TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Turkish?
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  09-13-1999 on 10:23 a.m.
<a href="mailto:rjhowe@erols.com"><!--autoemail-->rjhowe@erols.com</a><!--autoemail-->

As Steve has suggested most of us treat bag backs are a minor aspect of a bag and in truth many backs of bags are uninteresting. It is a rare Turkmen pile bag that has an interesting back.

I think, though, that I can claim to have at least in one instance paid due attention to one bag back. This is a textile that I bought on pure impulse, not knowing at all what it was purely, on the basis of its colors (this digital photo, the only one I have currently, does not due them justice) and the simplicity of its design which varies just enough for me to avoid the mechanical boredom that such pieces can exhibit.

I tried to research it and its pattern and colors resemble some Shahsavan kilims [See Hull and Luczyc-Wyhowska's "Kilim," page 198, plate 387 but is obviously not of this sort (among other things my piece is a single whole weaving not divided in two as the Shahsavan piece is, and my piece is quite small, measuring 27 X 43 inches). My piece is woven with a weft-faced plain weave on mostly white wool warps although some are dark brown and others are a brown and white combination. The weft material appears to be unplied.]

I still do not know anything very specific about it. The consensus though is that it is Turkish, (unplied wefts are seen to be characteristic of Turkish flatweaves) perhaps the back of a grain bag from Western Turkey.

I think I can claim to have paid at least once due attention to a bag's back, since it has a place of honor in my house and I still do not know what the front might look like.

I would be interested in any further thoughts or information anyone might have about this piece.


R. John Howe

Subject  :  Turkish Grain Bag Back
Author  :  Jerry+Silverman
Date  :  09-13-1999 on 04:30 p.m.
Dear John, You were doing your research in the wrong book which required you to stretch for similarities. All you need to do is track down a copy of Bergama Cuvallari by Doris Pinkwart and Elisabeth Steiner. It's replete with examples. For instance, check out: Plate 9e - the back of a sack from Karakecili Plate 11b - the back of another sack from Karakecili Plate 24e - the back of a sack from Balikesir Plate 25e - the back of a sack from Mustafakemalpasa Plate 26a - the backs of a bunch of sacks from Bergama Plate 28c - the back of a very old Kilaz sack from Bergama Plate 28d - the back of another very old Kilaz sack from Bergama Plate 33d - the back of a sack from Ayvacik (alright, this one's a stretch, too) At any rate, check it out. Cordially, -Jerry-

Subject  :  RE: Jerry's Cite
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  09-13-1999 on 07:00 p.m.
Hi Jerry - Thanks for the cite. I looked it up in George's biblio. It's a dissertation. Sounds pretty obscure (read: hard to find). Do you know anything about its availability? Regards, John

Subject  :  RE: A Bag Back Without the Bag Face
Author  :  Marla Mallett
Date  :  09-13-1999 on 09:56 p.m.
John, My guess is that your piece is the back of a Karakecili ala cuval from the Balikesir/Eskisehir area of NW Anatolia. The fronts of these storage sacks are decorated with intricate bands of reciprocal brocading. The colors and proportions of your piece, as well as the tiny brocaded bands at the top and bottom ends, seem to fit. The backs of Karakecili sacks are often quite free-wheeling in their designs, while those of some other Bergama groups are rigidly proscribed arrangements of plain banding and brocading. It's a fascinating group of bags that is unfamiliar to many collectors. If you would like to see a Karakecili example, there is one on my website, complete with its back, and patched in typical fashion (www.MarlaMallett.com). I have a secret stash of related examples in my studio that includes bags so chewed up that I'm reluctant to show them to anyone. But these old weavings are so beautiful and so difficult to find that I couldn't resist them. Marla

Subject  :  RE:
Author  :  Jerry Silverman
Date  :  09-13-1999 on 11:57 p.m.
Dear John, Steve's already slapped my hand once before for sullying Turkotek with an unintentional commercial reference. So just let me mention that there is a copy available right now, at this very moment, from one of the specialist oriental rug booksellers if you'll do a search on: www.abebooks.com It's an on-line database of out of print books. Killer pictures of killer grain bags. They're everything Marla described and more. I can't imagine why they are in more collections. Very colorful. And not too big, so you can buy a whole bunch of 'em and nail 'em up all over the place. (Or hang them on "arms" so you can see both sides.) Cordially, -Jerry-

Subject  :  RE: A Bag Back Without the Bag's Face
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  09-14-1999 on 08:15 p.m.
Dear folks -

Thanks to Jerry for the hint about where I could buy the book he identified. Jerry, I should have looked before I asked. I did so immediately after asking and found and bought a copy BEFORE you gave your source advise. So your non-commercial stance is intact.

