Kaitag Motif Origins

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Posted by Steve Price on January 20, 1999 at 08:07:41:

Dear People,

Wendel asked what, if anything, is known about the origins of the motifs in Kaitag embroideries.

The answer is, not very much. Some of them appear similar to designs on old felt applique pieces, some are very clearly derivative of Ottoman designs. Chenciner's book includes pictures (photos and sketches) of a number of grave markers in the Kaitag area, and some of the designs and layouts on these are remarkably like those on some Kaitag embroideries. We might think that this would be a clue to dating, but the dates on the grave markers are worn off. That means that the markers are pretty old, but does that mean 50 years or 500 years?

I am struck by the originality of the drawing style in these embroideries. Lines coming together to form points, very common in nearly all kinds of weavings and embroideries, are almost completely replaced in these things by rounded ends. Michael Wendorf suggested in one of his posts that this might reflect a technical limitation, but I don't think it does. The embroiderers used many embroidery techniques, so they presumably could have made anything any other embroiderer could. If you compare these with, for instance, the Uzbek Lakai embroideries, you find the same bold use of colors (not so obvious in the Kaitag image I posted, but this has to do with the reproduction of the piece in the image) and a sort of exuberance in designs. But the Lakai embroideries typically show lots of serrations, things that look like trees, and such with pointed tips, the Kaitag motifs seem to almost always be rounded at every edge.

Steve Price

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