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August 14th, 2009, 12:07 PM   1
Frank Martin Diehr
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Quirky small Baluch rug

Hi Baluchotekkies,

here is a quirky small rug from my collection that caused some discussion when I showed it at the latest Baluch collectors' meeting in Austria a few weeks ago.
Please feel free to comment!











Frank

(As you can see, my photography skills are fairly limited, but the details show quite accurate colours, at least on my screen.)
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Last edited by Frank Martin Diehr; August 14th, 2009 at 01:04 PM.
August 14th, 2009, 01:38 PM  2
Steve Price
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Hi Frank

You call this a small rug. What are the dimensions? If it's pillow size, I'm surprised to not see the usual brocading near the ends.

The palette and kilim ends look Belouch group to me, but neither the wonkiness of the drawing and layout nor the motifs are things I'm accustomed to seeing in Belouch group weavings. Have you entertained the possibility that it isn't Belouch group at all?

Regards

Steve Price
August 14th, 2009, 02:43 PM   3
Frank Martin Diehr
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The piled section is ca. 75 x 100 cm, and 10-14 cm of kelim each end.

I think it is "Baluch" rather than Baluch, i.e. in the wider sense. The sides are two cords of goat hair, the dyes include a good bottle-green, and the border is most unusual, with scribbles in cartouches that seem to mimic Chinese writing. I seem to recall the knot is symmetric.
So perhaps "Kurd-Baluch", or one of the Chaar Aimaq tribes?

However, speculation on its wonkiness was even more of a topic than origin.

Frank
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August 14th, 2009, 02:59 PM   4
Steve Price
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Hi Frank

Actually, the wonkiness made me think of Kurdish immediately, so Kurd-Belouch makes sense to me. If we take it to be Kurd or Kurd-Belouch, the question of the wonkiness becomes the question of why so many Kurdish are wonky. I don't have an answer, nor do I know of any, but it at least makes it a more general question than it is when it applies only to this rug.

Regards

Steve Price
August 14th, 2009, 03:03 PM  5
James Blanchard
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Hi Frank,

Charming... Personally, I would definitely placed this in the "Baluch group" category. The design elements are fully within the Baluch tradition, as is the palette. Also, the striped kilim ends and selvedges look "Baluch" to me. The restricted palette and design elements with the use of colour inversions and variations to create interest strikes me as a purely "Baluch" aesthetic.

Having said that, it looks to me to be the product of an inexperienced weaver. Not only is the drawing "wonky", the overall shape and weave balance seems to be the product of a novice.

The colours look good. I find that Baluch group weavings have examples of the best and worst of oranges. This looks to have a wonderful orange, which I always like with a good indigo.

Cheers,

James
August 14th, 2009, 03:07 PM  6
James Blanchard
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Hi Steve and Frank,

Do we need to invoke "Kurds" to explain the wonkiness? Could this not just be the result of a novice weaver? Even if the weaver was "Kurd-Baluch" and unfamiliar with the design, I would expect a somewhat better rendition of a somewhat simple design from a reasonably experienced weaver. At least I would expect the shape to be more regular, and the proportions of the borders to be a bit more uniform... but I am just guessing.

James
August 14th, 2009, 03:11 PM   7
James Blanchard
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Border design

One more thing....

In my limited experience, this border design usually has an octagon with a central star motif. Perhaps the weaver was flummoxed by the challenge of drawing well-proportioned stars and instead created rectilinear designs in the centres instead.

James
August 14th, 2009, 04:46 PM   8
Dinie Gootjes
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Hi All,

How often is not what we call 'wonkiness' a result of weaver inexperience, as James suggests? Mostly we guess, but I think there is at least one category where we can see that factor at work: pairs of bags. I have seen several pairs of bags where the one that was woven first is the more wonky one of the two. You can see that when she is doing the second one, the weaver has learned something. I don't have my own computer available to give a few examples, but the first and the last entry in James Cohen's Jaf exhibition are an example, I think. I don't doubt that my third rug in the Jaf thread has a brother too somewhere, more or maybe less wonky.

Dinie
August 14th, 2009, 08:44 PM   9
Rich Larkin
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Hi Frank,

This is a most intriguing "wonky" rug. To my eye, there's something more going on there than simple inability to reproduce the design. If you think about the drawing process that has to go into a rug like this, in which an overriding factor is the creation of the design from the bottom up, one horizontal row at a time, it is hard to imagine how the weaver could have accomplished what she did without a considerable amount of skill. Many of the individual "guls" are properly formed, and a few look to have almost selected anomalies. It's as though they were carefully woven "wrong." Did Pablo Picasso spend any time in Afghanistan?

Similarly, the arrangement of all of them over the field seems wonky in a studied way. Rather than appearing to be melted together, which is the effect of the Jaff disasters (but happy disasters! ) cited above, the design motifs in this rug seem to have been made intentionally to appear random. Yet, they're fitted together in this apparently haphazard way most successfully. The weaver was going for the "jumbled" look, and she hit it. Look, for example, at the two black guls just above the middle of the rug. The first of the two is stuck up into that orange gul in a way that would hardly have occurred at the hands of a merely incompetent weaver, it seems to me. It is possible to make the case that it would have been more difficult to produce this pattern than a conventional and regular arrangement of these guls. I think this young woman was pulling your leg!

I don't think there's any doubt that the rug was produced out of the greater "Baluch" matrix.

BTW, Frank, I am in the process of perusing your two books, Treasured Baluch and Three Dusty Dozen, courtesy of a ruggie friend. I congratulate you for an outstanding job on both, in any number of ways.

Rich Larkin
August 14th, 2009, 10:17 PM   10
Chuck Wagner
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Frank,

Still formulating an opinion, but I'll note that the cruciform device with the latch hooks is not uncommon as a border element on medium sized Baluchi rugs. Right now I'm thinking this is the answer sheet for a student loom driver. Certainly, the warp & weft tensioning skills were still under development when this one was put together.

Regards,
Chuck Wagner
August 15th, 2009, 02:45 AM   11
Frank Martin Diehr
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Hi all,

my gut feeling is that it is not Kurdish, not even what some people call Kurd-Baluch, rather along the Aimaq lines of "Baluch traditions". We had quite a few symmetrically knotted pieces at the meeting to compare.

Most people there took Rich's view, that this was not the work of an inexpirienced novice, but that the rug was woven with strong intentions.
The question is, of course, which intentions? To which again we could only speculate. Some experienced collectors took the view that this rug might have been woven under the influence of some mind-enhancing substance, and might have served in shamaistic (is that the right word?) rituals performed by the weaver.
Personally, I am not sure, I never saw Baluch rugs from that point of view before. However, the rug does not have the "air" of novice trial and error, rather some magic charme ... (no, I have not had ANY breakfast yet).

What do you think of that?

Frank
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August 15th, 2009, 02:37 PM   12
Patrick Weiler
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You Need Glasses

Frank,

I have had a theory for some time that many of the Wonderful, Well-made Weavings With Wonky Weirdness Were Woven Without the aid of spectacles.
There may not be any way to determine if the percentage of people with vision problems has increased in modern times, but I suspect that few tribal weavers were able to access eyeglasses a century or more ago. As one's eyesight deteriorated, familiar tasks would have become considerably more difficult. Having been trained since childhood, the clarity and consistency of a weaver's output might be expected to decline commensurately with her vision. She still would know the patterns and designs by heart, but the execution would be affected by her diminished eyesight.
As a test, try handwriting a paragraph with your glasses on and then without them.

