only a few centuries. This makes it impossible to trace out their development through the centuries.

The oldest find of a carpet in good shape is found in 1947 by the Russian archeologist Rudenko. The carpet was placed in the grave of a Skit’s prince, in Pazuluk valley, mount Altai, south Siberia. This carpet is dated from 5 century BC.

All the historians, though, think that the carpet and rug making began in central Asia more than 8 thousand years ago. It is said to have been connected mostly with the nomadic culture of the tribes lived there. The carpets and rugs were used for covering the floor, the huts and tents, for inner barriers, for making horse’s saddles, bags and cradles for the children. In the beginning the carpets and rugs were created only to satisfy the necessity and elementary convenience. However, later as figures and motives appeared and the materials were coloured using herbs, the carpets and rugs started being looked with another eye. They have art style and their culture value raises. Moving in different directions and communicating with different tribes and cultures, the nomadic tribes spread the authentic technology for making such carpets in almost whole Asia – from Siberia to India.

Carpet and Rug weaving in the Bulgarian’s lands

As the short Bulgarian history we introduced you in our pages sais, we are heirs of a highly developed civilization that astonish with our high level of development, polity, culture, scientific achievements and influence extending thousands of kilometers , which inhabit the region of Central Asia along millennia not only used loom, but maybe created the rug weaving technique. This inheritance is brought to our lands with the creation of Bulgaria 681 – the first and oldest country in Europe.

Today’s Bulgarian lands had been since the prehistoric times the cradle of the European civilization. Here the looming exists from the middle neolith (VI-V millennium BC). In most of the excavated mounds and villages, are found weights made from clay ( used in primitive looming installations), spindles, looms. On the bottom of some vessels in Plovdiv’s and Sofia’s archeological museums, there are imprints of woven cloth with uniformly interweaved threads.

In the first centuries carpets and rugs were used for satisfying the family needs. The weaving knowledge and dexterity were passed on from mother to daughter, only in the family circle. It’s the weaver’s emotions, her longing for home coziness and her creative instinct, that have led to the rising of the carpets and rugs making to a work of art.

Rennaissance carpets and rugs present the richest study material, which reveals the exceptional variety of purpose, materials used, weaving techniques, patterns and colour. Such carpets and rugs have been preserved at museums, monasteries, churches and private collections across the country. Almost as many as these can be found in their natural place: in village and small-town homes, mainly as part of the dawries which have been preserved.

Detailed information about rug and carpet manufactoring in Bulgaria was left by the well-known traveler, historian and painter Felix Canits, who travelled across Bulgaria from 1858 to 1865. “...I found a very well developed home industry in Bulgaria”, he wrote. Belts, knives, various metal decorations, pottery and woodwork, cloth-cotton, silk and woolen-fabrics, carpets, laces and many other objects are made in countless villages and towns. What I liked best were Bulgarian carpets. The various tints and colours are arranged with mastery and elaboration...”.

Carpet and Rug Weaving In Chiprovtzi

Bacam Rug

The earliest sources of information about carpet and rug weaving in Chiprovtsi date back to the beginning of the 17th century. The early, constructionist period lasted until the end of the 18th century. It is characterized by smooth dense texture, geometric patterns and harmonious combinations of warm and cool natural tints: yellow or ochre, brown, blue and green. The first carpets were called bakkam carpets after the bakkam tree (Caesalpinia Sappan) from which red and black were obtained or “Garibalda” (an item of clothing). The main pattern of the bakkam carpet is the triangle. The colours are cold, light, carpet derived from natural tints. The Karakachanka pattern (‘the black-eyes bride’) is also associated with this period. It is believed to be a symbolic representation of the goddess of fertility. This kind of carpet was woven in two colour-combinations: red and black or red and black. The prototypes of the bakkam and karakachanka carpets appeared mutch earlier than the 17th century and developed as handicrafts at the time when the trade of Chiprovtsi goldsmiths prospered. These rugs have no analogue in the world.

The decorative period of the Chiprovtsi carpets lasted throughout the 19th century, to the Bulgarian Liberation in 1879. This is a period when the production of Chiprovtsi carpets thrived not only in terms of variety of patterns and colours, but also in terms of numbers of carpets produced.The social and economic changes in the Ottoman Empire had a positive effect on the carpet-weaving craft. The weavers borrowed from nature (trees, shrubs, stars, birds, animals and flowers) they turned them into stylized patterns and combined them into a harmonious whole. The red and black became the main colours, and the palette of yellow, brown, blue and green tinges was enriched with white and purple. The craft spread across the villages of Zhelezna, Martinovo, Kopilovtsi and Glavanovtsi. The Chiprovtsi school and the Pirot school borrowed themes and patterns from each other. The patterns most typical of that period are The Vine, The Wreaths, the Cart, the Tsvekets (the flowers), Bird Nests, the Columns, the Great Hooks, the Wings, the Feathers, the four eyes and many others. Only the second Ottoman Army used to buy 8 000 rugs per year for bedding and prayer. It was documented that 14 000 square metres were wolen in 1878.

The period from the Liberation to the present day is called ornamental period of the Chiprovtsi carpets. The creative expression of the weavers is influenced by the requirements of the merchants. The changes in lifestyle and the competition of imported carpets has required the use of larger palette and ornamental patterns. Chemical dyes have been introduced. Patterns from other countries have been used, too. This is a period of advancement the trade and Chiprovtsi carpets have won gold medals at the exhibitions in London, Brussels, Anvers, Liege and Plovdiv, and have entered the collections of most European museums. Made in this period are the patterns the Gipsy, the Suitcases, the Pendant, the Flower-Pots, the Caucasian (shepherd dog) and others.

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