TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  The "Abrash" Proposal
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  11-06-2000 on 06:09 a.m.
Steve -

It appears on my screen that abrash might well explain the red traces in ivory areas on the first piece you present. That explanation seems less clear to me with regard to the second and third pieces.

One of the likely problems with opting for the abrash proposal generally is that we often note how relatively few instances of clear abrash appear in Turkmen weaving. I have a six-gul Tekke torba estimated by Pinner to have been woven before 1850 that has some noticeable abrash but that in the ground red. The ivory used is steady as can be.

I have looked through the Turkmen pieces I own and do not see one in which there is variation in the ivory areas that would suggest abrash.

So while it seems very plausible, I'm not seeing it (except for the ground reds in a piece or two) in my collected Central Asian pieces.

Since I also own a number of contemporary Ersari pieces from Chris Walter's production, I examined some of them as well. Again the abrash (and it is noticeable with these pieces) occurs mostly with the ground reds and sometimes with other colors but is not visible to me in the ivory areas.


R. John Howe

Subject  :  Re:The "Abrash" Proposal
Author  :  Steve Price mailto:%20sprice@hsc.vcu.edu
Date  :  11-06-2000 on 08:23 a.m.
Dear John,

The matter of abrash is one that ought to be discussed more. Basically, there are two kinds. One is the fairly abrupt change in a color that seems to happen when a weaver simply runs out of one lot of dyed yarn and uses another, sometimes of a similar color but sometimes not even in the same color family. This, we might call macro abrash. I agree that it is rarely seen in Turkmen weavings.

The second type is the variation from knot to knot within an area nominally of the same color. I believe that it results from the uneven dying that occurs with handspun wool because of the variation in the yarn's thickness. This, we might call micro abrash, and it contributes to what collectors sometimes refer to as "life" in a color. I see this rather regularly in Turkmen weavings.

If the "stray reds" are a form of abrash in the mostly white and ivory areas of some Turkmen weavings, then it is an example of macro abrash, something seldom seen in other colors within the corpus of Turkmen work.

Steve Price

Subject  :  Re:The "Abrash" Proposal
Author  :  Patrick Weiler mailto:%20jpweil00@gte.net
Date  :  11-06-2000 on 09:42 a.m.
John, Steve,

The condition Steve notes looks more like dye run in in most of the rugs he shows, except the asmalyk where it looks more yellowish.
Steve, your suggestion about the white maybe picking some red up from a dye pot is not likely since they would not have dyed the whites anyway. The remarkable consistency of coloration in Turkmen weavings argues for a captive dye process, where the wool was brought by tribe members to their favorite dye merchant (the same merchant) for coloring and then woven. (I suspect I will get a lot of flack about this statement from the "independent, wild Turkmen" group)

You cannot do a scientific double blind study on this because all of the weavings old enough to predate synthetic dyes have experienced significant field wear and exposure to countless conditions and substances since being woven.

The two most likely substances one might think could have contaminated these weavings post-production are wine and blood.

I think we can rule out the wine from a Moslem perspective, but who is to say that a lot of these rugs weren't spending many years in a British Men's Club, having cigar ashes and wine spilled on them? (The asmalyk stain looks more like a good, old port)

The "independent, wild Turkmen" faction would probably agree with the blood theory. The weavings were torn from the bloody, lifeless bodies of vanquished enemies and sold for booty. A cursory rinsing would not cleanse them of the evidence. Has anyone done dna test to see if there is a human-derived substance on them? Granted, this is no Shroud of Turin artifact we are dealing with here. There are probably a lot of pieces someone would be willing to part with a few knots of.

The other possibility is that, in fact, some pre-synthetic reds did run.

Arguably yours,

Patrick Weiler

Subject  :  Re: What you see ...
Author  :  Wendel Swan mailto:%20wdswan@erols.com
Date  :  11-06-2000 on 11:27 a.m.
Dear Steve,

The issue of the existence of "straying" reds in Turkmen rugs from the pre-synthetic period raised in your salon presupposes that the rugs illustrated in the literature in fact contain ivory with reddish tints as the photographs indicate.

