After academia, a local proprietor turns to rugs
Visitors to Capitol Hill probably don’t expect to stumble upon wares from Nepal and Turkey in the middle of Washington, D.C. But that’s exactly what happens if you’re lucky enough to find Woven History & Silk Road, a conjoined rug and gift shop.
Mehmet Yalcin, proprietor of the shop, grew up in Turkey and came to D.C. years ago to study international communications at American University. He then went on to get his Ph.D. in Inner Asian and Altaic Studies from Harvard.
However, he came back to his childhood love of carpets after realizing there was more of a market in carpets than academics.
According to an article in Battle Creek Enquirer, most of the rugs in Yalcin’s shop are made by refugees, including Tibetans in Nepal and Afghanis in Pakistan. Woven History’s hope is to simultaneously help rekindle dying crafts and help refugees support themselves.
Yalcin told the Battle Creek Enquirer:
Each carpet has a character. They are like people, but, unlike people, they blend in. They respect each other’s character and personality.
Many of the rugs for sale are created at Woven History’s own looms. The wool used is hand-carded, hand-spun and hand-combed.
While Woven History specializes in rugs, the other side of the shop, called Silk Road, carries tribal and village arts. You’ll find jewelry, coats, shoes, dishware and more.
The Silk Road was a network of trade routes throughout eastern and western Asia, and stretched from the Mediterranean sea to Japan and the Korean peninsula. Not only were goods exchanged, but ideas, crafts and technologies were shared as well. Cities along the Silk Road network became hubs for learning and culture.
So it comes as no surprise that, though Yalcin runs the shop by day, he still pursues his academic interests. He lectures on Central Asia and has spoken about textiles at The Textile Museum.
The shop has been around since 1995, but Yalcin was selling items at the Eastern Market flea market since the 1980s. Now located in a row house, the mini-bazaar functions as a gathering place for locals.
Woven History has invited musicians from along the Silk Road route to perform concerts, and has also worked with D.C. institutions to organize art exhibits.
During working hours, the doors are flung open with carpets flanking the railings outside. A parade of llamas often stands guard by the front doors.
Not to be outdone by the llamas, Yalcin’s cat sometimes hangs out on the weekends, as well, welcoming visitors to come in and learn a bit about history. Or, at least, check out some beautiful rugs.