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When Carpet Repair Makes Sense

When Carpet Repair Makes Sense    11/12/2009

by Regine Cole,
as seen in Old House Interiors

An editor’s visit to the Lexington Avenue workroom of Hayko Oltaci reveals why good (that is, invisible) carpet repair is expensive. It requires design and color sense and practical skill.

What do you do when the puppy chews the corner of that antique prayer rug you love? When the hooked rug your grandmother bought in rural Maine many years ago begins to disintegrate, can it be repaired? Should it be? Let’s say you’re a collector, and you’ve got your eye on a wonderful Aubusson that’s worn threadbare in the center. Should you buy it with restoration in mind, knowing how difficult it is to match the colors? You already know that a clumsy repaired old tapestry is worth less than one with holes.

 

An editor’s visit to the Lexington Avenue workroom of Hayko Oltaci reveals why good (that is, invisible) carpet repair is expensive. It requires design and color sense and practical skill.

What do you do when the puppy chews the corner of that antique prayer rug you love? When the hooked rug your grandmother bought in rural Maine many years ago begins to disintegrate, can it be repaired? Should it be? Let’s say you’re a collector, and you’ve got your eye on a wonderful Aubusson that’s worn threadbare in the center. Should you buy it with restoration in mind, knowing how difficult it is to match the colors? You already know that a clumsy repaired old tapestry is worth less than one with holes.

Carpet lovers bring dilemmas like these to a narrow, unassuming door amidst the hustle and bustle of New York’s Lexington Avenue in the Sixties. Stairs lead to the second-storey atelier of Hayko Oltaci. New carpets (which he sells) are rolled up in one corner. Old carpets (which he loves) are everywhere else: stacked on the floor, draped over tables, hung on the walls, and stretched like a canopy over his desk. The carpet restorer visitors that his work, on display at prominent auction houses and galleries, is invisible. “Good carpet repair can’t be seen,” he says. It may seem that he’s stating the obvious. But a few hours of looking and listening taught this visitor that the work of repairing carpets, more painstaking than incomprehensible, is hard to do so that it doesn’t show. And you realize Hayko, a Turkish-Armenian-American born in Istanbul, has something more than knowledge, skill and experience, although he certainly has those. He has an instinctive understanding of the original weaver’s intention. His is a near mystical affinity for carpets.

A large Oushak is folded and draped before a woman seated at a large table in the back half of Hayko’s long, narrow shop. The no. 20 tapestry needle in her hand flashes as she works on the damaged area spread out in front of her. She takes tiny stitches, ties knots and trims the woolen yarn with fluid, sure movements while she talks with her workmates, who are similarly working on carpets spread out in front of them. Hung on the wall behind her are the skeins of wool in colors corresponding to the ones in the carpet. All those different colors, and the scale of the individual knots compared to the size of the whole carpet, are a visual lesson in the complexity of the pattern, the huge range of colors, the subtlety of their blending – in short the enormity of the job. She’ll be at this a long time, I suppose.

“A rectangular piece in a Caucasian rug, approximately 8 inches by 3 inches”, Hayko agrees, “will take one week.”

Most of the skeins hung behind the workers are the crewel, Persian, and tapestry yarns known to needlepoint hobbyists: Anchor, Appleton, and Paternayan brand wools in one-, two-, and three-ply strands.

“We also use hand-spun woolen yarn”, Hayko says. “Whatever is closest to what was originally used. If we can’t make a close enough color match, then we have to dye the yarn ourselves. If there’s a hole, you you have to put back the warp and the weft.”

These are, in the case of oriental rugs, usually made of cotton, wool, or a combination of the two. Several of the projects spread out on his worktable show rectangular areas with the contrasting brightness of the new threads being woven into old carpets. But no two jobs are exactly the same. To do this work well, you have to know fibers, be able to tie Ghiordes, Jufti, or Senneh knots needlepoint in tent, cross, half-cross, or basketweave stitches, do plain weave and weft wrapping, overcasting, chain stitching, and be able to differentiate between vegetal and aniline dyes, right- or left-hand lays. In short, repairing rugs requires what is needed to make them in the first place: sure, practiced hands, a good sense of design and color, appreciation for the materials. Since Hayko does not limit his work to oriental rugs, but also repairs tapestries, kilims, needlepointed rugs, hooked and rag rugs, encyclopedic knowledge of the huge world of carpets is only a beginning. With becoming modesty, he claims that after 20 years in carpet repair, he is still just learning.