Patrick Weiler
August 15th, 2009, 03:21 PM   13
Rich Larkin
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Hi Patrick,

No specs. An interesting theory. My problem with it is that I don't think reproducing patterns while weaving in pile is much like writing a paragraph. That would make sense if the weaver were attaching the guls to a surface like so many stick-on decals. In this case, the weaver is actually reproducing the guls, several of them in a suspiciously (to me) wonky way. The real wonkiness comes in because they are distributed in a "wonky" way about the field. I don't see that happening by chance from the efforts of an incompetent weaver. I'm sure uncorrected poor eyesight is a drawback to the weaving effort, but I don't see this as the likely result.

I would think the essence of knowing how to weave patterns of this kind is knowing the knotting sequences that produce both the individual motifs in the liner knotting fashion imposed by the medium, as well as the arrangement of the individual patterns over the whole piece. An inexperienced or incompetent weaver would get these wrong, and produce something along the lines of the melted Jaff patterns, not this thing that reminds one of a child's drawing.

Frank, I can't embrace the "shamanism influence" theory, either. Too "ga-ga" for me.

Rich Larkin
August 15th, 2009, 04:53 PM   14
Joel Greifinger
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Wonkiness redux

Hi all,

Here’s another instance where assessing the balance between inexperience, incompetence and intention arises in a (I believe) Beluch rug. In this piece, the ashik motifs in the field have a number of different center designs and, combined with color variation, make for a lot of permutations. The size and shape variations add to the general wonky feel.












The size is 56” x 35” (143cm x 89cm). The knotting is asymmetrical open right. Any thoughts on where it’s from and whether it was woven by an overeager novice, an experienced weaver with a whimsical vision or a far-sighted Granny sitting too close to the loom?

Joel Greifinger
August 15th, 2009, 05:28 PM   15
Paul Smith
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there is wonky and then there is wonky

Hi Joel--

That's a very pretty Baluchi you have there, nice colors. But while it has a certain amount of wonkiness, it falls within the normal range of Baluchi wonk, IMHO. Frank's rug seems to me to be in an entirely transcendental mode of wonkiness, a different league. I appreciate Rich's hesitancy to accept a shamanic ritual possibility, since actual evidence for that would be pretty hard to come by, but it does explain the balance of intention, skill, and hallucinogenic imagery seen here.

Frank--

Great piece!! It appears as though we are looking at a regularly wonky Baluch through a foot of rippling clear water. It certainly makes sense to me that the weaver was in an altered state.

Paul

Last edited by Paul Smith; August 15th, 2009 at 05:33 PM.
August 15th, 2009, 07:24 PM   16
Rich Larkin
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Hi all,

In support of my case, I give you a true wonky rug, backed solidly by good old fashioned incompetence.





As Steve mentioned, the Kurds seem to be the world headquarters for wonkiness in rugs, and I expect this is another entry. I would guess the novice daughter was sitting to the right, and mother (who was no threat to Maqsud Kashani in her own right) was on the left. I think what you get when the weavers simply don't have mastery of the art of drawing on a loom in wool is the non-straight lines and the general...well...wonkiness we see here. It's quite a different thing from the controlled wonkiness of Frank's rug.

My theory may have to take a few steps back if the art of pile weaving consists of two distinct skills: One, the mastery of any number of designs and motifs, each of which is represented by a sort of code; and two, the ability to order this range of individual motifs and designs in an effective arrangement. It may be that some weavers have several motifs in their repertoire, and can commence to weaving one or more at any time in the weaving; but they lack the wider vision of knowing when to start what in order to end up with a properly organized design. A weaver relatively accomplished in phase one, but weak in phase two, might come up with something like Frank's rug. On balance, though, I think the lady was doing it all on purpose.

Paul, your rippling water prism idea is just right. Now, if that's what the lady had in mind, we may be dealing with a genius.

Joel, that's a sweet rug. The only thing I can say for sure about the weaver is that she was an artist.

Rich Larkin

P. S.: Please, no cruel remarks about the dyes or the condition of my Kurdish rug.
August 15th, 2009, 07:36 PM   17
James Blanchard
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Hi all,

I love speculation about the intention of the weaver, and even the circumstances of weaving, as much as anyone. Now I have more interesting explanations for this wonky S. Persian tribal rug. Perhaps the weaver started the rug sober, but started using drugs part-way through the process and finished the rug "under the influence". Or maybe she suffered a retinal detachment but kept steadfast in the completion of the rug. The remarkable thing is that she also switched from symmetric to asymmetric knotting (at the superimposed red lines), perhaps to disguise the rug's origin...

Or maybe it was just a rug begun by an experienced weaver, and completed by an inexperienced one... but that seems a less interesting tale now.





James
August 15th, 2009, 08:49 PM   18
Marla Mallett
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In my opinion, the irregularities in these rugs are easily explained by what I have seen in practice. Most knotted-pile rugs are family projects, and not the product of a single person. Just imagine a 12 or 14-year old girl charged with sitting at the loom along with an older sister or her mother when she would much rather be elsewhere, hanging out with friends. Does she really care how exacting she is with the pattern at hand? Many mothers are reluctant to correct their young daughters' work and rarely are an older sister's directions or corrections well received. The attitude towards the work seems to change once a young girl is responsible for a piece of her own...Then pride in the work takes over. We need only imagine how kids of our own would react when given such a dull, boring job as sitting still, tying knots for hours.

Marla
August 16th, 2009, 06:19 AM 19
Frank Martin Diehr
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Hi all,

what about the "Chinese script" cartouches in the borders, they are almost all different from each other. I have never before seen them on a "Baluch" rug.

The rug does not seem to be woven by two people, and at just 75x100cm, it seems unlikely anyway.

btw: The orange is certainly dyed with madder, it is what some people call burnt orange. (If the sun comes out today, I'll try and take a few more pictures.)

Frank

When I saw the rug I "had" to get it, it is so intriguing, charming in more than one way, genuine, authentic, tribal ... (no, you can't have it).
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August 16th, 2009, 11:05 AM   20
Rich Larkin
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Hi Frank,

In spite of my dubious theories, the cartouches in the border (as well as the defining lines of the border) do meet my standard for a genuine wonky rug: They're just poorly executed. I think the equation of the interior devices with Chinese script is a stretch. I still love the rug, but those designs look like free-lancing to me.

No doubt about the madder orange, of course. It's quintessential Baluch.

Rich Larkin
August 17th, 2009, 07:56 AM   21
Marla Mallett
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Frank,

I wonder how you concluded that your rug was not woven by more than one person? Throughout the "rug world" It is certainly common to see two girls or women sitting side by side, weaving on a piece in this size range. Moreover, many knotted-pile rugs of this size--including Baluch pieces--include crossed wefts. These details tell us definitively that two people worked on the rug together. Can you tell us whether or not your rug has crossed wefts?

Marla
August 17th, 2009, 08:21 AM   22
Steve Price
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Hi Marla

Your explanation for wonkiness (post #18 in this thread) makes perfect sense to me, and has the advantage of coming from someone with first hand experience.

