Re: Mistakes: What Are We Willing to Share with the Novice?

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Posted by R. John Howe on June 11, 1999 at 16:03:18:

In Reply to: Re: Mistakes: What Are We Willing to Share with the Novice? posted by Yon Bard on June 11, 1999 at 07:07:22:

Dear Yon et al -

Your question is a perceptive one and my answer is in part also a response to part of Wendel's critique of Mr. Timmerman's advice.

You wrote in part:

"You append is a tacit admission that what counts is not esthetic values or whether you like the rug (the criteria that everybody pays lip service to) but, rather, age and the approval of the collecting community. Otherwise, why would you regard as a 'mistake' buying a rug that you liked, and I sense still like, just because it has dyes that one is supposed to dislike?"

My thought:

I think the answer is that rug collecting is not a solitary experience. It could be, in principle, I suppose but for most rug collectors that I know collecting is importantly a "social" act. That is, it is conducted in a web of social relationships, standards and rules, the participation in is part of what makes collecting enjoyable. It may be that there is some soul somewhere who collects in total isolation following only his own inclinations but most of use want our collecting decisions to be admired. And becoming socialized into the rug world's standards is part of joining this social community. And while socially constructed rules can be mistaken (notice they appear to change over time) they are often at least partially grounded at some points in empirical evidence. This may mean that at least at these points judgments are not entirely matters of unjustifable opinion.

Back to this little torba. I probably would not buy it if I encountered it today. I can now "see" (I have some pieces that I can compare it with) that its color is lacking. It is still finely woven and has a compartment design (I am a sucker for these) with a somewhat unusual and attractively drawn gul. I hesitate to sell it now only because I am not yet the kind of collector who is attracted only to pieces that conform entirely to the accepted rules (which mostly I too accept).

I have another large Central Asian chuval, which also has some undoubted synthetic dyes, the drawing of which is gauche and awkward and about which Elena Tzareva said sternly, "This is not Turkoman." I pursued this piece, knowing all this, for over a year and still rather like its barbaric qualities despite considerable visible sneering by my experienced collector friends.

So I consider myself, incompletely socialized. Some rules and some distinctions I probably don't see yet. Others I see, but so far fail to appreciate fully. And then there's that space in which I say to myself "I like it anyway."

So I say "mistake" (it is a "rule-grounded" word) and half-jokingly express regret at my folly without entirely yet "buying in."

Does that help?


R. John Howe

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