My own limited experience in observing and handling "antique" Turkmen rugs is that the reds are fast. I recall almost no running. The most notable exceptions are the finely woven "Tekke Salor" bags and rugs produced around the turn of the century. These are reported to have been made with the Ponceau-R red dye that runs like a stuck pig when exposed to water. However, these are readily distinguishable from the kinds of rugs found in collections of the Rickmers class.

I suspect that most of the straying you see in the photographs arises at some phase of the imaging process. I can't explain how or why it happens, but red seems to creep into white areas during either the photographing or printing process. The preponderance of red tones in Turkmen rugs seems to exacerbate the problem.

When I have made inquiries about rugs on the internet (including eBay) in which bleeding seems to have occurred, I have almost invariably been told that it exists only in the image, not in the flesh.

Because they are woven on a red foundation, silk velvet ikats often appear to have bleeding reds when one looks into the pile, but not so when looking across it. Low pile ivory in red wefted rugs also can take on a reddish appearance, even in the flesh. Since Turkmen rugs are generally not red wefted, this does not provide you with a specific explanation, but it does illustrate that appearances can be deceiving.

I cannot begin to explain light reflection or refraction, but textural differences (such as wear or different angles to which the pile is pulled) may account for some of the purported "straying" that you see.

As I was thinking about your inquiry as to whether this phenomenon exists outside the Turkmen realm, I went to John Wertime's book Sumak, where some of my own pieces are illustrated. The first piece I looked up happened to be on the wall next to me and it shows traces of red straying in the book. Don Tuttle took the photograph and Kalman and King published the book. In fact, that sumak bag has absolutely no red bleeding or straying. The red in the book is an illusion.

Much as Elena Tsareva responded to your question at the TM on Saturday, I think that images frequently do not accurately capture color.

This discussion would be advanced considerably if you could cite us an example of a rug that you have personally handled with straying reds and which reliable sources attribute to the pre-synthetic period. A scan of the example would then be very useful.

The actual examination of any rug could readily identify the results of spilling dye or other staining liquids and spittle on a handkerchief can detect some bleeding colors. Why speculate on the basis of photographs? I suspect that what you see in the books is not what you get.



Subject  :  Re:The "Abrash" Proposal
Author  :  Steve Price mailto:%20sprice@hsc.vcu.edu
Date  :  11-06-2000 on 01:02 p.m.
Dear Wendel,

I'm as aware as anyone of the problems in photographing rugs and then reproducing the colors accurately in print, and I don't dispute that you have a piece that shows stray reds in a very well produced publication even though the piece itself is free of them. Likewise, if Elena Tsareva says the Salor piece of which she showed a slide really doesn't have red splotches on the ivory, I have to take her at her word.

I am unable to meet the request that you made, ...cite us an example of a rug that you have personally handled with straying reds and which reliable sources attribute to the pre-synthetic period. A scan of the example would then be very useful. However, I can approach it with the following:
1. Stray reds were clearly present in at least one of the old Turkmen pieces in the Wiedersburg collection shown at ACOR in Burlingame last March. I saw it, and Patrick Weiler saw it at the same time. Whatever the explanation, photographic artifact is not a possibility for that one.
2. I recall seeing similar things at the Sotheby's preview of the sale of the Thompson collection, although I wouldn't want to have to swear which specific ones they were at this point.
3. I'm told indirectly that Robert Pinner reviewed the letter on the subject that I had in HALI not too long ago, and approved it for publication. It mentions the Saryk main carpet with which I opened the Salon. He handled that rug and wrote the catalog. That doesn't exactly prove that he agrees that the stray reds really exist in the carpet, but it sort of leans in that direction.
4. The same letter mentions a couple of pieces in Hoffmeister's Turkmen Carpets in Franconia as examples. Hoffmeister angrily responded to the letter in HALI, asserting that there's no color runs in old Turkmen rugs. He did not deny the presence of the stray reds in the two pieces in his collection, just emphasized that they are not due to color runs.
5. Plate 26 in Thacher's Turkoman Rugs shows what appears to be the same thing, this time in a black and white photo (so issues of optical illusions in color reproduction are irrelevant). He also mentions the stray reds in his text, and it is very clear that it is not a color run from his words: No dye ever discovered can equal its shading from old ivory to palest fawn suffused with a rosy flush.