It raises a thought, perhaps interesting, perhaps not. Kurdish weaving includes wonkiness more often than most, or so it seems to me. Can it be inferred from this that "mother/daughter" joint projects are more common among the Kurds than they are in most other groups? Wonkiness in Turkmen weavings is very unusual, and when it occurs it is much less obvious than what's common in Kurdish products. Can we infer from this that "mother/daughter" joint projects are relatively rare among the Turkmen?

Regards, and thanks.

Steve Price
August 17th, 2009, 09:37 AM  23
Marla Mallett
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Steve,

As we know, both child-rearing practices and teaching methods vary considerably from one society to another, even from one generation to another. Thus it is hardly surprising that mothers have differed in their approaches to teaching daughters to weave. Even within a single community one person might be permissive, allowing the daughter lots of freedom, while another is more strict. In one situation, a mother may give the daughter responsibility for only a small, simple area to knot, then when that is mastered, assign her another. Another situation may be more free-wheeling. But since ALL weavers had to start somewhere, at some time, it's reasonable to expect errors and missteps in lots of tribal and cottage industry rugs. I find it rather silly to read anything purposeful into these errors. The exception might be a rebellious girl's act of defiance, if she was required to sit at the loom for an unreasonable length of time.

The differences in the acceptability of weaving errors or irregularities between one group and another may be due to the intended uses for the end products. When pieces are made for sale, one can expect the guidance of young weavers to be more exacting. In weavings made for home use, we can expect the teachers to be more lax and forgiving. Of course "community standards" may simply be more lackadaisical in one group than in another.

In most of the fine and decorative arts we apply quite different standards to the work of mature artists and to the products of children. We don't apply the same criteria to our children's crayon drawings as to works hung in the local art gallery, nor do we view them in the same way. I think it is reasonable to approach woven products with the same double standard.

Marla
August 17th, 2009, 09:48 AM  24
Frank Martin Diehr
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Hi Marla,

I had another look, and could not find any crossed wefts. What is quite evident, however, even from the front of the piece, is that weft depression changes dramatically, but almost at randon, in patches, not sripes, all over the rug (right and left, at top and bottom). In those patches, the wefts are only beaten down half as much as in most of the pile, and subsequently, the knots appear to be thicker, but there are no extra or crossed wefts. This adds to the irregularities of motifs, but is certainly not enough to explain them.

My assumption that it was made by one person is mainly based on size, and on the observation that in many irregular rugs there is a visible difference in left and right vertical half. I will provide a few more details when I have a moment.

Frank
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August 17th, 2009, 11:33 AM  25
Marla Mallett
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I have some personal feelings to express on the subject of children's woven art. Perhaps this is a good time. They are not politically correct, but they are sincere. It's a perspective that comes from having spent many long hours at the loom over a period of several years, as well as significant time visiting Middle Eastern tribal weavers.

Rather than finding delight in a rug that displays severe incompetence throughout--either technical or in design execution--I have to admit that, to me, such a piece is depressing. I find it most unfortunate that any child or children should be made to labor for long, boring hours on such a project. Any mother concerned with her child's mental well being would surely find a way to teach her by incorporating a young daughter's tasks in a limited way in her own piece. OR she might direct the child in making a small bag or chanta for "practice," something much more tolerable for a child with a limited attention span. Just calculate the hours involved in producing a piece 75 cm x 100 cm or more--hours much longer when the work is done by an inexperienced weaver or two. No one who has spent much time weaving could believe that such a project was undertaken, and completed, by a young girl of her own free will.

Marla
August 17th, 2009, 01:42 PM   26
Igina Barchi
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some time ago I wrote for myself:

"A nomadic rug concentrates a world vision: abstract, refined, handed down from a generation to the following one. Patterns and colors are blended as expression of creativity: many times in the past and also now rugs are a task for women, subdued in a nomadic life, dreadful thing maybe for us, owing to its ineluctable poor simplicity. So my rugs, though not important, hang up at room walls: knot after knot, thousand and thousand times... not for my feet indeed"
now I want to thank Marla Mallett: her great experience and empathy give her words a deep significant value. As a woman I appreciate her competence even more
regards
Igina Barchi
August 17th, 2009, 04:16 PM   27
Paul Smith
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The abhorrent cruelty of child labor may or may not play a role here, since I don't think it is clear that this rug is an incompetent weaving. And what incompetence would indicate if it indeed were present. What an extreme divergence of views here in this thread, that this could be either the product of misery or ecstasy! Numerous times we have confronted the reality of our near-total ignorance of the actual culture of the women that wove most of these pieces a century ago, and it is provocative to consider that ethics could so closely correlate with aesthetics. Wouldn't this rug appear completely different to us knowing that it was the product of child slave labor, or the result of an ecstatic altered state? And yet we know too little about the weavers to know whether or not it was the result of an inventive artistic vision.

What an intriguing issue!

Paul
August 17th, 2009, 05:11 PM  28
Steve Price
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Hi Paul

As soon as I read Marla's post, I knew things would lurch off in the direction of child slavery. She wasn't talking about child slavery, but about cultures in which children are taught to weave by their mothers in ways that seem pretty unpleasant to most of us (aside to Igina: most men abhor the abuse of children, even of little girls).

I understand Marla's point. It is depressing that children in less developed cultures get pushed into doing things that our children don't endure. It's depressing that their literacy education suffers, and most of us have trouble wrapping our brains around the notion that women in certain cultures are anything but equals to the men; especially guys like me, who are married to extremely intelligent, highly educated women.

On the other hand, I don't actually know how many hours and at what ages girls in these groups go through the ordeal of learning to weave. Maybe it's horrendous, maybe it's not much more of an imprisonment than what our kids go through in getting early education or being forced to learn to play a musical instrument when they completely lack the aptitude for it. Do the girls we're talking about turn into bitter adults? If so, I guess their tradition is strong enough (or evil enough - choose your own adjective here) to have them subject their daughters to the same things they went through.

I'm not defending the practice, and it's easy to see its results as depressing. But it seems to me to be pretty far from slavery.

Regards

Steve Price
August 17th, 2009, 07:04 PM   29
Paul Smith
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Hi Steve--

What I was saying is that it seemed to me not at all certain that this rug was the product of a child's weaving, and that for its aesthetic value to be in some relationship to the manner of its production requires that we make judgments we are apparently unable to make from the evidence we have. It is an interesting conundrum.

Sure, there are all sorts of unpleasant child labor situations short of slavery. Working in their parent's restaurant is a condition that comes up even here, not to mention all the other far more unpleasant situations, and at the time this rug was woven, child labor of the sort Marla describes was common in "developed" cultures as well. I am reminded of Gandhi's retort, when asked what he thought of Western Culture--"It's a good idea, they should try it."

But the bottom line is that I am not convinced that we are looking at the product of such conditions. To me, the rug seems intentional in its wonkiness. It doesn't depress me, in any case.

