Re: Dating by eyeballing a dye

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Posted by R. John Howe on June 22, 1999 at 08:35:12:

In Reply to: Re: Dating by eyeballing a dye posted by Steve Price on June 20, 1999 at 15:13:45:

Dear folks -

I am accessing this conversation nearly by chance here in the plain of northwest Ohio where I am visiting and mostly without access to the Internet.

Steve writes in part here:

"Even though many "garish synthetic" colors are obtainable from natural dyes, there is no indication that the people who used such dyes made those colors with them."

My comment: My own experience is different. Once a year or two ago Jim Ffrench, then at Christy's in New York, showed two pieces at the TM that seem to suggest otherwise. He had a Caucasian piece that he and most of us did not like much because it had garish dyes that looked to us like obvious synthetics. Then Jim brought out a small Turkish piece that had seeming identical shades and which had been tested in a lab and found to contain only vegetal dyes. Jim suggested that we are often using a color palette that is too narrow and that we need to be resocialized concerning the one we use.

Second, at the TM recently there was a demonstration of Bedowin weaving in which harsh chemical reds were used. I aske the demonstrator whether Bedowins ever used vegetal dyes and they said that they did but that they preferred the garish colors of the synthetics once they had access to them.

Point: I think the "tribal eye" seems likely always to have been attracted to the brightest colors obtainable and that the beauty we see in many old pieces may result more from the range of colors that could be produced vegetally in the weaver's area at that time. So I would disagree with Steve's indication on two counts. First, I think that weavers were sometimes attracted to vegetal dye shades that we now would guess are synthetic and did in fact use them. Two, I think the "tribal eye" is and was quite different from what we tend to project on to it.


R. John Howe

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