Re: The collecting impulse?

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Posted by Marvin amstey on March 18, 1999 at 09:46:50:

In Reply to: The collecting impulse? posted by Jerry Silverman on March 18, 1999 at 03:35:36:

: Until 1980 I had no interest in oriental rugs or anything old for that matter. My father had a furniture store, and I grew up knowing the difference between new stuff and old stuff. New stuff was definitely better.

: In that year two things happened that changed my life. The first was the drastic rise in interest rates that caused me in two months to lose eleven advertising/pr clients in the homebuilding industry. High interest rates = high mortgage rates = no home sales = no monthly retainers for marketing consultants. Since I had a lot of time on my hands, I decided I'd treat myself to a self-education in oriental rugs. (I picked oriental rugs because it seemed to me that a sophisticated, man of the world should know something about them. Where I got that idea, I haven't the foggiest notion.) To accomplish this, I went to all the oriental rug dealers in the Chicago area and offered to provide my services on a barter basis. Fortunately, one of them was a young guy with very progressive ideas about the power of a vigorous marketing campaign to sell rugs.

: The second thing that happened that year was that the woman who would become my wife and I decided to buy a condo together. That meant a merger of our things. My things were the usual assortment of furnishings that a recently divorced guy accumulates - a new sofa, dining room set, one of those Danish leather chairs that reclines, and a pile of stereo equipment. Her stuff was an entirely different story. The first time I went to her apartment I was slightly appalled at all the old furniture she had decorated with. The place was full of 18th century red-painted pine things: a chair-table, a bucket bench - and a bunch of things like a pine school master's desk, a couple of cherry console-sized tables, a butternut hanging cabinet, a pine Shaker blanket rack. Like I said, old stuff. Which made me wonder why she hadn't bought new stuff instead. She educated me to the special attributes of early American antiques.

: Then we went house-shopping. The first place we saw was a great old apartment in a spectacular building. It was about 2,500 square feet of newly refinished strip oak and parquet floors. We were flat out intimidated by the thought of how we would ever cover them appropriately. So we passed. After looking at a dozen more places, we found one that was just right. It had much less naked wood floor and much more wall to wall carpeting. The entryway, however, was strip oak - as were the living and dining rooms.

: So we went to a rug dealer for something for the entryway. We needed a sturdy rug that could handle the high traffic. We got a new Afghan Daulatabad - dense as a Bijar (although we wouldn't have known a Bijar at that time if we'd tripped on one) at about 1/10 the price. Then we needed something for the living room. That's where my connection with the rug dealer I was bartering my services came in handy. We got a nifty 1910-ish Kurdish rug to put between the two sofas. That dealer was also the source for the 10' square Afghan (Ersari ikat-patterned) rug for the dining room.

: And that started it. Slowly but surely, we covered every available flat surface with rugs - mainly for a decorative purpose. Collecting hadn't really entered our minds. The most important thing for us was finding rugs that suited our way of living and looked good with my wife's antiques (almost all of my new stuff had long been sold). Eventually, we took up all the wall to wall carpeting in the hallway and the bedrooms, refinished the strip oak floors underneath, and covered them with rugs as well.

: We got interested in Turkmen and Shahsavan bags in the late '80s and picked up the occasional piece that appealed to us and wasn't too expensive. And it wasn't too long before these pretty much took up all the available wall space.

: So I guess the point of this long ramble is that another reason people get involved in collecting rugs is as decoration. I know it seems an obvious reason, but in my experience I haven't known all that many collectors who started that way. Most were more "academic", if you know what I mean, from the start. They had an idea of what they wanted to collect and started a "collection." We went at it more from the perspective of an "accumulation" that turned into a collection as we learned more and refined our tastes. (Now, of course, our tastes are so damned refined that we can't afford anything we'd be willing to own.)

: We've never sold or traded a rug yet, even though many would cause - and have caused - our rug cognoscenti acquaintances to shudder. Why? Although some may not meet the highest standards of collectibility, they did and still do "work" - as designers say - well in making our home comfortable and visually appealing.

: Cordially,

: -Jerry-

That is certainly the way we started - minus the second marriage - decoration! Isn't that why they were made - be it a yurt or a palace? Having started, of course, we, as intelligent people, want to know all the whys and wherefores. Now what could I use for barter? Marvin

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