Paul
August 17th, 2009, 08:08 PM   30
Marla Mallett
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If we need EVIDENCE that the rug under discussion was woven by a novice, or novices, we need only pay attention to Frank's description of the rug's technical features: "weft depression changes dramatically, but almost at randon, in patches, not sripes, all over the rug (right and left, at top and bottom). In those patches, the wefts are only beaten down half as much as in most of the pile, and subsequently, the knots appear to be thicker..." Changes in weft depression actually result from improperly inserted wefts, and an inconsistent allowance for weft ease. This is a dead giveaway that the artisan was inexperienced, and such a shoddy practice would never appear in the work of a weaver with even minimal accomplishments.

In addition to the erratic placement and formation of the field motifs, I think that the poorly and inconsistently articulated borders are evidence of production by a novice weaver or weavers. There is hardly a single border motif that is not poorly drawn, and this continues throughout the length of the rug. The articulation is shaky and unsure. There is a world of difference between intentional variations and "drawing" that lacks confidence.

Marla
August 17th, 2009, 10:10 PM   31
Steve Price
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Hi Marla

Collectors really want to believe that they (we, I'm one of them) hold something in our hands that connects us to a mysterious and exotic culture. Inept workmanship is a disappointing alternative. It's a lot like those dramatic moments in my line of work, when a beautiful hypothesis comes face to face with an ugly fact.

Regards

Steve Price
August 18th, 2009, 06:40 AM   32
Lloyd Kannenberg
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Hello All,

I don't think all wonkiness can be attributed to inexperience. Here is an image of a really bizarre rug from the book "Djulchir":



The intent was, apparently, two columns of Memling guls, with a column of cruciform figures between them. According to Liban Pollet, who wrote the descriptions of the julkhyrs in the book, it was probably woven by someone, or several someones, who were really into those Magic Mushrooms, and the result is the equivalent of a ruggie LSD trip!

Weavers just want to have fun, I guess.

Best to all,

Lloyd Kannenberg
August 18th, 2009, 07:01 AM   33
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Lloyd,

I don’t know how long it could take to weave one of those julkirs… at least a few weeks, I guess. Now, I don’t see a tribal woman going stoned for such a long time, do you? Unless she was a Shaman. Well, a Shawoman to be exact. .

Skeptically (but I’m open to Anthropological evidence, if there’s any),

Filiberto
August 18th, 2009, 07:13 AM   34
Steve Price
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Hi Filiberto

My limited understanding of the cultures of central Asia include:
1. Hallucinogens were used in ritual, not as part of a woman's everyday life.
2. Shamans and shamanettes weren't the family weavers.

Unless Liban Pollet actually had some direct information about the julkhyr, I'd put the claim that it was woven by stoned weavers in the same folder with the frequent claims about things having been woven for wedding, funeral, or coming of age ceremonies.

Regards

Steve Price
August 18th, 2009, 08:02 AM  35
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Steve,
Quote:
1. Hallucinogens were used in ritual, not as part of a woman's everyday life.
Right.
A cynical note: as far as I know, the only instances of “stoned women” allowed in that part of the world are the result of executions by stoning.

But, again, I’m open to contrary evidence…
August 18th, 2009, 10:21 AM   36
Lloyd Kannenberg
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Hi Filiberto, Steve and All,

Pollet estimates that weaving a rug this size would require about 80 hours, and speculates that this one was done in three separate sessions, or by three different weavers. I certainly won't insist on his assumption that the weaver or weavers were stoned, but how then to account for its weirdness? It is hard for me to believe that a novice weaver would be left unattended for a total of 80 hours (or likely more, for a novice) at a large ground loom! Is a puzzlement.

Lloyd Kannenberg
August 18th, 2009, 10:55 AM   37
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Hi Lloyd,

The Julkhyr is a long coarsely woven sleeping rug. It’s an utilitarian item. I doubt there was a market for julkhyrs until the recent western interest for ethnographic artifacts so I guess they were woven by the family for the family, not for the local bazaar.

If this is the case, why not let the girls practice their weaving skills in making them?
We say in Italian ”Sbagliando s’impara” (After making mistakes, one learns). After all, who cares about the result? When you sleep on a julkhyr, you don’t see its “wonkiness”.

It’s not as romantic as the "hallucinogen" explanation but it seems more logical to me.

Perhaps there are other good explanations as well, but, to state it more clearly, I do not think that women were allowed to take hallucinogens in Central Asian nomadic societies.

Regards,

Filiberto
August 18th, 2009, 01:44 PM  38
Paul Smith
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I have one question about the wonkiness-as-a-feature-of-weaving-education hypothesis. Wouldn't the quality of weaving change during the process? Both Frank's and Lloyd's examples seem pretty consistent to me. If this were the product of someone learning the craft, wouldn't she get better as she went along? Especially if the process was taking months to unfold.

Are there examples of rugs where wonkiness becomes more orderly as the carpet was woven?

Paul
August 18th, 2009, 03:27 PM   39
James Blanchard
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Hi all,

As I mentioned earlier in this thread I am a romantic when it comes to rug tales, so this speculation is fun. And the more I think about it the more intrigued I become with the concept of drug-induced weaving.

Assuming that a drug-influenced weaver would take only 80 hours to weave a simple rug, 80 hours is still a pretty long time to be "high". I suppose that a tribal woman might not be able to stay high continuously. So if, for example, we assume that she was high for 2-3 hours a day and stopped weaving whenever the effects of the drugs wore off (I'm not sure how she would determine when exactly to stop weaving... perhaps when she perceived an emerging ability to draw a basic shape in her weaving), it would still take several weeks to produce the rug.

Several weeks of:
Wake up...
Do the morning chores...
Get high...
Weave for a few hours...
Stop weaving when lucidity begins to return....
Complete evening chores (get more drugs, when necessary)....
Sleep...
Repeat....
That is quite a project, don't you think???
But I wonder how she explained this project to her curious tribal family and friends.

James
August 18th, 2009, 06:28 PM 40
Richard Larkin
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Hi all,

I agree that the technical weaving inconsistencies indicate the weaver was inexperienced. So much for that silly "intentional wonkiness" theory. Frank's reaction to the resulting product and that of many of the rest of us, however, brings up a familiar paradox: that apparently inept weaving not infrequently wins critical approval, at least from some sectors. For my own part, I don't spend much time analyzing the artistic merits or demerits, coming from the "I don't know art, but I know what I like" school. Chacun ŕ son gout, as far as I'm concerned. Nevertheless, it is interesting that some people are quite taken with what are actually lapses in weaving skill, and others dismiss the same work.

The phenomenon isn't limited to so-called "wonkiness" in design. For example, one writer on the subject, possibly James Opie, noted that Persian rug connoisseurs do not esteem abrash in rugs, viewing it as a weaving fault. In the west, the same phenomemon often raises a rug to a considerably higher status than a similar rug with uniformity in the coloring. Furthermore, I suspect that much of what we collectors deem to be sterile in rugs woven in a dedicated commercial setting is the result of the professional "improvement" of the product by those who knew better. Spontaneity and individual expression gave way to uniformity and applied standards of quality.

It seems though that a certain level of weaving skill is required before spontaneity and individual expression can become operative factors. Is Lloyd's Julkir an example of spontaneity and individual expression? Is a canvas left in the monkey's cage amidst several open jars of paint a work of art? These are hard questions. I haven't seen the monkey canvas, so will reserve judgment, but I love that Julkir.

