My Answers to My Own Questions (Long)

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Posted by R. John Howe on June 16, 1999 at 18:57:17:

1. Where have you tended to find the rugs in your current collection?

Response: I tend to look high and low. I ask for photos from dealers I know who offer Turkmen pieces. I have one local dealer whose shop I haunt. But I also go to a flea market most Sunday mornings. I have bought things at all of these places but need to admit that it is with the specialty dealers that I've bought my best pieces.

2. How frequently do you tend to buy pieces? For example, how many pieces have you bought each year in the last two years?

Response: One Ersari khorjin; one very small piece of Turkmen embroidery; one sizable Tekke main carpet frag; one Central Asian(?) ikat frag; 1 large Turkish village rug frag; one Beshiri torba; one older Tekke salor-gul chuval in poor condition; one small Tekke main carpet frag (purple group?)

Is it your practice to determine about the price level at which you want to buy and then to restrict your rug purchases until your rug fund has grown to that level or do you buy more frequently and knowingly give up some order of quality because you find it enjoyable to be looking constantly with the possibility of purchase and/or because you find that you want to have some pieces in your area of collecting interest "in your hands."

Response: As Anil Menon has suggested in his post, I think the former is what I should be doing but I find that I am in fact too often doing the latter.

3. What makes a rug "collectible" for you? Do you use some specific standards or criteria and not collect outside them? If so, what are they?

Response: I collect primarily 19th century (I think) Turkmen material. Mostly bag faces and fragments. I like Tibetan weaving but find pre-synthetic prices beyond my ken. Some day I will own a 19th century Bijar main carpet. I sometimes buy things that violate the rules because (I say this just for Wendel) because "I like them." I am sometimes a sucker for a kind of seeming barbaric quality that can be just bad weaving.

What, for you, is the meaning of a sentence like, "It's certainly a beautiful rug but it's definitely not a collectible rug."

Response: Well on one hand "beauty" is perhaps the most widely shared collecting criteria there is. So in that sense this could be seen as a nonsensical sentence. But if one is also collecting cultural artifacts of a given period then a defensible distinction is possible. There are people who want to say things about their collection such as "likely before 1850." They must exclude beautiful weavings that have synthetics (I hold that it is possible that that is not a contradiction in terms.)

4. How important is "condition" to you in your collecting decisions?

Response: I try to buy the best pieces I can afford but since I collect on a quite modest budget, I cannot be that fussy about condition. I recently passed a test with a dealer for this reason unknowingly who won't deal with "condition freaks." Many take a quite different position here. I have heard that McCoy Jones did not like pieces that were not in good condition.

Have you repaired and/or conserved the pieces in your collection

Response: Both. I have had a quite good Yomut bag repiled in a couple of smallish areas and I am currently having a Turkish village rug fragment conserved.

5. How do you "keep" the rugs in your collection? Are they, for example, displayed or stored?

Response: Most of my collect is displayed in some way.

Do you not buy pieces you would have difficulty displaying?

Yes. I have often passed up or subsequently sold pieces I could not display to my satisfaction. I want to be able to look at and enjoy these things constantly. Possession in a trunk would have no meaning for me. (I say that without attempting at all to legislate for others.) I think this tendency of mine will ultimately work to raise the quality of my collecton.

6. Have you undertaken any particular tasks with regard to the pieces in your collection after purchasing them?

Response: Not to the extent to which I think I should. I admire the young Swedish dealer Willborg who reports that from the beginning he has photographically documented and has conducted and recorded a structural analysis of every piece he has purchased. Marla Mallett's book has energized me to begin a similar task with my better pieces but that has not been completed. I think Russell's advice is sound. That collecting should be more than acquiring material.

7. Are there particular resources that you found more valuable in your efforts to advance your learning with regard to your collecting interests? (i.e., books, rug clubs, trusted dealers, other collectors, rug conferences, etc.)

Response: I think a couple of dealer relatonships and those that I have through our local rug club have been of the most value to me but I also have learned a great deal by haunting the Textile Museum's Saturday morning programs. I read the books in a graduate student mode but worry about what I am learning in them. It is extremely important to get your hands on lots of rugs.

8. Have your collecting interests and/or standards changed noticeably since you began to collect?

Response: Yes. I think I am typical in finding it harder to find Caucasian pieces that move me. But some say that about Turkmen weaving too. I've become much more interested in Turkish "village" rugs, if that's the correct term. Most will be beyond my means but some fragments may not be.

Do you "purge" your collection from time to time?

Response: Yes, but not yet as much as I should.

Do you still own the first piece you bought once you decided to collect?

Response: Yes. I've talked about this in early posts.

9. What is your picture of what eventually will happen to the rugs in your collection in the event that you turn out to be a mere mortal?

Response: I will ask that they be auctioned. One of the great disappointments I have in the Texile Museum (which is in many ways a wonderful institution) it the fact of how inaccessible their collection is. It is effectively "buried." They have it but there often seems not much point. So I would not "bury" my pieces in any museum. Let some other collectors enjoy them if they want.

10. What other advice do you have for the novice collector of limited means?

Response: When my wife and I began breeding and exhibiting dogs seriously, we were taken by an elegant experienced breeder and exhibitor into her tropy room that was literally lined with silver cups and gold and purple ribbons and given this advice. "If you never finish a single dog to its championship enjoy this experience. If you do not, all the rest of it is not worth much." That is what I say to the novice collector. Seek relationships, read, study, learn, buy the best things you can afford, but be sure to enjoy the experience. There are lots of pitfalls. There are egos, and politics and gossip (some of which is fun) intolerance and legislating for others and a lot of similar grief that can detract from, even overwhelm, the collecting experience. Find some good people and some good rugs and enjoy them both and steer clear of the rest.


R. John Howe

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