Re: BOOKS (all kinds): Mostly Accurate Now or Frequently in Error Yet?

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Posted by Marla Mallett on May 12, 1999 at 13:43:27:

In Reply to: BOOKS (all kinds): Mostly Accurate Now or Frequently in Error Yet? posted by Steve Price on May 12, 1999 at 07:44:47:

: I am inclined to agree with Jon Thompson in his estimation of the degree of accuracy in rug literature. I do not think he was being facetious. I can say for sure that a very large percentage of technical information is inaccurate. As for attributions, I can only base my judgment on what I have seen in areas with which I'm familiar--primarily Anatolia--then guess that the problems I've witnessed there are likely to apply elsewhere.

The vast majority of information in print on Anatolian rugs and other weavings has come from bazaar merchants or back alley wholesalers. For the most part, these merchants only know what they've been told by the peddlers who bring in the pieces and shop them around. Do these middlemen disclose their sources? Of course not! They are very protective and the more vague they can be, the better, from their perspectives. I've even heard the same guys tell different shop-keepers different stories. It's quite amusing to then see this stuff in print. I can't believe that this is a new phonomenon, and so I read old travel accounts with the same degree of skepticism. Big city merchants who do venture out into Anatolia deal in turn with provincial merchants or middlemen who are just as protective of their sources.

I've spent quite a lot of time in the Anatolian countryside among semi-nomadic weavers. But there are weavers in thousands of isolated settlements, working in many different situations and within varying traditions. I find it hard to accept conclusions reached by people who have made a casual trip or two and visited in a couple of roadside tents. I am continually discovering new attitudes, unusual textiles, unusual practices, and information that contradicts both my own assumptions and things that we commonly read.

It's been startling to get completely different attributions from my friend Josephine Powell than from the guys I've bought kilims or bags from. These guys are equally astonished when they sometimes have seen the labels I've then sewn on my pieces for export. But Josephine's knowledge comes from about 20 years of roaming the back roads and photographing thousands of textiles in the tents and village houses where they were made. Her "catalogue" consists of endless floor-to-ceiling shelves of boxes of reference cards with photos. In Turkey, to my knowledge, the only other researchers who have done work that is similarly thorough have been Doris Pinkward and Elisabeth Steiner who published a book (in German) called "Bergama Cuvallari," to document many years of work in one small area of Northwest Turkey. Harald Bohmer is carefully and gradually building up a similar acquaintance with the weavings of a few nomadic groups in Turkey, such as the Sarakecili Yoruks in the Tarus Mountains. The information gathered by these researchers is not only at odds with a great many published attributions, but also casts serious doubts on some of the major theories that dominate rug literature.

It is unfortunate, but dealers find that to sell a rug, most customers expect to have a name attached--and the more obscure the better. If it sounds RARE, the piece must surely be worth an inflated price. From my perspective it seems that much of the immense compendium of information being published is based on ill-founded guesswork--and that many attributions are then perpetuated with little justification.

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