Anyway, these matters bring us inevitably to the task of attempting to divine the intent of the weavers, which is where Frank started us off. It's fun as long as we don't take ourselves too seriously in the process. As Marla noted, the attitudes towards weaving may differ widely from one community to another, a factor to which we probably give insufficient attention. One group may be scandalized by "poor" weaving practices, and another may think "it's no big deal." The level of skill the communiies expect among their weavers may vary greatly as well. I noted with interest in Frank's Treasured Baluch book the comments of Deitrich Wegner in an interview article. He mentioned that he had attempted to get a couple of pile pieces woven by a respected senior weaver to a simple (though unfamiliar within the Baluchi weaving vocabulary) pattern, but that she had quite a bit of trouble executing it. On the other hand, I read in Edwards that young girls weaving rugs in the Heriz area were renowned for their ability to adapt and manipulate the complex patterns of that region without the aid of cartoons. There are probably many factors that account for the anomalies we find in rugs that we would never think about. I’m inclined to think drugs didn’t figure much into the picture, but what would I know?

Getting back to Frank’s rug, I think it was the work of inexperienced weavers who had a modicum of weaving knowledge, being young girls learning the craft. She (they) had some ability to reproduce certain traditional family patterns, but not mastery. She (they) had less ability to control the arrangement of these patterns in an orderly manner in the larger scheme to create the familiar grid of guls. How did she (they) do? Pretty well, it turns out, as she (they) managed to monopolize a meeting of hard core German rug collectors quite a few decades later with their charming little rug. By the way, I think she (they) enjoyed the task.

Rich Larkin
August 18th, 2009, 07:09 PM  41
Lloyd Kannenberg
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Hi Richard,

Did anyone ever consider that maybe some wonky rugs were woven by accomplished women as jokes? After all, Mozart wrote "A musical joke" ("Ein musikalischer Spass").

Lloyd Kannenberg
August 18th, 2009, 07:17 PM  42
Richard Larkin
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Hi Lloyd,

The joke theory was my original explanation of Frank's rug, but I'm convinced that the weaver was a novice. If that Julkir was a joke, wow, what a sense of humor on that lady!

Rich Larkin
August 19th, 2009, 03:58 AM   43
Frank Martin Diehr
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Hi all!

First of all, let me stress that I'm inclined to never taking opinions on my rugs too seriously, I collect for the fun of it, only.
Secondly, the ideas I purported (female shamaism, ritualistic use, drugs) where not mine, but overheard at the meeting, and came from other light hearted ruggies at that meeting.
Thirdly, here are a few more border details of "script" cartouches. I don't buy the idea that they are poorly executed renditions of a mofif (which "Baluch" motif would that be?), they are too markedly different.





Also, I enclose another detail of the structure.



Anyway, this discussion was fun and a opportunitiy to share a little of what we entertain ourselves with here in the Old European province of Baloneystan!

Frank

For convenience, here is the whole rug:

__________________
This is just an uneducated guess!
August 19th, 2009, 08:52 AM   44
James Blanchard
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Hi Frank,

First, let me reiterate that regardless of the circumstances of weaving, as an unapologetic Baluchophile, I think that rug is a "winner".

I would like to continue to keep an open mind about who wove it, and whether the wonkiness was intentional. My main objection is with the hypothesis of drug-induced weaving, which on balance seems to me to be more improbable than probable.

Whatever one might say about your rug, it strikes me as being as "tribal" as they get.

James
August 19th, 2009, 09:29 AM  45
Steve Price
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Hi James

It is certainly everything that workshop carpets aren't.

Regards

Steve Price
August 19th, 2009, 10:52 AM   46
Marla Mallett
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Thanks to Frank for posting his rug, since it raises issues of connoisseurship that are not frequently addressed in our field. From time to time we hear complaints that rugs and textiles are not taken seriously by the wider art community; that can only change if quality and aesthetic issues are confronted, along with ethnographic questions. We often get so bogged down with questions of provenance/age/dyes etc. that aesthetic matters seem to be forgotten.

Among the serious comments in this rambling discussion, for me the most important is Richard's statement: "It seems that a certain level of weaving skill is required before spontaneity and individual expression can become operative factors." Spontaneity and individual expression are of course desirable qualities in woven art, especially from artisans working within quite constrained traditions-- rather than mechanical order and wallpaper-like repetition ad nauseum. We certainly need to search out pieces with these qualities, rather than glorifying inept, clumsy designing and poor craftsmanship, pretending that they are the same thing.

As for the julkhirs shown, that is another animal entirely--one that represents a totally different approach. It looks to me like the work of a couple of giggly teenagers who were making no attempt to "reproduce" anything from the tribal repertoire and were just having fun with the weaving--making pseudo guls that were just splashes of color. Good for them! It's an acknowledgement that long shaggy pile is not particularly suited to the articulation of detailed geometric motifs and a repudiation of that idea. This piece reminds me of the Moroccan pile rugs of Chadma and Rehamna. They are free-flowing, abstracted expressions as well.

Marla
August 19th, 2009, 11:11 AM  47
Steve Price
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Hi Marla

Your call for requiring a decent level of craftsmanship for something to be called art is one that I share, and it isn't peculiar to weaving arts.

The very word "art" means "special skill". I've had problems understanding some of what's been passing as music, for example. Specifically, the sort of thing that results from random actions - tossing objects onto the strings of a piano before playing it, or pieces consisting of silence while the "performers" sit on stage. I attended a Master's recital at my university's music school some years ago, and one performance consisted of a student in a rocking chair, rocking back and forth on stage, with the sound being amplified creaking of the wooden floor. The other students seemed to be moved to enthusiasm; I was baffled. I also recall an exhibition of paintings at the National Gallery (Washington, DC), where I entered the exhibition room from the top of a flight of stairs, so I had an immediate view of the whole room. From that vantage point, I saw what looked to me like it was probably "best in show". As I got closer, I realized that it was just a darkly stained wooden door with a brushed steel doorknob. It wasn't part of the exhibition, of course, but I thought it much better than some of the huge canvases with nothing on them but a single, untextured color from edge to edge.

As a quick rule of thumb, I figure that if a work could be pretty accurately reproduced with ltitle effort by me or by a typical 8 year old, it can't be art.

Regards

Steve Price
August 19th, 2009, 12:07 PM  48
Steve Price
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On the other hand ...

Hi All

Here's a crayon drawing done by my daughter when she was about 6 years old.



It's been hanging on the wall of my office for nearly 45 years now. It's not great art, obviously, but has great appeal to me (that's why I still have it). It wouldn't be unreasonable, I think, if someone else found it interesting and worth keeping for reasons completely outside artistic aesthetics. My point is that rugs like Martin's Belouch, arguably on the short list for Wonkiest of Type, has collector appeal that's independent of the aesthetics or artistry.

Maybe? I'm trying to understand why I'd be glad to own it even though it is obviously of, shall we say, modest quality by most criteria for judging its artistry or aesthetics.

Regards

Steve Price
August 19th, 2009, 02:03 PM   49
Paul Smith
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Steve--

Your reference to John Cage's brilliant 1952 response to post-WWII academic European music, the infamous 4' 33", in which a pianist sits silently at a piano, is a perfect metaphor for some of the issues here. You see no value in it, because you are apparently unaware of its context; it was in fact in direct response to the incredibly complex mathematical models for music composition then gaining ground among European composers. The piece is pretty meaningless outside its context, but it was a wonderful reply to Milton Babbitt's total serialism.

