An Unplanned Journey into the World of Carpets and Textiles.

Catherine in the flowers

How is it that a woman in mid life steps off the solid ground of the predicable and known in Canada and leaps into a pile of carpets and textiles (or make that zillions of piles) in Istanbul, Turkey?  This is my story.

It starts in Canada with an introduction to Dr Lloyd Erickson, a carpet collector living in Edmonton. We met at an exhibition at the Nickle Arts Museum at the University of Calgary that I attended with my husband. We were there to hear Jim Burns, another collector/scholar who was a expert lecturing at the museum. Jack and I were planning our first visit to Turkey on a holiday. On arriving in Istanbul we met Dr Erickson there again, purely by chance in a city of twelve million people. He then tucked us under his wing and took us along introducing us to the dealers that he was buying from in Istanbul. I was the proverbial sponge soaking in every tidbit of information and Dr Erikson, a university professor, was a born teacher who had on his hands a keen student full of questions and enthusiasm. On our return to Canada I noted to my husband that those few days in Istanbul were the highlight of our travels for me. It had been years since I had been so fully engaged. The colors, smells, language, culture and especially the carpets and textiles filled my mind and my eyes.

As I entered this new world I had the vision of someone opening a door and I was peeking through the crack of the door and what I saw was the volume of knowledge that I did not have. Somehow Dr Erikson provided me with a glimpse of the depth and complexity of the world of carpets and textiles. I was like a dog with my tongue hanging out, panting in expectation of running loose in that field, of what for me, were undiscovered delights.

So it began. On one hand I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I did know that I had an excellent trained eye but there was a world of specific knowledge and insight that I was missing.

Have you experienced those moments in time when for whatever reason there are flashes of profound clarity? On my first buying trip I was with a young Kurdish man (I still know and contract restoration work to this individual). We were walking through a narrow stone passage into the interior courtyard of an old Ottoman Han. I was stepping over a pile of garbage and in that instant everything converged; the light, the smells, the hunt, and I knew with every cell of my being that there was no where else on earth that I wanted to be and nothing else that I wanted to be doing. I was perfectly content and completely engaged.

Twenty years later and I am still entranced by the beauty of the woven art of Turkey, Persia and Central Asia. I am a carpet dealer of huge passion with the unique business model that allows me to work for specific individuals sourcing carpets and textiles for their homes and for collections.


8 Responses

  1. Marilyn Klemke says:

    Catherine… great that you are sharing your story in this blog…..I loved being reminded of how you got started in the fascinating world of carpets and textiles in Turkey and Asia.
    Keep writing!

  2. Catherine Mortensen says:

    @ Marilyn
    I have such fond memories of our time shared as we traveled in W Turkey together. I love too that we were able to be together in Istanbul when you acquired your lovely carpets and textiles for your home. I hope that they continue to give you daily visual pleasure. I love the fact that these old pieces have had a life prior to being with us and lots of times wish that I could have known the woman who created such beauty.
    Thanks for your encouragement to write – I have had such amazing opportunities and experiences along the way, It is fun to reflect but also exciting to look ahead.

  3. Violet Todd says:

    Catherine, you and Mary Pendarves Delany! I know our discussion in November will be exciting. I cannot wait to hear more about your travels. Thank you for the information your personal journey to finding your joy!

  4. Catherine Mortensen says:

    @ VI
    Yesterday M Pendarves Delany’s book The Paper Garden arrived in the mail. It is taking all my discipline to finish the book I am currently reading before I pick it up. We are all so blessed to find a passion in life regardless of age and I understand she was into her 80’s when she started her journey – amazing (and encouraging). I ordered the book because my daughter Leah is equally a textile lover and I knew she would also enjoy reading about another woman who ‘jumped in’ with both feet.
    What books come to mind that you have read of individuals who have come to their ‘joy’ later in life?

  5. Danielle Sikander says:

    Mrs. Mortensen,
    I came back from Turkey a month ago and I love reading your stories and looking forward to the next one. The Turkish people are so kind and beautiful and the country is most amazing.

    • Catherine Mortensen says:

      Glad you had such an amazing time in Turkey. My twenty years coming and going have been so rich in kindness and I totally agree the country is amazingly beautiful. What’s your most lasting image of your time spent in Turkey? Will you be at the Taduk workshop today at the Nickle?

  6. amy. says:

    How stunning to see you Catherine, more beautiful than EVER, like an ‘aged carpet’ you’ve only gotten better with the years…what absolutely cool adventures you have had! Who would have thought when you started this so many years ago that it would become such a large part of your life? Hope to see you and Jack this side of glory:)

    • Catherine Mortensen says:

      Hi Amy – Thanks m’dear – I love it when I am compared to a good ‘aged’ carpet – I have seen some real beauties over the years so am flattered by the comparison. Let us know if you ever are here. I think Jack has a speaking engagement in Cranbrook in the new year so maybe you will see each other then….

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