Marla Mallett with Permission

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Posted by R. John Howe on December 17, 1998 at 20:24:09:

Dear folks -

Marla Mallett, to whom I referred in my introductory remarks about The Oops Thesis, has agreed to let me post some observations she has made about a couple of these comparisons and the pieces involved. She has also suggested that it would be advantageous to rotate PIC3 and look at it more like the weaver did. We have done so. It may take a little time to load. Here's what Marla says:

"Wendel is right on target in his assessment of the PIC 1 ensi and his dismissal of it as a serious work of fiber art! It is difficult to find any logical basis for equating CLUMSY with ARCHAIC or PRIMITIVE.

After a close look at PICS 3 and 4 in the Atlantic Pacific Collections book, however, my thoughts on those pieces are somewhat different from the opinions expressed. I can see no reason to believe that the weaver of the khorjin in PIC 3 was attempting to produce the same border as the weaver of PIC 4. Instead, the first weaver seems to have been experimenting with something else entirely. If you turn the photo and look at the piece vertically, as it was on the loom, you can consider how this weaver began--with one of the end borders.


She alternated the small five-rectangle motifs with a couple of other figures. But then it appears that she couldn't quite figure out how to rotate these correctly so that they fit within the allotted side border spaces. So in the side borders she compromised, setting the four corner blocks on each figure diagonally instead of vertically. This motif should NOT have presented any special difficulties; she just seems not to have given it much thought, or to have been bothered by the problem. I think we are seeing a reflection of her personality--a "what the hell do I care?" sort of nonchalance. Consider that this was very likely a young giggly teenage girl with her mind on much more important matters! Why should we take it so seriously?

PIC 4 displays a more mature and skillful weaver's difficulties with an unfamiliar motif. This person articulated her handsome border and medallion with precision, yet we can see experimentation within the red pinwheels at the four corners of the field.


If you look closely at these details in the book, rather than on the monitor, you'll see that they are distorted and inconsistent stylistically with the rest of the piece. These rather difficult figures were clearly new to this person. Does their relative clumsiness make these motifs more "archaic" or give them more significance than the other figures in the bag face? Of course not.

I think that the choice of medium--knotted pile--has nothing to do with the sloppy border execution in PIC 3, as has been suggested. Knotting offers fewer technical restrictions than any other weaving medium, and even the tiniest design units can be handled independently. Also, with knotting, it is easy to jump around and thus locate critical pattern parts accurately."


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