Similarly, while an expert like Marla can decode competence or the lack of it in analyzing the structure of a weaving, decoding the significance of incompetence without knowledge of the context of its weaving is not really possible. We can say what it is, but not what it means. We make a valiant effort to know as much as we can about the women who made these things, but to try to derive an objective standard for an object to be called art is bound up in several layers of Eurocentric aesthetic agendas that have little relevance to the nomadic cultures that wove carpets. One can guess that the nihilistic dead end of European modernism was not a movement that ever came up in Central Asian traditional art, but ultimately it is you that decided for yourself that the amplified rocking chair didn't make it as art, and Frank's wonky rug did. Essentially this is why peer review is a wretched way to make and support art. It really IS in the eye of the beholder.

Paul

Last edited by Paul Smith; August 19th, 2009 at 02:11 PM.
August 19th, 2009, 02:58 PM   50
Marla Mallett
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When I first started visiting nomadic and village weavers about 30 years ago, one of my main concerns was to learn about these women's attitudes toward their work. ..to learn what standards they applied...to learn how they judged the work of others in their communities. I was eager to learn to what extent it was appropriate to apply my own "Western" aesthetic standards to tribal weavings--to learn whether "Eurocentric aesthetic agendas" in the so-called "decorative arts" were really so different from that of the tribal women I was visiting. In addition, I was feeling so irritated by common rug book fantasies, attitudes and interpretations that I was eager to discover to what extent my own weaving studio experiences were duplicated in village houses and tents. I found few surprises, and found few instances when creative instincts and attitudes toward craftsmanship did not parallel mine. I also found that the negative constraints of commercialism and production for the marketplace differed very little from those faced by my fellow American artisans...that attitudes toward production were nearly always altered significantly when the objects were to be merchandized. I haven't been everywhere; my in-depth conversations with weavers over the years have occurred primarily in Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, and more recently in Thailand and Laos. Within these quite divergent cultures, the similarities in attitudes towards aesthetics, creativity and craftsmanship are astounding. The basic differences are quite minor and superficial, relating only to style.

Marla
August 19th, 2009, 03:40 PM   51
Steve Price
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Hi Paul

I was wondering whether you or Richard Farber would react first. I understand that Cage's piece made a statement to his peers, but to concertgoers (they pay the bills), it's worse than uninteresting, it's insulting. Music is a form of performing art, and if the performer can play a piece perfectly without being able to play an instrument (or even without being alive, come to think of it), what makes the piece art and what makes the performer an artist? Would you buy a CD with 45 minutes of silence? I can compose such a piece in a few minutes and record it while you wait.

If silence, creaking floors, and, I suppose, recordings made inside autos as they are crushed are all music, then there are no criteria for judging music. If there are no criteria or standards, nothing's better or worse than anything else. Limericks are as good as Shakespeare's sonnets. That seems intuitively unacceptable to me, and I doubt that I'm alone in that notion. I know my criteria aren't crisp, but as a minimum, they include the belief that art without a reasonable level of craftsmanship is unworthy of serious attention.

This isn't to say that anything that doesn't rise to that level is worthless. I don't think I said that I see Frank's Belouch as art, but I do see it as collectible. Just as an aside, the late James Keshishian's book on inscribed Armenian rugs includes a few that are inscribed only on attached labels, and he valued those especially, not because of their artistry or aesthetics, but because the labels proved that they were woven by orphaned Armenian girls.

Regards

Steve Price

August 19th, 2009, 04:12 PM

  52
Richard Larkin
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Hi Paul,

That was a brilliant response by Cage. What I'd like to know is, did the lucky folks who got to see it have to pay for the tickets?!

Steve, I'm glad you posted that delightful report by your daughter. Being in the legal biz, I fully appreciate the attractions of getting to "juge people around." Moreover, it parallels my experience with one of my boys as he was coming along, and since you've broken the ice (on the child's art issue), I'll mention it. When he was of tender age, he (along with the other kids) would produce the inevitable picture of the house, the sun in the sky, and mother waving out the front door (somewhat out of proportion to the size of the house), the flower on the stalk (also in strange proportion), all done in brilliant poster paints. Unfortunately, I didn't retain the original for posting, but I think most are familiar with the genre. The point is that back then, I thought my son's version of the "study in domestic harmony" was a cut above the ordinary run. Somehow, it seemed that the choice of detail, the composition, the arrangement of the colors gave it a certain presence lacking in the other examples. Even at the time, I realized there were two possibilities: (a) it was true; (b) I was just one more out-of-control parent in lala land. Future developments seemed to indicate that I had seen something there, as my son is an adult person who has ability in several artistic endeavors, in which a principal component of the talent is the ability to select, omit and arrange details in a way to afford maximum beneficial results.

The foregoing raises a question in my mind in the context of this thread. I agree with Marla and Steve on the general proposition that some level of mastery of a craft is necessary in order to produce works of artistic merit in the craft. Otherwise, the results are happening by chance, and we are dealing with the monkey in the cage with the paint, and it is landing haphazardly on the canvas, though it may have a good look about it at the end. Nevertheless, I wonder whether an inherent ability on the part of the weaver to make a powerful visual statement, however rudimentary her technical weaving skills and limited her materials, can triumph over the weaknesses in her craft. Whatever the answer, it is clear that rugs like Frank's, with obvious technical deficiencies, have the power to move many people who have seen and thought about many rugs.

Incidentally, Frank, please forgive my lapse: that was a hard core group of Austrian collectors who were entranced by this humble little carpet. By the way, did it occur to you that the proto-chinese character in the second detail image you provided above bears some resemblance to one of the familiar versions of the "bird" figure that often appears on each side of the "tree" in the Baluch octagon type bag? It is the way the upper part is formed, and the way it bends forward. It doesn't get us anywhere, but the thing struck me that way. If that isn't the basis of the figure, it does have a chinese character look to it.

Rich Larkin
August 19th, 2009, 05:00 PM   53
James Blanchard
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This is getting interesting...

Hi all,

I think that Frank's rug has had the exact effect he intended when he posted it... to create discussion (and perhaps debate).

I am no art connoisseur, but do appreciate its technical, social and political aspects.

I doubt that we will never know the exact personal, family and tribal context for most of our tribal weavings. Was the family well-off (relatively)? Had they recently experienced or were they anticipating a celebratory event? Was it a time of hardship or famine? Were they under threat of harm from the rulers or other tribes? Had they experienced any personal tragedy or illness? Had they any feuds with other tribal members or clans? As for any art form, I hold the romantic notion that these sorts of circumstances did influence how each tribal rug was woven. That is part of what sets these apart from workshop or "mass produced" rugs, which required higher levels of design and often technical and technological sophistication, while stripping away much of the social context and meaning, especially at the individual and family level.

So perhaps Frank's rug was a "protest" rug, by someone with personal or political objections to having to weave. Frankly, I am more inclined to believe that than the drugged weaver concept. But we will never know, so we can ponder a bit and use our imagination. That is not unlike how I respond to much abstract and impressionistic art.

