A little bit of Eurasia in Capitol Hill

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.

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Instagram – Sign

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.

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Instagram – Rugs

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.

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Instagram – Silk Road

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.

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Instagram – Camels

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.

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Instagram – Llamas

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.

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The world has changed, but Yoko’s “Wish Tree” has not

The world has changed a lot since 2007. A reality TV star is now President of the United States. People find hookups by swiping right. About three-quarters of Americans own a smartphone, and there’s an app for everything.

One thing that’s remained the same is Yoko Ono’s “Wish Tree” at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. A gift of the artist in 2007, the tree is turning ten years old this September.

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Yoko Ono’s “Wish Tree” at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Like much of Ono’s work, the Japanese Dogwood tree is an interactive exhibit. During the summer, guests of the museum are encouraged to write wishes on paper tags and tie them to the tree branches, located in the sculpture garden. In cold weather months, guests should “whisper” their wishes to the tree.

The D.C. tree is part of a series of Ono’s wish trees, which are also located in places like New York City, St. Louis, Tokyo, and Venice.

According to the Hirshhorn website, nearly 80,000 wishes have been collected in the past decade. Once the tree fills up, the wishes are shipped over to Iceland and buried under the Imagine Peace Tower, a public art memorial to Ono’s deceased husband, John Lennon.

Ono has said about the trees:

“As a child in Japan, I used to go to a temple and write out a wish on a piece of thin paper and tie it around the branch of a tree. Trees in temple courtyards were always filled with people’s wish knots, which looked like white flowers blossoming from afar.”

In honor of the D.C. tree’s tenth anniversary, Ono has two other works at the Hirshhorn called “My Mommy is Beautiful” and “Sky TV for Washington, DC”.

“My Mommy is Beautiful” is a wall lined with love notes to mothers. Museum guests can write something about their mother on a card and tape it to a forty-foot wall in the museum’s lobby.

“Sky TV for Washington, D.C.” is a 24-hour live feed of the sky, conceived when Ono was once living in a windowless space.

What’s interesting about Ono’s work is that, though the concepts are incredibly simple, her work packs an emotional wallop.

It’s surprising how moving her art is in person, particularly when standing under the “Wish Tree” when the wind rustles the wishes. The fluttering white tags are reminiscent of flapping doves’ wings.

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D.C.’s tree’s branches filled with wishes, September 2017

Despite all the changes in the world since 2007, most wishes hanging from the tree are timeless, and broadly about peace.

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A wish for health, happiness, and love.

But a few were personal, mentioning things like wanting to “be a princess,” getting good grades, and Superbowl picks.

There was even a wish for good traffic back to Virginia. In reference to that wish, a little boy visiting the tree said to his guardian, “that’s not really what you’re supposed to put.”

To which his guardian replied, “It takes all kinds.”

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The Hirshhorn Musuem and Sculpture Garden is part of the Smithsonian network of museums, which means (among other things) that it’s free of charge. The museum opened in 1974, after art collector and philanthropist Joseph H. Hirshhorn donated his collection to the Smithsonian.

The museum, in general, does not bombard the viewer with sensory overload. Thoughtfully curated, its collection is minimally displayed. Visitors can fully cover both the museum and sculpture garden in a few hours.

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The Hirshhorn is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Address: 700 Independence Ave SW, Washington, D.C. 20024

Phone: 202-633-1000

Some animals roam free at the zoo

Not all animals at the zoo are kept in cages. Some creatures are free to roam, such as chipmunks, birds, and even dogs.

Bella, a black and white Terrier-mix service dog, was one such animal at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

Molly, Bella’s owner, said Bella’s favorite part of the zoo is the monkey exhibits, because they get interactive with her. “The gorillas will come up and touch the cage,” Molly said. “It’s really cool.”

In addition to Bella, the zoo was full of birds and chipmunks running free.

And it’s not just living creatures that roam the zoo. Even the occasional plastic giraffe gets out for a walk.

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