Azerbaijan 2012 | TOURISM & SPORTS | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Prof. Vidadi A. Muradov, Director of Azer-Ilme, on the production of traditional Azerbaijani carpets.

Prof. Vidadi A. Muradov
Prof. Vidadi A. Muradov graduated from Moscow Cooperation University in 1980 and then worked for 14 years at a factory as an economist. Since 1994 he has been the Director of Azer-Ilme. He is also a Professor of philosophy and journalism.

What are Azer-Ilme's annual production figures?

Taking into account the various designs that are found regionally within Azerbaijan, we produce around 12,000 sqm a year in 600 different designs. All of these designs are authentic antique designs. Our production figures vary ever year, since we accept customer requests for particular designs.

What goes into producing each carpet?

We continue to use age-old techniques; we make carpets in the same way that they were made 200-300 years ago. Everything is hand-made in our company. We acquire the wool directly from the Azerbaijani mountains, totally washed and cleaned. We only use natural dyes in production: indigo, onion skin, walnut, saffron, and so on. After manually dying our wool and silk, our designers make the old authentic patterns, which are later on handed to the weavers, who start the actual process of making the carpet. Once they are done, we dust, wash, and iron the carpets, since they are curly. If there are any obvious mistakes in the carpets, we fix them, whereas if we find minor mistakes, we leave them, because they are the sign of a hand-made carpet. It usually takes a month to complete a 1-sqm wool piece, whereas a square meter of silk takes between 40 and 45 days.

How relevant is R&D for Azer-Ilme?

We are building a carpet school to help future generations continue this art. This school will open its doors at the beginning of 2012 and will be situated next to our headquarters. Around 22 children under 10 will be able to attend this school every year. We want to offer master classes and provide these children with the latest technology to ease the learning process of such an important tradition. Also, we are planning to display small fragments of every single type of antique Azerbaijani carpet. We have published three different books on Azerbaijani carpets, and each of them focuses on a particular region and its traditional designs. These books contain a brochure that is published in six different languages: Azeri, English, German, French, Arabic, and Russian.

We are continuously investing in research on the history of carpets and carpet-making techniques in Azerbaijan, the Caucasus, and the eastern part of Turkey. It is important for us to understand the evolution of such important cultural products from Azerbaijan. On the marketing side, we also carry out intensive research to meet the requirements of every single market; we analyze the type of design that fits each market.

Which markets is the company active in, and what role do domestic demand and exports play in Azer-Ilme's development plans?

Outside of Azerbaijan, the US and Europe are the most active markets for us right now, with Germany and Italy being the most important ones within Europe. We also meet demand from some Arab countries such as Kuwait and Jordan. Regarding the internal market, the Azerbaijani economy has grown in potential since we regained our independence, and we have benefited from that. We believe that Azerbaijan's market still has significant potential to keep growing. Currently, 60% of our production goes to the domestic market, while the other 40% is exported. However, there are other differences, since the Azerbaijani market is dominated by silk production, while wool dominates the foreign markets.

What are Azer-Ilme's plans and strategies in the medium term?

Our aim is to continue our work on raising awareness of the historical importance and variety of traditional Azerbaijani carpets through published books, the education center, and the new museum of carpets in Baku. We are doing our best to contribute to the museum, which is an important part of Azerbaijan's heritage. We are seeking to spread this Azerbaijani art throughout the world and make it live long and strong. Businesswise, we will continue to contribute to the country's economy. These are our main goals for the next five-10 years.