I met Mr Suat Çapas, owner of SUDE (SOO-deh), several decades ago when he opened a carpet shop in Sultanahmet, Istanbul.
He was different from most carpet sellers, as he had a lively interest in the beauties of these traditional handicraft works of art. He wanted to sell only high-quality pieces hand-made of pure wool and natural dyes.
Over the years he has increased in knowledge, and now specializes in fine old pieces, mostly from the 1800s, but some from later periods that were made of authentic materials.
“In 1825, cochineal was first imported to the Ottoman Empire from Spain for use in dyes. The first chemical dyes were imported in 1852 from Europe,” he says. “These dyes changed the character of the carpets. When local carpet-weavers came to use these dyes, they gave up using the traditional herbal and other natural dyes.
“By the late 1800s, Ottoman society was changing, and the traditional handicrafts also changed.
In the 1900s, use of synthetic dyes became widespread, then nylonand other synthetic fibers were introduced, and the making of carpets changed completely.
“A few people made a conscious, determined effort to use natural dyes and pure wool, but these were rare aberrations from the norm.”
Suat Bey tells me that he takes care to know the provenance of the items he stocks, and to make sure they have been acquired ethically. (Rare carpets have been stolen from mosques and museums, and sold to some dealers, who sell them to customers.)
Prices at Su-De reflect the artistic, historic and market value of the items. Most pieces for sale here are rare, and their prices are higher than for modern non-authentic carpets of comparable size. If you’re just looking for a nice souvenir of your trip to Turkey, Su-De may not be the place to look for it. (Instead, follow these guidelines).
But if you are serious about traditional textiles and rare pieces of woven art, you may want to visit, look, sip teaor coffee and chat with Suat Bey.
His shop is up the hill just west of Sultanahmet and the Hippodrome. Walk west on Divan Yolu, turn left on Klodfarer Caddesi, pass the Hotel Nina and Hotel Halı, then look left for SUDE, facing the more-or-less open space called Binbirdirek Meydanı (beneath which there is a Byzantine cistern, by the way).
When you visit, please mention TTP. Here’s why.
SUDE Old Rugs & Antique Textiles
Binbirdirek Meydanı, İletişim Han No. 7/2
Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey
Tel & Fax: +90 (212) 516 5488
Mobile: +90 (533) 238 8916
Turkey: Bright Sun, Strong Tea