But another feature of this rug is also instructive.... despite its "wonkiness" it is almost instantly recognizable as Baluch (Pollet's rug is also easily recognizable, even with its unrecognizable design). By using particular materials, techniques and aesthetic approaches, tribal rugs are embedded within their tribal context and tradition. They are not just the result of an individual's creativity, but an individual's creativity set within a defined tribal rubric. It reminds all those who see the end-product of the tribal context of the weaving, and allows tribe members and outsiders alike to compare and contrast and evaluate the quality of the weavings in relation to each other.

In my mind, the appeal of Frank's rug is the "idea" of the rug. Even though it is wonky, it instantly conveys its tribal origin, complete with the materials, colours and design repertoire. However achieved, it contains many of the aesthetic qualities that we value in these sorts of rugs, and at the same time says "I am not a workshop or commercial rug".

Finally, Steve's introduction of his daughter's handiwork is instructive. We smile inwardly because there lies behind this sort of expression an aspect of human experience that we understand and to which we are connected. And we realize that children, in their naivete, often scratch the surface off and let us think about things at deeper levels. I think that most artists hope that they do that too.

James
August 19th, 2009, 05:26 PM   54
Richard Larkin
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Hi James,

Well said, but I think there is more to Frank's rug than just the achievement of an idea by the weaver. I liked Paul's description of it as looking like an ordinary wonky Baluch viewed through a foot of clear rippling water. It is that quality of it that seems to raise it above the normally wonky, and I wonder whether that was just an accident.

Rich Larkin
August 19th, 2009, 05:36 PM  55
James Blanchard
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Hi Rich,

I am not sure that the weaver was trying to achieve an "idea", but I think that she did so regardless of intent because she was weaving within the context of a tradition that carries its own weight in terms of "meaning" and "ideas".

I haven't looked at any of my rugs underwater, but I suppose it might look like that. But I'm not sure that moves us much closer to securing that as an explanation for the wonkiness of this rug.

While I agree with Frank that the line-figures in the border octagons are interesting and perhaps intentional, I'm still a bit uncertain as to why for some folks this rug seems to have "planned" wonkiness, as opposed to unintentional. I can appreciate the rug with either interpretation, but would like to know what criteria folks are applying to make this assessment.

James
August 19th, 2009, 09:11 PM   56
Paul Smith
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James, et al--

I wonder why the rug is so consistently whatever-it-is, wonky. How could a weaver work for months and not get better at it, unless there indeed was intention of some kind or another. Having a seven-year-old, I could imagine stubbornness...for a few weeks maybe, but months?

Cross-cultural exploration of the music has played a major role in my training, so I think I have some sense of the experience of doing the same with weaving. As Marla implied, there are universals, things that virtually everyone does, and near-universals, things that a lot of people do. Yes, I would say pride in one's craft is very common, and most (but not all by any means) recognize individuals with special artistic skills. In learning multiple languages of music, I found that it is possible to get out of my own perspective to some degree, but in doing so it was very clear to me that my experience of aesthetics was not that of my teachers or of indigenous audiences, no matter how long I would study or work on it. I am who I am, from where I am, in time and place. Take one of the great melodic modes of Asian music, what is known as maqam hijaz in Arabic countries, raga bhairav in Hindustani music, or the "questioning mode" in Klezmer music. Westerners generally find it weird and exotic, Arab theorists identify it as stimulating and sensual, and Jewish musicians clearly see it as an impetus to philosophical speculation (and I wouldn't be surprised if musicians from each of those traditions saw this, they would probably complain about the comparison). And it is typically European of me to put them all together on the basis of the pitches used, and to explain the presence of the mode in many cultures historically. Of course, classical European musicians regard the whole thing as simplistic since there is no functional harmony to speak of in any of this! My experience of each of these traditions is that they are all equally deep, but that their agendas are different, sometimes radically different. When I sat down with rural Turkish musicians and noticed what they were playing was (as urban Turkish classical musicians would say) makam hiçaz, they said, "we don't play that makam stuff, we just play." There is more literature on music performance practice in the nineteenth century than there apparently is of rug weaving practice, but I can say confidently that the values of late-20th century musicians are not the same as those of a 100 years ago, necessarily. Clearly things are passed on, a lot of things, but it is hard to know what is recent and what is ancient, even with documentation.

Paul
August 19th, 2009, 10:16 PM   57
James Blanchard
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Hi Paul,

Your questions about weaving extend me way beyond my knowledge and experience, but I follow your logic. I am not sure how long it would take to weave that rug, or whether one might expect improvements in technique during the course of the weaving. I do have a couple of rugs that look to be consistently "naive" or "inexperienced" in execution, including the Shekarlu that I illustrated. In that case, my interpretation is that the rug was started by one weaver (using symmetrical knots), and taken over by another (who used asymmetric knots). The first weaver seemed more accomplished, particularly in rendering the "Shekarlu" border. Where the borders were a mess, some of the design elements were very well-drawn. Could it be that a weaver just struggled with an unfamiliar border pattern? I don't know.

James
August 19th, 2009, 10:19 PM   58
Steve Price
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Hi Paul

You ask, How could a weaver work for months and not get better at it, unless there indeed was intention of some kind or another?

There are people whose aptitude for certain things isn't very good, and doesn't become very good even with lots of practice. If we're talking about playing musical instruments, I could be the type specimen. No amount of time or teacher effort overcame my innate limitations. I enjoy listening, and accepted the fact that this was to be my only role in music long ago.

There must be girls with little or no aptitude for weaving. In weaving cultures, their moms sit them at the loom and try to teach them, and they may even complete a few pieces before it becomes obvious that this isn't for them. I suspect that Frank's charming (but artistically void) rug was done by such a girl, and that she probably didn't pursue weaving as a career path.

That would explain it well enough to satisfy me.

Regards

Steve Price
August 20th, 2009, 03:51 AM  59
Filiberto Boncompagni
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Comment in John Cage's style

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August 20th, 2009, 05:46 AM  60
Steve Price
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Filiberto Boncompagni
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Regards

Steve Price
August 20th, 2009, 10:30 AM   61
Marla Mallett
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Steve is SO right in his assessment--that some individuals find weaving suits their temperaments and some don't. I know village women who have told me that they hate weaving and they much prefer to spend their free time processing cheese to sell, while their friends weave.

We may think of tribal and village women as exotic alien beings whose work has deep mythical and significant meanings. But these women were (and are) down to earth, practical people. Among them, the elderly women I have come to know have lived lives not very different from those of my grandparents and great grandparents who lived in the last years of the 19th century. My grandmother lived as a child for a while in a sod house with her immigrant parents, with a family that made everything they needed; they made all of the family's clothing and household items, processed their own food, and cared for some animals. After settling into permanent quarters, in their spare time the women made braided rugs, embroidered linens, and made patchwork quilts. The major difference in their lives and those of Middle Eastern tribal and village women was that those villagers were fortunate that they had a commercial market for their knotted-pile rugs, so they could contribute to the family's income. My grandmother, instead, became a teacher.

Granted, it is difficult for males to get an understanding of Middle Eastern women's lives and work because those women are reluctant to invite strange men into their houses. But I assure you that sitting at their looms, discussing our weavings and our families, one finds that their attitudes toward their products and their families parallel those of "Western" artisans pretty closely. I've not found a whole lot of mysteries to untangle. Of course the lives and attitudes of young people in both cultures have now changed immensely.

