Re: Ethnographic rugs

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Posted by Wendel Swan on November 29, 1998 at 13:27:25:

In Reply to: Ethnographic rugs posted by Yon Bard on November 29, 1998 at 09:30:13:

Jerry's topic nearly pleads for disagreement and I think he would be disappointed if this topic didn't fractionalize us almost as much as it did the Chicago Rug Society when the concept of the exhibition was under consideration.

The qualities of "relatively high quality" and "beauty" are inconsistent with the benchmark of "use." In fact, those weavings of the highest quality and beauty are the least likely to have been made for use by the weaver or for everyday use by anyone.

The typical grain bag or sack, for example, is relatively unadorned and simple. They are made as quickly and as inexpensively as possible, there being no purpose or logic in expending time and materials on something which will be used immediately and frequently. Collectors have little interest in these true "ethnographic" weavings because they are not of high quality or beauty.

On the other hand, the objects which we cherish today are most likely to have been woven for the wealthier individuals in the society, but not necessarily by them. The culture also cherished and preserved these finer commodities just as we preserve our finer works of art.

It is incorrect to assume that weavers in the Rug Belt wove "not as a vocation, but as an avocation." Breeding sheep, spinning wool, dyeing and weaving are all separate but important components in the craft of textile production. These activities far more resemble vocations than avocations. Nomadic pastoralists wove because they had to weave and they did so by a division of labor within the culture. Whoever may be the end user, textiles were important products.

A perhaps more conventional definition of an ethnographic rug would be a rug which can be associated with the culture, race or nation that produced it. For objects to be characteristic, they must be abundant and similar to others. That which is unique cannot also be characteristic. For this reason, I disagree with Jerry's statement that ethnographic rugs "are unlikely to be 'rug book pictures,' perfect and collectable as such since there are many strongly similar examples."

I suspect that if you were to ask a Qashqai to go through a book with only photographs of Qashqai weavings and ask him or her to select which piece was most characteristic of Qashqai weaving, the one selected would be a monumental carpet woven on commission for a khan or other dignitary - and the selection would be as close to commercial production as you would be likely to find.

Lastly, "vigor" is an adjective we apply when making an aesthetic judgment. A weaver is much more likely to be concerned with function than with vigor when making a utilitarian object.

Sorry, Yon, for essentially repeating the substance of what you said. I began this yesterday and didn't get around to posting it until now.


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