TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Beauty in craft
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  10-24-2000 on 07:58 a.m.
Dear Sam,

I don’t think I have a piece yet that reaches the levels of beauty to which I think you allude but I do have some pieces that I respond to emotionally. You always insist that the emotional response one has to a piece must be central. There is an old phrase from philosophy that suggests something like that. It claims that reason is the slave of the passions and one can see lots of evidence of this. I’m more ambivalent myself since the Greeks also said that the unexamined life is not worth living and a purely emotional response to things would seem in a puzzling way to recommend our giving up in this arena one of the main attributes we often use to distinguish ourselves from other animals.

But I do think that there can be attributes of beauty in craft items like the weavings I collect. Here is one that hangs often over my computer. That seems to mean that I like looking at it and that it doesn’t not tire my looking quickly.

Most of us will know that this is an Ersari torba of the ikat design group. It has good but not great age, attractive colors, but not very many of them, good graphics and was probably woven by a settled weaver.

I like the graphics a lot, I like the ground color, and think the use of the restricted color palette is very effective, especially that of white. This is a frequently encountered ersari border but I find it interesting, like some caucasian main borders, because it looks modern somehow to me, it fits the piece but seems to me somehow out of time phase with the ikat gul. This could be close to an odd instance of what carol bier describes as symmetry breaking, perhaps expectation breaking might be better here, something that draws and holds our attention in rug design and that enriches our perceptual experience.

So you can see that while I clearly have an emotional response to this piece, I also don’t feel that examining why that might be so diminishes it.


R. John Howe

Subject  :  Re:Beauty in craft
Author  :  Sam Gorden mailto:%20gordsa@earthlink.net
Date  :  10-24-2000 on 12:23 p.m.
Dear John and Vincent,
The Heart shall always rule the mind. I can say, in utter candor, that my emotional reactions to works of art, and rugs in particular, has made my life a richer experience. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. I am always questioning my reactions to rugs. John's Ersari torba is an excellent example of its genre.
I often will take a richly illustrated book on tribal rugs and try to find pieces which I would like to own. When this happens, I always ask myself "What about this rug attracts me?" I just did this with CAUCASIAN by Ian Bennett. It is part of an educational process. My thanks to both of you for your comments.

Subject  :  Re:Beauty in craft
Author  :  Vincent Keers mailto:%20vkeers@worldonline.nl
Date  :  10-27-2000 on 07:39 a.m.
Dear John,

Hope you don't mind, but I couldn't resist it.
Your Turkmen has a design aspect that I thought interesting. The gül has flowers and crosses as filler design around it. But at the bottom of the gül there are two extensions in a specific angle, on top of the black lines.

So I had to connect them, in order to see what happens. I think it has been functional in history. And it could tell us about it's whereabouts, in combination with a technical analysis. Technical analysis are very boring, do contribute little and scare the layman.

An effort in trying to understand the artistic, inventive effort of the artist in creating something, by rearranging a given design, sets me free of the beauty debate. So I can appreciate the rugs others find special.

Left side, didn't satisfy me. Right side: Everything fits in well.

Best regards,

Subject  :  Re:Beauty in craft
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  10-30-2000 on 06:16 a.m.
Hi Vincent –

Your ingenuity with designs impresses me. There are folks, Jim Allen is one, who claim that we should pay more attention to the negative space in turkmen designs. They opine that often what we see as the area between the major guls was in fact what the Turkmen weavers were primarily focused upon. That the center of the space often occupied by the minor guls is in fact the major design for them.

And there has been quite a lot of talk about the likely importance of the exterior perimeters of major Turkmen guls. Some feel that the sources of the 19th century guls can be discerned, in part, in this way. Others feel that differences in the depths of the lobing of the perimeters of Turkman guls and the ways they are detailed on the inside of those exterior lines may serve as indicators of age.

So I like what you’ve done with the ikat gul here. It provides in the negative space a concrete instance of a possible alternative gul that may be similar to some major guls the Turkmen, especially the Salors used.

But let me offer one reason why I think your graphic ingenuity here may not indicate much about the uses of the ikat gul by the quite settled central asian weavers (Uzbek and Ersari) who used it most frequently. It is that the gul as it appears on my piece is oriented as the similar design appear on actual ikats (oddly, only a few of the designs that we see in central asian ikats appear on pile rugs, this one is the most frequent). It is oriented in this way because an ikat is a warp-faced fabric and the designs in them are made with the warps. The little icicle devices that move both down and up from the edges of the guls originate in the way in which the warps are manipulated on the loom before the wefts are inserted, making these outside edges ragged. It would be necessary in an ikat version of the design you have created for some of the guls to be weft-faced that this does not occur in ikat.

So while a pile weaver would be free to make such a rotation, and while rotation of design elements in pile is frequent, I have not to my knowledge seen an instance in which this particular ikat gul has be reoriented in this way.

Nevertheless, an interesting notion.

R. John Howe

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