Literally meaning ‘slowly slowly’…but this fails to express what is at the heart of this phrase. Given that it is often followed with someone chirping in with ‘burasi Turkiye’ (‘here is Turkey’), it is more often than not said in a resigned sort of way. Acknowledging that things can happen slowly (sometimes VERY slowly) and there is not a lot you can do about it so don’t worry and definitely don’t expect it to happen faster.
Having heard this many times in Turkey, I recently appreciated another level of ‘yavaš yavaš’. And it had to do with kilims, particularly the older kilims. The process of getting these forgotten gems into the Daylesford shop is exemplified best as ‘yavaš yavaš’!
The kilims rarely resemble anything like the items found in the shop when we first lay our eyes upon them. From the dusty rooms tucked away in the village side street to the boot of the beat up travelling car. You can find them in the most unlikely of places but often you have to use your imagination (bolstered by faith) to work out how the pieces will look after some tlc.
From the moment you find a piece, the arduous task of acquiring it for yourself begins. We all know the Turks love a good bargaining session, it’s half the fun after all..but..you have to remember that you are dealing with men who have lived with, worked with, made kilims their lives and they are not about to give in easily for a great piece. Even if they are selling it to you with holes, stains and tears; they know the value of what they are selling. You are purchasing an item, completely handmade, stunningly unique and one that potentially you will never find again.
Once you have passed this stage, it is onto the next. Cleaning! Always done in the traditional way and again, by families who have been at this for generations. Sometimes a kilim can become unrecognisable from the one you put in to be cleaned. The colours come alive, the wool returns to its natural sheen and just when you start to get excited, don’t! Because now it becomes clearly apparent what repairs need to be carried out. Major and minor repairs, restorations, chains, colour runs, this is the time to leave it to a different set of professionals.
The repair men are a breed of their own I think. I can recall often spending the afternoon in Denizli, driving through the big, noisy, dusty city (a journey I hated) to arrive at the ‘office’ of our ‘halicu’ (carpetman), (a destination I loved). In a small 3 by 2 metre room with one small window set ajar, letting the breeze flow through to the open shutter gate serving as the other wall. There is an old desk, a water cooler and the worn low floor cushions lined against another wall. In the remaining corner sits the biggest ‘ball’ of wool you can imagine. Every colour and hue, naturally and synthetically dyed, 1 ply, 2 ply, 4 ply, silks, cottons, wools, it is simply a massive kaleidoscopic tangle of…mess.
While drinking sodas from little green bottles, chatting about new finds, what so and so bought or sold, it is easy to forget the time. I can remember thinking many times and even offering once to de-tangle and sort the strands for our repair man, thinking that surely it would be easier for him. But he just laughed, he’d done it this way for years, this is how his father and mother did it, it worked for him. And who could argue, he is one of the best. A good repair job is one that you can’t see, one that blends seamlessly with the original work. Sometimes the repairs are quick and easy, other times it can take months.
And when you finally get to see the finished product, the joy is indescribable. From what you found, to have had the opportunity to bring someone’s handmade creative representation of their hopes and wishes and be able to restore it to its former glory is an absolute pleasure. There is a certain feeling when you finally get the piece in the shop (of course after the longer delay of it being in transit!), you open it up and are finally able to appreciate the uniqueness of this kilim that you are holding and wonder about its maker.
And just perhaps the ‘yavaš yavaš’ process has made you appreciate what you are holding in your hands even more…