Let us agree that some of what appear to be examples in published photos are simply artifacts. That still leaves some as clearly not artifacts. The explanation for the phenomenon of stray reds may be simple and obvious, or it may be impossible to determine, but I think it's existence is is undeniable.

Steve Price

Subject  :  Re:The "Abrash" Proposal
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  11-06-2000 on 02:01 p.m.
Hi Steve -

Although we may not be able readily to examine the evidence here on the site, but it seems to me that Wendel's advice is sound.

This is a question to be resolved by looking at the rugs in the wool rather than at images of them.

This is what I did without thinking much about it.

Analysis based on photographic images is going to require some caveats and convolutions that will likely often not be satisfying.


R. John Howe

Subject  :  Re:The "Abrash" Proposal
Author  :  Steve Price mailto:%20sprice@hsc.vcu.edu
Date  :  11-06-2000 on 02:29 p.m.
Dear John,

By saying that the approach to take is to follow Wendel's advice, I assume that the advice you're talking about is to get ...an example of a rug that you have personally handled with straying reds and which reliable sources attribute to the pre-synthetic period. Gee, that would be good if it were doable. Better yet would be to interview the weaver and simply ask her about it.

I know of no way to follow that advice, so all I can do is to cite examples that I and some others have seen and that others have handled. I think the evidence that stray reds exist in some old Turkmen rugs and that they are not always (perhaps not ever) color runs is pretty convincing. Convincing enough to warrant wondering what the source of the color is.

Like any other issue involving color, handle or structure, being able to pass the piece around for the audience's examination would be ideal. Sometimes words and pictures are the best we can do, and we make do with that nearly all the time.

Steve Price

Subject  :  Re:The "Abrash" Proposal
Author  :  Michael Wendorf mailto:%20wendorfm@home.com
Date  :  11-06-2000 on 02:50 p.m.

Is it possible that the stray red Steve observes is natural color variation of undyed, unbleached wool and not bleeding of any sort?

Wool comes naturally in a range of natural colors from black to brown to red to tawny to something approaching ivory. It could be that what Steve has observed is simply wool with a reddidh tint mixed in with ivory wool or reddish wool that was not bleached or adequately dyed to obtain the ivory color.

On a related note concerning abrash. Based on my observations, abrash may have its origins in the natural color variation of undyed wool. One can observe a natural abrash in rugs utilizing large amounts of undyed wools and conclude that abrash as we think of it became ingrained or that weavers over time came to prize the aethestic of abrash as a result of the traditional use of undyed wools even as dyed wools and more uniform coloration became practical. Under this theory, weavers continued to create an abrash effect in weavings using a broader palette of dyed wool as well as in, perhaps, carefully worked Turkoman pieces because this is what the colors of their weavings always looked like. In considering this possibility, please reflect on the fact that in much new rug production abrash has become further emphasized not because modern dyes dictate it but rather because it is perceived to be desirable and beautiful and authentic.

Something to think about.

Best, Michael

Subject  :  Re:The "Abrash" Proposal
Author  :  Steve Price mailto:%20sprice@hsc.vcu.edu
Date  :  11-06-2000 on 04:10 p.m.
Dear Michael,

I believe that natural variation in undyed wool accounts for some of the instances of stray reds in Turkmen stuff. When mentioning possibilities in the Salon essay one was, ...the reddish tinge is a natural color occurring in some of the white or ivory wool in some sheep. Amos Bateman Thacher clearly thought this to be the origin in the example he described.

The natural color of wools influences the outcome of dying, a point seldom mentioned (try to dye brown wool with madder and have it come out pink!), and, as you note, the natural variations in wool's color probably accounts for some of the abrash that we see.


Steve Price

Subject  :  Re:The "Abrash" Proposal
Author  :  Jerry Silverman mailto:%20rug_books@silvrmn.com
Date  :  11-14-2000 on 04:49 p.m.
Whenever I've had difficulty determining the colors in a textile shown on the Internet, I've asked for a direct scan. While not perfect, it eliminates the variability of lighting and film stock that photography is victim to.

I don't suppose we can get scans of the pieces that Steve shows in his Salon. If we could, I suspect that they would make our discussion much less speculative.



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