Re: Talking About Designs

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Posted by Wendel Swan on August 11, 1999 at 22:24:55:

In Reply to: Re: Talking About Designs posted by R. John Howe on August 11, 1999 at 20:06:30:

Dear John,

Without images, this dialogue may seem pointless to you (as it might even with images). So I think you and other participants are due a bit of an apology.

Over the last decade or so, I have become increasingly fascinated by the continuity and repetition of certain designs over vast territories and times. Like anyone else, I may use designs to make an attribution, but I am just as interested in how those designs evolve as I am with who employed them.

Let me draw an analogy. Many years ago I bought an LP called 14 Blue Roads to St. Louis, on which 14 different jazzmen performed their versions of the St. Louis Blues. Styles changed, voices changed, tempos changed, but it was the St. Louis Blues underneath it all. In rugs, a very few rug tunes (designs) are heard over and over again, but with almost infinite improvisations.

Design motifs are but aspect of rug and textile enjoyment. Color, tactile quality, wool, craftsmanship, etc. are equally important. Some of these qualities are particularly difficult to assess through one's monitor.

It seems to me that the point that Michael and I were both talking about (or perhaps around) is the importance of viewing an object (in this case Rug #3) in a broader cultural context than whether it was made on one side or the other of an amorphous political boundary. And how people living in relative proximity may choose to play variations of the same tune.

Sometimes I wish that we could just get together for a weekend with a good library around us and have a discussion during which we pull out one book or catalog after another to make our points. It would be a lot more meaningful than to simply talk about designs and features of rugs as we are often forced to do here.

Also even more cordially than usual,


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