Of tradition, contemporary expression and emotive hues–In conversation with Begüm Cana Özgür
There is a woven rug, that propels a diffusion of colors in all directions. From the rug's flat surface, an atmosphere of sorts is released–a quiet space, where only colors permeate and vibrate.
This immersive, experience belongs to the Shade Rugs designed by Istanbul-based designer Begüm Cana Özgür. These rugs were created by Kirkit Istanbul– a collaboration and initiative with Turkish weavers that is led by Özgür.
The concept of Kirkit Istanbul is engaging and extremely relevant to the design world today–"a fresh brand that re-interprets the ancient culture of weaving through a contemporary design approach.” At the root of this approach–as a Turkish designer– lies Özgür's inherent gravitation to weaving, which has been a tradition of nomadic Turkish Culture for thousands of years. She is drawn to, and inspired by the narrative of these weavings –"the utilitarian purposes of the weavings, the production methods, wool as the common material choice all tell the story of a humble, modest lifestyle, in tune with nature" Özgür says.
For the Shade Rugs, this gravitation led Özgür to collaborate with weavers from Anatolia; Working as a team, they adapted traditional Anatolian techniques and skills for weaving rugs, to create a unique texture and gradient of colors–enabling that effect, we first experienced, of color flowing in all directions. The rugs were flat-woven from wool, a familiar and common material, and were dyed with natural dyes.
For Leather Weaves, a collection of leather rugs, throws, and accessories by Kirkit Istanbul, on the other hand, the goal was to intersect a new materiality with traditional ways of weaving. Leather Weaves introduces leather to the process of weaving. The Leather is an expensive material, more often identified with luxury items, unlike wool, which is traditionally used by Turkish weavers. Özgür says "In a poetic manner, when compared to wool, leather weavings tell us a different story about today’s society, lifestyles and consumption habits. They highlight urban trends, materialistic expectations, and a high standard of living."
For these two collections of works, Özgür employs wool and leather–both in design and technique– in ways, they have not been used before, especially in the context of traditional Turkish weaving. The uncommon, simple and emotive quality of her works originates here–In the amalgamation of tradition, new ways of appropriating materials, and a simple but powerful set of visuals and colors.
About wool, Özgür says, "I am fascinated by both the physical and emotional qualities of wool; the richness of its use, the harmony it has with the earth and nature." To make the Shade Rugs, Özgür says, this earthy fascination with wool was paired with cues from nature–"The design takes inspiration from the tranquil moments in nature when colors create a strong emotional atmosphere in that quietness."
For the Leather Weaves, the luxurious texture of soft, interlaced leather is made functional and robust, by the addition of plain weaving at the back. Özgür shares how this was generated–"Beyond the semantics of the material (leather), the neatly crafted, surface design presents a high level of emotional quality. The woven leather layer is reinforced with a plain weave backing, woven at the same time with the front texture. The backing layer brings physical strength to the pleasing tactility, enabling the design to be applied on various products like jackets, handbags, valets as well as home décor items like rugs and throws. "
Özgür's one of a kind approach to textiles and tradition is owed to her roots as a designer in Turkey, as well as her time as a Masters student at the Cranbrook Academy of Arts, in Michigan. It was here that she discovered that she was less interested in objects as functional items but more as companions to life-experiences.
This way of looking at objects and design filters down to each of Özgür's works and collaborations with Turkish weavers as part of Kirkit Istanbul. Her methods are hands-on, and she often begins a series of works by playing with conventional materials and existing techniques to fully understand their potential to develop a new, contemporary expression then. Each piece we see has a hand-crafted, thoughtful quality, and marries tradition to a contemporary, future life.
The Shade Rugs and Leather Weaves are two collections of works that Özgür, and Kirkit Istanbul, will exhibit at the upcoming London Design Festival of 2016. As a member of the diverse and talented collective of designers Form&Seek, Begüm Cana Özgür will show Leather Weaves and the Shade Rugs at BOXPARK and the London Design Fair respectively.
Do look out for her work at the festival, and that of her talented colleagues at Form&Seek.
Also, for our readers, please find links to Begüm Cana Özgür's website and that of Kirkit Istanbul below!
Do continue to read on about their exceptional work!