Hayko was not born into this business. His passion was sparked when, as a teenager, he was disappointed at a rug his father as sent out for repair. “They didn’t ruin it”, he says. “But they did shoddy work, and the carpet deserved better”. Upon leaving school, Hayko served a two-year apprenticeship at a famous Istanbul carpet repair shop, then moved to France to ply his chosen trade. Here too, he was disappointed by the quality level of the workmanship he encountered. And he felt unappreciated.

“In France, you work, you work, you don’t make any money,” he recalls. “It was seven years of agony.”

He left for California and employment at a large firm , and eventually ca to New York, where he started his business in the Chelsea Antique Building. At first he worked for the surrounding carpet dealers. Three years ago he moved to this location, and now his clients includes Christie’s, Bloomingdale’s, high-level collectors, and homeowners from the nearby Upper East Side. His hands spend less time holding a needle as more of his time goes into the mechanics of running a business. But he trains each of his employees in the methods he first learned in Turkey.

“It takes three to six months to be able to do it,” Hayko says. “But I can tell whether they’ll be able to learn it from the first time they pick up a needle. They have to have good fingers, with sensitivity of feel but strong. The dexterity- it’s like a surgeon’s with that kind of focus, that ability to concentrate on very tiny things while working on a very big thing.” And, he adds, a good sense of color is extremely important. The lighting in the working end of his shop is necessarily strong, and color matches are best done in the daylight.

This kind of work is expensive. Often Hayko has to explain to potential customers that the cost of repairing their rug is greater than the value of the carpet itself.

“From a picture I can tell them if it’s worthwhile,” he says. He bemoans a business in which customers are often told that their purchase is rare and precious when, in fact, the carpet they are buying is very ordinary indeed.

Has damage ever gone too far for repair? Like so many things in the world of rugs, the answer is both yes and no. If the pattern is recognizable, even a tiny scrap can be expanded into a larger carpet.

“But you get to a point where you have to ask whether it’s worth the bother (or the expense)”.

Trade Talk

Trade Talk     11/12/2009

by Andrew Pageby,
as seen in Avenue

After buying an ornate but well-worn seventeenth-century Ouchak carpet for close to $100,000, a Christie’s customer asked Elisabeth Poole, head of the auction house’s carpet department, to recommend someone who might be able to restore the antique Turkish rug. Poole suggested transporting it just a few blocks away to Hayko Oltaci, an Armenian born in Istanbul, whose shop is only one flight up but a world apart from the hustle and bustle of Lexington Avenue in the Sixties.

After buying an ornate but well-worn seventeenth-century Ouchak carpet for close to $100,000, a Christie’s customer asked Elisabeth Poole, head of the auction house’s carpet department, to recommend someone who might be able to restore the antique Turkish rug. Poole suggested transporting it just a few blocks away to Hayko Oltaci, an Armenian born in Istanbul, whose shop is only one flight up but a world apart from the hustle and bustle of Lexington Avenue in the Sixties.

After buying an ornate but well-worn seventeenth-century Ouchak carpet for close to $100,000, a Christie’s customer asked Elisabeth Poole, head of the auction house’s carpet department, to recommend someone who might be able to restore the antique Turkish rug. Poole suggested transporting it just a few blocks away to Hayko Oltaci, an Armenian born in Istanbul, whose shop is only one flight up but a world apart from the hustle and bustle of Lexington Avenue in the Sixties.

Poole will sometimes consult Oltaci when assessing the value of a damaged carpet, and she praised the accuracy of his estimates on restoration. But it is the quality of his work that puts him among the handful of restorers to whom poole will entrust antique textiles. “He is very good at matching colors and the type of wool,” she says. “And he takes his time, which is most important for matching colors exactly.”

Oltaci, a thoughtful 39-nine-year-old with a bushy moustache, conducts much of his business from behind a wooden desk, above which hangs a canopy made from an asmalik, a tasseled Turkish tent decoration. A prayer rug from the Mudjur region of Turkey is displayed on the wall beside the fax machine, and dozens of carpets, rolled up into richly colored bundles, stand against the exposed brick wall that runs the length of the long, narrow shop.

Though his desk faces the new carpets, which he sells, Oltaci’s main focus is the work on old and antique carpets that takes place in the brightly light room behind him and makes up 80 percent of his business. Behind a set of glass doors, three women are seated, each with a massive carpet folded before her on a long table. As they work, they carry on conversations in Armenian, speaking loudly enough to be heard across the distances that the massive carpets put between them.

A woman wearing a bright printed blouse ties new knots in an eighty-year-old Turkish carpet, a painstaking job that will take two months to complete. Unlike a Persian rug, Turkish carpets are double knotted, and the repair must match the original weaver’s technique or there will be a contrast between new and old work. On the wall behind her, there is a cascade of yarns in the range of colors that can be seen in the large rug folded on the table.

