In the course of the centuries the most significant branch of manufacturing industry was kilim production as an economic activity. It was the original carpet – weaving production linked to the urban locality which was done by the poor women – weavers.
The population’s orientation towards cattle – raising as its main occupation, then large quantities of excellent wool and Pirot as the trade hearth of the region predetermined the growth of carpet – weaving and weaving production in general.
That is how all the conditions for the production of the Pirot kilim were met: the sheep from Stara planina ranges yiealded large quantities of excellent wool which was processed and dyed here, the weaving – technique was well – advanced, and the trading activity was highly developed.
The Pirot kilim – weaving went through several phases in its development: given the fact that the Pirot production of kilims was fully formed in the 16th century, we take that period as the first phase in its development when the woven products were made exclusively for household use. The products included simple rugs, ” crga ” and ” šarenica ” , which were not dyed. In the second phase, during the 17th and the 18th centuries Pirot carpet – production became significantly advanced. A vertical loom, known as ” the Pirot loom ” was used in one piece. In the third phase, during the 19th century, this kind of carpet – weaving was highly developed and may be said to have reached a high level of technical and artistic possibility and value reflected in a wealth of ornamentation and the number of patterns. Carpet – weaving entered the 20th century and its fourth phase coupled with the fully mastered technique, the quality of the kilims which was excellent, the numerous patterns and combination of colours and motifs which were perfect and there were four clearly differentiated parts: the external border, the panel, internal border and the field. The whole kilim is named after the patterns it has in the field. By the very end of the 19th century kilims were dyed with natural dyes followed by the application of aniline dyes which led to the use of many colours and a large number of nuances.
The colour red prevails in the kilim in a number of nuances ranging from a pale red to the dark – sour – cherry red. It was made from insect dyes and was used to weave the field. There is a good deal of blue made from natural indigo with a little yellow added.The colour green in the kilims is of an elusive nuance and matches successfully the red and the blue tones. From the mid – nineteenth century white began to be used while until then a tan, onion – like colour was used. Colours in the Pirot kilims have a primarily territorial – ethnic feature. The colours are quiet, warm, sometimes a muted dark or sometimes boldly contrasting, yet always in a harmonious composition.
The ornaments in the Pirot kilim are always geometrical whether they depict a bird, a flower, a dove or an object in the direct – environment of the weaver. Women – weavers created all the patterns ( apart from the influence of other areas and cultures ) out of their own inspiration using objects in their homes and around them as their models. Later they made combinations of patterns brought to them from the merchant travels to remote areas: the wofras ( as a series of eloganted spiked rhomboids on a red field ) , the stylized ” mihrab ” , ” the sofre ” , ” the amajlika ” , ” the nemačke kutije ” , ( the German I boxes ) , ” the bomba pattern ” , ” the cover ” , the kashmir ” , … Mostly used figure patterns are: ” the lizard ” , ” the flame ” , the pattern of ” the bird ” , the scorpio ” , ” the hearth’ s tongue ” , ” the dove ” , … and the vegetative elements: ” a tree – trunk ” , ” roses ” , in a number of variations, ” domes of pillars ” , ” pomegranates ” , the ” wreath ” ( consisting of a cross – section of flowers plaited into a wreath ) , different kinds of flowers ( ” karanfil ” – the carnation, ” svekrvin jezik ” – the ” mother – in – law’s tongue, ” lala ” – tulip, ” ruža ” – the rose, ” metlice ” ) . While the patterns in the old kilims were smaller and more harmoniously spaced, the patterns in the recently woven kilims are larger, sometimes of unfortunate stylization.
By the end of the 19th century the first merchants who expanded the kilim trade appeared. Amongst the oldest merchants was Toma Petrović who founded the Pirot trading kilim association in 1894. At the beginning of the 20th century the first enterprise engaged in export of kilims was founded. It was the ” Pirot Kilim ” domestic industry firm of the Garotić brothers and the Džadžić Hristić – Beraha firm. The Pirot kilims were exhibited for the first time at the big Vienna Exhibition in 1886 where they were enthusiastically – praised and wondered at, due to the fact that the patterns were the same on both the front аnd the back of the kilim. Between 1904 and 1940,the Pirot kilims were shown at 26 fairs in Тurkoman, London, Barcelona, Amsterdam, and Staples as well as in Milan, Paris and Berlin. The high quality and the originality of the Pirot kilim were awarded prizes, awards and written commendations.
The Pirot kilim was often received as a valuable gift either in private or political conntacts, it was a precious award and finally a young girl’s dowry. There are kilims for floor coverings, for the walls, for bedspreads and furniture covers. In more recent times they are used for curtains, drapers, pillows and alike. Yet they can just be kept either in maidens’chest or as the house amulet. As the authentic rarity the Pirot kilim can be found in many monasteries all over Serbia, in Bulgaria ( The Monastery of Ril ) , in Greece ( The Monastery of Hillandar ) , in the palace of the Obrenovićs and Karađorđevićs.Those kilims were of non – standard sizes but as ordered ( ” the batal ” which means something very big, ” the dobata ” or as ordered ) . The town population were in need of ” the šestak ” , ” the smetenik ” , ” the jan ” , ” the sedžade ” , ” the merka ” , spreads, table cloth, pillows, curtains and the doily.
Caused by numerous reasons in the second half of the 20th century both the production and the sale of the Pirot kilim kept falling. The weaving of kilims is an arduous, long – lasting task. That is why the kilim has always been an expensive product. In the contrast to this, the work of the women weavers, the craftswomen and artists, was always cheap and never adequately remunerated. Traditional craftswork was never adequately rated in the economic activity.
Since June 2003 as an original product the Pirot kilim is protected by Institute for Intellectual Property on the basis of the Law on geographical origin.