Knotted rugs, whether ethnographic objects or cottage industry products made for the market, vary widely in terms of craftsmanship and aesthetic value. As domestic production, generally joint projects of two or more women, most have been mundane renditions of popular community models with slight variations; only occasional creative individuals have gone beyond mere copywork to create outstanding works of "art" and also start new trends. In fact, very few knotted-pile rugs can be accurately characterized as "creative expressions." In my opinion it gets quite silly when we try to read too much into them, rather than merely appreciating them for what they are.

Marla
August 20th, 2009, 11:09 AM   62
Richard Larkin
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Hi James,

You wrote,

Quote:
While I agree with Frank that the line-figures in the border octagons are interesting and perhaps intentional, I'm still a bit uncertain as to why for some folks this rug seems to have "planned" wonkiness, as opposed to unintentional. I can appreciate the rug with either interpretation, but would like to know what criteria folks are applying to make this assessment.
Right. I think I introduced the "planned wonkiness" theory, based on my belief that it would have taken skill to execute those guls as they were executed, then place them in what only (in my estimation) seemed like a careless fashion. My reasoning was that a child's crayon drawing might come out like this; but drawing such figures on a loom in willy nilly fashion would get the unskilled weaver in trouble, and the result would be more like a melt job, as we've seen in one or two Jaff bags, and perhaps the julkir as well. I backtracked from that position, however, mostly because I was convinced that the other technical deficiencies in the rug meant that the weaver had limited abilities. My modified and present position is that the skills of reproducing the individual designs and managing them in a sophisticated pattern are separate, and the weaver of Frank's piece was stronger in phase A than in phase B. Happily, she was way up in phase C, which is Pleasing the Crowd.

Of course, neither my first theory nor my second are worth much. I'm just explaining them. Even so, I feel there is a Dali-esque quality about how the whole rug comes off that I find hard to explain strictly on the basis of wonky execution.

I note with interest Filiberto's learned commentary. He may be telling us that the law of diminishing returns is setting into this thread.

Incidentally, regarding your comment about the potential difficulty of the Shekarlu border for an inexperienced weaver. Experienced pile weavers I've observed often approached the task by inserting colors one at a time across the entire width of the rug wherever the design called for that color; then they would insert another color in the same fashion, continuing in that way until the entire line was complete. I would think that the Shekarlu border, with all its spidery elements would be especialy difficult to weave accurately using that method.

Rich Larkin
August 20th, 2009, 11:51 AM   63
Richard Larkin
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Hi Marla,

Your last post reminds me of a little episode I witnessed about thirty years ago at a Textile Museum symposium on rugs. I've mentioned this on TurkoTek in the past, but it may be worth another round. The theme involved a lot of Caucasian material, it may have been prayer rugs, and one of the honored speakers was an elderly lady from the Caucasus who spoke about her experiences as a young girl weaving rugs. Of course, the rest of the platform was populated by the "usual suspects," who had plenty to say about the rugs on display. When it came time for this humble lady's remarks, she told the assembly in a tone of great admiration that when she and her friends were weaving the rugs, they never realized all the things they were putting into them. There wasn't an ounce of irony in the lady, but judging from the ripple of muffled laughter, the point wasn't missed by many there.

Your comments about the practical and down-to-earth attitudes of the women you've met ring true. It is also true, however, that the lives of many of them, particularly rural or nomadic peoples in that part of the world, are radically different from the lives of most of us; and as Paul implied in an earlier post, those differences can have a profound influence on their view of things. Although I am usually unimpressed with excessively romantic explanations for the weavings, such as shamanic or drug-inspired production, I do think the woven products of many of the people whose weavings intrigue us can reflect much of that different world view. Whether we can divine those views effectively is another matter.

Speaking of grandmothers, my own was an admirable, eminently sensible woman who guided her family successfully through the harsh realities of the depression relying mostly on strength of character. She believed to the marrow of her bones that if anyone opened an umbrella in the house, terrible things would happen. We, being the brats we were, would threaten to do it, to her enormous dismay. I regret it to this day. Walking under ladders and black cats, among other things, were also bad. On the other hand, when told that some people believed it was bad luck to spill salt, she would say, "Now isn't that ridiculous. What can spilling salt have to do with anybody's luck?"

People believe a lot of things, and when it comes to weaving textiles that are an inherent part of peoples lives and livelihood, I think it is reasonable to think that much of what the people value or believe is reflected in some way in their products. The fun of it is trying to figure it out. Of course, reality can occasionally spoil the fun.

Rich Larkin
August 20th, 2009, 12:11 PM   64
Frank Martin Diehr
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Hi all,

thanks for an entertaining discussion sparked by that quirky rug. Judging from posts 59 and 60, even the admins are having fun, nearly having made it to Nirvana!!!

I know the Baluchotkkies are now yearing for the good old mid-19th century blue ground Minah Khani with electric blues (no pun intended).

I clear the stage for that, thanks again for now,

Frank
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This is just an uneducated guess!
August 22nd, 2009, 02:21 PM   65
Joseph E. Beck
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Location: Worcester, MA
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Why a weaver doesn't show improvement on a rug

In terms of being "down to earth" about why a weaver doesn't show improvement on a single rug, there are some cognitive principles that come to mind:

1. Perhaps weaving is a skill that develops slowly, and the improvement on a single rug is trivial? I don't know if it's true for weaving, but some skills have *very* shallow learning curves.

2. Massed practice effects. There is a ton of psychology literature on the effects of repeatedly practicing the same skill in a short time span. In a nutshell, you essentially just "reuse" what's in your immediate memory and don't approach the problem as a chance to think and improve. So even though the rug takes awhile, there might not be much actual practice.

3. Related to #2: if you have a particular solution, you don't tend to stop and reflect if there's something better. For example, I found an online game (Pitfall) that I loved in my childhood. In about 30 minutes of play I realized my (well thought out) approach as a 10-year old was backwards. In about 30 more minutes I'd crushed my previous best-effort, even though my skill at the game was nowhere near as high as it was when I was young. For weaving, you're looking at a few feet of guls drawn a particular way, and you "know" what to do next. So even if skill is improving, it might not be evident in a single rug.

I'm with some combination of #2 and #3. I suspect if whoever wove it did a couple of different pieces, perhaps intermixed with a migration, and then went back to weave a similar rug, it would be much better. This hypothesis is not easily testable, but it fits with what I've seen in children learning how to read (spent several years of my life ripping apart a fine-grained database of children reading aloud), and my adventures in the game of Pitfall :-).

joe
August 22nd, 2009, 04:07 PM   66
Joel Greifinger
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Practice effects are spaced (out)

Hi Joe,

While I think the massed practice effect analysis adds an interesting dimension, it loses some explanatory power in the cases of the inexperienced weaver who is in a relationship of apprenticeship. If the young weaver's mother or other more experienced female relative is giving ongoing feedback (to put it rather neutrally) on the technical and design deficiencies as they occur, that should induce a less schema-driven and more reflective cognitive process. I would think it's hard to be on "auto-pilot" when your mother keeps pointing out what you're doing wrong over the course of the lengthy process of weaving one of your first rugs. Of course, as others have mentioned, it might make you redouble your most slovenly efforts.

Joel Greifinger