Across from her, another woman is repairing a ninety-year-old Persian carpet in which the design has been worn flat after years of use. Because all the knots are intact, the addition of new wool, once it has been carefully trimmed and blended for color will make the carpet plush once again, though the laborious work of matching colors and design will take nearly a year to complete.

Asked what is the most important attribute for a carpet restorer, Oltaci answers concisely an accent that has dimmed only slightly in his ten years in New York: “Patience.” He personally trains his employees in the techniques he learned as a teenager in Istanbul, where he first studied at a famous carpet repair shop. Oltaci was not born into the carpet business, but discovered a passion and a talent for their repair after his father sent out a carpet and it returned with shoddy workmanship. “They didn’t ruin it, but they did cheap work,” says Oltaci. “I thought it shouldn’t be like this, so, after, I learned how to repair rugs.” While studying, Oltaci became fascinated with carpet designs, especially those of Caucasian and Turkish prayer rugs. He discovered he had a talent for being able to replicate motifs that had been worn down or, in some cases, that had disappeared in places. He also discovered an ability to exactly match original weaving techniques, which vary greatly depending on the region and era in which a carpet was made.

After two years of study in Istanbul, Oltaci moved to Strasbourg, France, where he went to study economics but ended up repairing carpets at his cousin’s business; first for extra money, and then as his full-time job. He then made his way to New York in 1988, where he worked for several years for Bergi Adonian, a carpet dealer who handles important, museum-quality carpets. Six years ago, he went into business for himself, first in Chelsea, and then, two years ago, on the Upper East Side.

For Oltaci, repair work must look as good from the front as the back, even though only one side is visible. “That is the only way the carpet will be perfect,” he says. That unrelenting focus on quality has endeared him to Benjamin Aryeh, the president of Rafael Gallery, who has been a faithful client since 1992, when Oltaci worked for Andonian.

He is able to match the weave in the carpet and to replace whatever is missing with the exact color, says Aryeh. “You don’t see the restoration when he is done.” Recently, Aryeh purchased a Bessarabian carpet that had been unsuccessfully restored, so he brought it to Oltaci, who redid the work with perfect results. On another occasion, Oltaci insisted on redoing repair because it did not meet his own standards, ever though Aryeh was satisfied with it. “Above all, he is an amiable and pleasant fellow,” says Aryeh. With two decades of experience, Oltaci takes on the restoration of any handmade textiles, and works on modern and antique carpets of Oriental or European origins. For antique restorations, he keeps a collection of antique vegetable-dyed wools for exact matching, but will typically use modern chemical-dyed wools. In addition to the Oriental carpets, his shop is currently at work on a nineteenth-century Aubusson, the French equivalent of a kilim.

For this business, Oltaci says one must have the focus and dexterity of a surgeon as well as an instinctual feel for the original weaver’s intent. When he is training his employees, he tries to get them beyond the simple technique.

“Everybody uses the same knot but there can be different ways of seeing it,” he says. “I teach them how to really see the knot, and then how to do it perfectly.”

Hayko Oltaci can be reached at Hayko Restoration and Conservation Antique Rugs and Tapestry, 857 Lexington Avenue, second floor; New York, NY 10021; 212-717-5400.

Material Goods

Material Goods     11/12/2009

by Ondine Cohane,
as seen in New York Magazine

You have two choices when you go to Hayko’s: You can either lug your beloved but tattered antique rug or kilim there and have it attentively restored, or you can buy a new one from the large collection.

Sale items (accumulated over five years’ collecting include a nineteenth-century Chinese rug, was $2,800, now $1,800; 22-by-22-inch kilim pillow, was $70, now $35;

large kilim, was $1,750, now $1,200. Hayko Restoration and Conservation Antique Rugs and Tapestry, 857 Lexington Ave., at 65th St., second floor (717-5400); Mon. Wed. and Fri. 10-6, Thurs. till 8, Sat. and Sun. till 5.

Crazy about carpets

Hayk “Hayko” Oltaci remembers the day he realized he had a passion for rugs    02/06/2010

by Silva Harapetian
Armenian Reporter

Crazy about carpets

by Silva Harapetian

Published: Saturday December 06, 2008

Hayko Oltaci helps a student learn to weave a small rug.

Photo Credit Silva Sergenian

Hayko Fine Rugs and Tapestries

New York – “My grandfather gave me a Turkish rug when I was 17,” he says. “It was damaged and we gave it to a repairman. He did a terrible job. He ruined the rug. I remember thinking I could do a better job.”