Thanks also to Marla for her as usual precise, knowledgable attribution. And she let's us see what the front of my bag could look like. It could well look like this:

And just so that you can see the back is similar to mine, the back on Marla's bag looks like this:

Very similar indeed without any stretching.

Marla, you said the triangular devices on the ends are "brocade." Despite reading your book, I would have made the usual mistake of saying "embroidered." It must be of the "overly-underlay" variety but I'm still not sure how one recognizes it as brocade rather than embroidery when one encounters it on a piece one does not know. Any thoughts?

Thanks for telling me what it is.


R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE: Brocaded detail
Author  :  Marla Mallett
Date  :  09-14-1999 on 10:32 p.m.
marlam@mindspring.com Dear John, You're right--those little bands with the triangular motifs at the top and bottom ends of your "bag back" are overlay-underlay brocading, the most common kind of brocading and the type very frequently confused with embroidery. You could, theoretically, duplicate the effect with a needle. But that's not how tribal weavers do it. Those ladies do NOTHING with a needle that they can do on the loom instead! The design is interlaced (with the shed closed) on the loom, during the weaving process... usually each pattern row alternating with a ground weft. VERY rarely do embroidered examples (covers or bags) show up from Anatolia, the Caucasus or Iran. When they do, the means of production is usually quite obvious: the stitches are not all horizontal, but lie in other directions as well. (There's a photo of one such embroidered piece in the book, on page 97). The stitches are never as regular and even as brocade floats. On a brocade, each float is perfectly horizontal, and you can follow the sequence on the back... whether the pattern yarns are continuous across the width of the fabric or worked back and forth in each small design area, jumping upward from one row to the next. You can clearly see the row-by-row pattern development. It is EXTREMELY difficult to duplicate the floats accurately and precisely with a needle. It is so unusual for a needle-worked tribal piece in a "brocade style" to appear, that when I found a small embroidered Anatolian yastik in a trunk in a dealer's booth at the Vienna ICOC several years back, I fussed over it far too much and spent considerable time examining it. A bit later, when I brought a friend back to see it, because she didn't believe such a thing existed, we found it prominently displayed with a newly inflated price, and the salesman then on duty proclaiming proudly that this piece was "extremely rare"! Marla

Subject  :  RE:
Author  :  Jerry+Silverman
Date  :  09-15-1999 on 03:39 a.m.
Well, I can see you've got a lot to learn, Marla. Lesson #1 1) Work on the "dismissive snort." You've heard it. Now learn to do it yourself. "Hummphhh" with a slightly nasal inflection. It's key to any successful negotiation. 2) Pull the piece above it and the one below it slightly out of the neat stack. That way you'll be able to find the one you want easily when you go back. 3) Learn the Turkish, Persian, and Armenian words for "shit," "crap," "rag," and "How much?!?" 4) Take the tea but balance it precariously on your knee. Be sure the cup is teetering over a really valuable rug. It kinda' shatters their concentration. (This also works with baclava even though it tends to stick to the plate and isn't as likely to tumble off.) 5) Select two other really cheap pieces in addition to the one you actually want. Ask for a "package price." Then divide the price by three and offer that much for the good one. There's lots more to it - especially the tricky stuff like learning to control the dilation of your pupils when you stumble on something truly rare that's priced as though its common. But we'll save that for later. Cordially, -Jerry-

Subject  :  RE: Likely a "Karakecili storage bag"
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  09-15-1999 on 05:59 a.m.
Dear Marla and Jerry - Thanks, Marla for the nice explication of "overlay-underlay" embroidery. I think now that even I can recognize it. And in the interest of historical accuracy, I should acknowledge that it was Jerry who suggested "Karakecili" first and he did it twice in his initial plate citations. Thanks to you both for this informative and ultimately entertaining thread. Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  RE:The Steve/Marla bag
Author  :  Marvin Amstey
Date  :  09-15-1999 on 09:20 a.m.
Ladies and Gentlemen, The bottom of this "sack", with its curvilinear shape, reminds me of the bottom of Ok Bashs (?sp). Could it be that an Ok Bash was not a tent pole over - remember no one has ever photographed such a use? Could it be that an Ok Bash was (is) just another "sack"? My own bias is that it was a water bottle cover, but it just as easily could have been to hold rice, old pieces of wool, diapers, or tootsie rolls. Best regards, Marvin