Less than a year later, Hayko left Turkey and moved to France to live, study, and work with his cousin, who owned a carpet business. There, he tried going to school but dropped out in his third year and began working full-time at his cousin’s carpet shop. “I learned how to repair rugs,” he recalls. “I liked knotting and repairing. It was a hobby.”

Hayko says he watched other skilled rug weavers and restoration experts and taught himself and developed his technique by trial and error. “The most important part of weaving and repair is matching the thread color,” he explains. “You can have a restoration that’s perfect, the weaving is perfect, but if it’s the wrong color, it will show.Top-quality restoration is invisible.”

Hayko’s work is on display in galleries and auction houses all over the world, but you can’t see it. He says that’s the point.

At his shop, custom-mixed colors are used to dye individual yarns to the precise shade of the carpet, no matter how old or faded it may be. “Imagine trying to match 300-year old colors, fibers, and patterns so precisely that the repair work is completely undetectable,” he says. It’s that passion for artistic work and perfection that makes Hayko one of the most sought-after fine-rug and tapestry experts in the world.

From his years in France to the United States, from a hobby to a business, Hayko has made a name for himself as not only an expert but also, as one customer described, “a man of integrity.” Hayko opened his business, Hayko Fine Rugs & Tapestries, a few years after he arrived in New York. It’s been more than 15 years and he is still as excited as the first day he began.

Today his establishment features some of the finest examples of the ancient art of weaving to be found anywhere, in all price ranges – from museum-quality pieces worth hundreds of thousands to one-of-a-kind rugs including his personal and rare collection of Armenian rugs. In Hayko’s store, rugs hang on all the walls from floor to ceiling. He says his customers comment on “the wonderful aroma of natural wool yarns, a delicious scent that makes you feel almost as if you have been transported to the heart of the ancient section of Istanbul.” He has a workroom in the back, where skilled weavers work on a variety of projects.

Teaching the craft

Hayko loves educating his customers. “You can buy a rug simply because you feel a special connection with it,” he says. “Fine rugs and tapestries are works of art; no two are alike. Each is as individual as a beautiful painting or sculpture. When you find the right one for you, it’s almost like falling in love.” One client who recently purchased a very expensive rug said, “I bought my first little Sarouk from Hayko when we first met more than 20 years ago. As I became able to afford more expensive pieces, I have always returned to Hayko. I wouldn’t think of going to anyone else. Hayko is a true gentleman, and absolutely honest. He once actually told me not to pay as much as I was prepared to pay for a rug because it wasn’t as good an example of its kind as I wanted. I have become what you might call a serious collector, and Hayko has guided me every step of the way.”

Recently, Hayko was able to make one of his other dreams a reality. “It has been a lifelong passion to teach the younger generations about the craft,” he explains. “I started 15 years ago, when a customer asked me to teach his wife how to repair rugs. She was in the store once a week for five years. She came all the time, but I was too busy to start classes back then. But I have dedicated my time to offering classes. It has always been my dream to run rug-weaving workshops from my store and pass on the secrets of rug-weaving.”

Today Hayko holds weaving classes once a week. He began with a small group of Armenians. The classes have grown into a popular pastime for people of all cultures. His customers love it and consider the classes relaxing. Hayko also runs weaving circles. It’s an opportunity for his students to learn, weave, and socialize.

Hayko’s expertise, reputation, and passion for the art have helped keep his business alive. His choice of career has not always been good for his pocketbook. There have been times when he has struggled to make ends meet. But his passion for rugs and the craft, along with his perseverance and determination, have trumped the bottom line. “I love doing this,” he says. “You have to love what you do, otherwise you can’t be successful.”

Ritz-Carlton magazine: editor’s letter

Ritz-Carlton magazine: editor’s  letter: devoted to the arts    07/01/2008

Jamie M. Hoffman
Ritz-Carlton magazine

Jamie M. Hoffman

devoted to the arts

The Ritz-Carlton hotels around the world celebrate and sup- port the arts in so many unique ways, we felt it was important now to present some of these experiences in our magazine.

Considering the beautiful objects and collections we display in our hotels and resorts, the local exhibitions we underwrite and partner with, and the launch of the new Ritz-Carlton Film Se- ries (which you can read more about in our profile of cinematog- rapher Joshua Hess on page 154), it’s more timely than ever to introduce — or re-introduce, as the case may be — the people who literally design, create and color our world.

What better way to announce this special issue than with an original work of art on our cover? Having the opportunity to review the work of illustrators from around the world was a real treat for me, and when we decided to commission a piece by the international artist Brett Ryder, I was thrilled with the beauti- ful piece he came up with. The more I look at it and its sugges- tion that we are virtually limitless in how our imaginations can fly forth, the more I feel it portrays not only who we are as a brand, but what we truly offer our guests in the way of thrilling experiences in the arts. From Picasso exhibits in our lobbies to nature programs on our beaches to packages that let our guests get behind the scenes at local museums, The Ritz-Carlton celebrates the arts every single day.

When I was in Palm Beach recently, I noticed the unique collection of “shoes” in the presidential suite (anytime I see shoes I am auto- matically intrigued — what girl is not?). The story behind the design of these shoes and the artist who creates them is fascinating, as is the curation of the glass and sculpture collection at The Ritz-Carlton, Westchester. You’ll see those and more about making a hotel room feel more like a home in our story “Hotel, um … Art?” on page 136.

Deciding which craftspeople to profile for our “In Studio” feature on page 127 was an artistic exercise in its own right. We had to narrow a list of more than 15 fascinating people down to four, and I’m sure you’ll like whom we have decided to focus on. I am especially touched by Turkish-Armenian rug designer Hayk Oltaci’s story about how he become involved in restoring these precious works of art.

Finally, though not technically part of the art theme, this issue’s spa feature does have its artistic elements — and a very special meaning for me. When I was pregnant last year, one of my favorite ways to relax was to enjoy several maternity-specific massages and the VIP treat- ment one receives at our properties when one is a “nurturer to be.” You’ll learn all about that (and the fabulous Mama Mio products that go with these treatments) on page 148. I’m still enjoying the line’s Tummy Rub and Shrink to Fit lotions even with no baby on the way. Have a great summer. We hope to see you around the world,

Jamie M. Hoffman

Corporate Manager, Marketing

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, L.L.C.

 

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Ritz Carlton

Ritz-Carlton magazine: 4 in Studio     07/01/2008

by Karlin McCarthy
Ritz-Carlton magazine

PHOTOGRAPHY BY STEVEN VOTE

 4in Studio

They are world-class entrepreneurs, but artists at heart. They find inspiration in a piece of fabric, a rooftop or an empty stage — wherever a blank canvas exists upon which innovation takes flight. Indeed, when it comes to theater set and costume designer Garance Marneur, weaver and restorer Hayk Oltaci, furniture architect Werner Aisslinger and fashion legend Miuccia Prada, their legacies will not be defined by sales and merchandising. They will instead be remembered for the passion they brought to their craft.

Name: Hayk Oltaci

Where in the world: New York, where his busines, Hayko Fine Rugs and Tapestries, has operated at 857 Lexington Ave. (at 65th Street) for 12 years.

Known for: Celebrating his heritage through sublime rug designs. Oltaci’s showroom is the place where patrons worldwide coming for the finest in authentic rugs. He works closely with museums, private collectors and auction houses such as Christie’s, often over Turkish coffee. Born in Istanbul to Armenian parents, he came to New York City in 1988 with his wife (both of his daughters were born in the U.S.). He learned his craft while living in Strasbourg, France, for 10 years.

Quote: “Above all things, an honorable and forthright relationship is by far the most important thing to me.”

What inspires him: An experience from his youth sparked a lifelong pursuit of excellence, as Oltaci explains: “My grandfather gave me a beautiful Turkish prayer rug from the Konya Ladik region when I was 17. There was a hole in the center of the rug and the selvage end was missing. We knew a repair man and we brought it to him. Three months later, we got it back. My heart was broken; it was horrible what they did to it. They put a patch on the hole and cut off the ends! It looked like a cheap machine-made rug. This rug had been a beautiful work of art, like a great painting. Now it was ruined by bad repair. I knew at that moment I wanted to help save these great works of art from my country.”

Next projects: Oltaci will be conducting classes in the ancient art of rug weaving every month, a way to share his passion with patrons. “Most of our clients are by now old friends — they come back over and over through the years,” he says. “We greatly value these long-term relationships. We hope to meet more new friends and look forward to working with them in the coming years.” (To find out more, go to http://www.meetup.com/rug-weaving/ or call Oltaci’s showroom at  212-717-5400

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Company Philosophy

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With an innate cultural attraction to the art of rug weaving and well over 35 years of hands-on experience, Hayko’s mission is to provide the ultimate service to his customers in sales, repairs, and cleaning of fine Oriental rugs and European tapestries.

Building long-term business relationships with our clients is the most important aspect of our mission.

 

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