Subject  :  RE: Ok Bash, Uuk Bash
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  09-15-1999 on 10:40 a.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Marvin, While it would be nice if someone had photographed an "ok bash" in use as a tent strut cover, there seems to be pretty good agreement among the people who have done fieldwork among the Turkmen that this is what they are used for. Peter Andrews becomes greatly exercised by the use of the term ok bash, which translates as "arrow cap", perhaps because it looks rather like a quiver. He asserts that the word used by the people who make and use them is uuk bash, which means "tent strut cap". He says the things not only cover the ends of the struts during a migration, but that the pompoms attached to them attract the eye of the next camel in line and prevent him from getting struck in the eye. On the other hand, it seems reasonable to me that practical people might use them for other things in between migrations which, after all, only take a few weeks per year. Steve Price

Subject  :  RE:the uuk bash
Author  :  Marvin+Amstey
Date  :  09-15-1999 on 05:43 p.m.
If Peter has seen this use and is so sure of this, why hasn't he photographed an uuk bash so all of us skeptics will shut up? Regards, Marvin

Subject  :  RE:
Author  :  Jerry Silverman
Date  :  09-15-1999 on 07:39 p.m.
Probably for the same reason none of those Gomer Six-Packs ever gets a picture of the aliens who conduct scientific probes into all their bodily orifices. -Jerry-

Subject  :  RE:
Author  :  R. John Howe
Date  :  09-17-1999 on 05:05 p.m.
Dear folks - The book Jerry Silverman recommended to me above in this thread arrived today. My thanks again to Jerry for suggesting it. The photos are better than I expected and although the detailed text is in German, it comes with a 5 1/2 page summary in English. And the descriptions of the plates are in both German and English. Dates photos of pieces were taken are included and the place where the piece was photographed (thought to have been woven?) and the names of the designs are part of these description. There's also quite a bit of systematic accessible information relating designs (ink drawings) to tribal groups. It appears to be an interesting, useful book for those interested in these weavings despite its steep price. Regards, R. John Howe

Subject  :  Why no photos of uuk bash in use?
Author  :  Steve Price
Date  :  09-17-1999 on 06:22 p.m.
sprice@hsc.vcu.edu Dear Marvin, I truly don't know why Peter Andrews hasn't published any photos of the uuk bash being used as tent strut covers, but he is a credible professional with genuine experience in living among Turkmen, and has a Yomud wife. I guess I see two big groups of obvious possibilities: 1. He doesn't have the photos because a. the things aren't used that way, so nobody could photograph them in use as tent strut covers. b. he didn't think photographing that aspect of Turkmen life was terribly important, so he didn't bother. 2. He does have the photos but we haven't seen them because a. he hasn't seen fit to publish them. b. he isn't very proud of the photos. c. the photos are in his new book (THE TURKMEN TENT, I believe is the title) and we haven't seen that book. I don't know whether such a photo is in there or not, since I haven't seen the book. In any case, my inclination is to take his word for it if he says he's seen it even if he doesn't have a photo to show me. The other guy who's spent a lot of time among the Turkmen is Jon Thompson, and I've never heard or read anything from him expressing skepticism about the use of the uuk bash. And, in the final analysis, how much photographic evidence do we have for any use of Turkmen weavings? I've never seen a photo of a Turkmen khalyk, kupunuk, tent band, main carpet, small carpet, etc., in use. Steve Price

Subject  :  RE: A Qashqai Salt Bag with a Nice Back
Author  :  Jerry+Silverman
Date  :  09-17-1999 on 07:51 p.m.
Here's a Qashqai salt bag that I bought on eBay - that's right, eBay - this spring. I liked it for its back almost as much as for its front. Were the front and back be separated it would be, I believe, fairly convincing evidence for the proposition that some of the bag "faces" we see may in fact be bag "backs."




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