TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Mea Culpa 2
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rug_books@silvrmn.com
Date  :  04-07-2001 on 09:21 p.m.
Since an honest confession is reported to be good for the soul, I offer here a second example of a rug that I should not have bought but still refuse to part with.

This is probably the first piece I bought AFTER I had said to myself that I was likely interested in collecting. I bought three pieces during a trip to Seattle and Vancouver. I knew about synthetic dyes but could not yet recognize even gross instances of them and two of my purchases were disasters on that ground alone. In the third case I lucked out and bought a fine piece.

This one, though, is a complete single Tekke torba with a compartmented design that the dealer estimated was likely woven about 1910. This still seems roughly right to me. And it appears to have been used. There is still what looks like organic matter on the inside of its bottom and it has an old repair (a rather substantial reweaving where real wear in use would occur) in the upper left corner that you can likely see on the image of the back below. (The knots are just a little larger and the dyes in the repair area have faded to noticeably paler shades.)

I think most of the dyes in this piece are likely synthetic. And the truly pathetic thing is that I bought it largely because I rather liked what I then saw as its nice coppery color.

But when turned inside out, it becomes clear how different the original colors were.

This is a bag you can learn from. A number of people (George O'Bannon was one) have told me that they think that this bag has likely at some point been chemically washed. Chemical washes tend to homogenize colors taking them all in the direction of a kind of salmon shade. The result is that they often seem to have a kind of "haze" about them and if you look back at the first and second images above, there does seem a kind of sameness about the colors exhibited on the pile side (I'm not sure why a chemical wash would not affect the colors on the back similarly but a more sharply differentiated set of colors are visible there.)

It hangs on the back of my chair at work to remind me of my folly but in truth there are days when it still does not entirely offend me.

And it has its points. First, the weaving is that of the acme of Tekke technical virtuosity. It is fine and regular and precise, precise throughout. This weaver could be proud of her weaving.

And the gul is unusual. It is a small version of the octagonal gul with quite detailed instrumentation inside. I quite like its drawing.

I have never been tested by a real opportunity to sell it but I have not looked for one either. It is another testament to the possibility that I may not be a "real" rug collector.


R. John Howe

Subject  :  Re:Mea Culpa 2
Author  :  Steve Price mailto:%20sprice@hsc.vcu.edu
Date  :  04-08-2001 on 07:34 a.m.
Dear John,

While I don't think this is a prize Tekke, I think it's far too nice to be able to compete in the Rug Kennel Sweepstakes.

It actually looks very much like one that was offered on eBay by a (then) prominent dealer a couple of years ago. He first called it a late 19th century Saryk, part of the very rare group of asymmetrically knotted Saryk bags mentioned by Jon Thompson, then added a note saying that in retrospect he thought his age attribution was much too pessimistic, that it was probably early to mid 19th century work.

So, you see, there are those who would consider your torba as a treasure. At least, if they were selling it.


Steve Price

Subject  :  Re:Mea Culpa 2
Author  :  Patrick Weiler mailto:%20theweilers@home.com
Date  :  04-08-2001 on 11:40 a.m.

Your initial reaction to the lovely coppery color of this weaving points out one dichotomy of the rug market; the Decorator versus the Collector.
The Decorator buys a rug for the impact of the colors, but the Collector would not buy that same rug precisely because of those same colors. The collectors have added another criterion by which to judge the rug. This is why a faded, washed, pale Ushak brings tens of thousands of dollars at auction, when you or I would walk right by it without even looking twice.

These two different markets reside side-by-side, in a not quite parallel alignment. Newcomers will begin their collecting life from a decorative standpoint, buying a rug for the floor or a "wild foreign craft" as an accent piece. A decorator will continue in this vein and be very happy doing so. The collector needs to know more about these things and begins to learn the right and wrong about them.

Unfortunately, even as we learn more, we still will buy a piece "because it is so cheap" or "I always wanted one like that even though the dye has run just a little bit" or "this is the first one of those I have ever seen other than in a book" or "I know just the place to put it". In other words, our yearning supercedes our discerning.

And, as Tracy has pointed out and Steve has remarked, e-bay has changed one aspect of collecting, the act of having the piece in-hand before making a buying decision. I suspect this has brought thousands of marginal pieces out of the woodwork for our buying pleasure/or disgust.

Bring on the Disgusting!

Patrick Weiler

Subject  :  Re:Mea Culpa 2-- Decorator vs. Collector
Author  :  Tracy mailto:%20tracy@northfield.org
Date  :  04-09-2001 on 11:14 a.m.
I find myself caught in the midst of the decorator vs. collector quagmire Patrick mentions. I've begun dealing rugs on the side to help support my habit, and while all my intellectual and artistic snobberies are on the side of the collector, most of the people I deal with see things very differently. I am having to learn NOT to use one set of standards (a collector's) to judge another type of rug (decorative). This is not easy for me.

But the fact is, collectible and decorative rugs are, in the main, two different animals. As a personal compromise, I'm trying to select new, "decorative" rugs that have high technical and artistic merit, and, wherever possible, mostly natural dyes. But I'm finding that my exposure to a lot of the better new rugs weakens my esthetic sense when looking at collectible pieces, and I'm not exactly sure why. I hope I've gotten beyond being seduced by the pretty, fluffy, glossy-finished wool.

Has anyone else out there experienced anything like this? Is there a cure?

Subject  :  Re:Mea Culpa 2
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  04-09-2001 on 08:56 p.m.
Dear folks -

Several things to think about here.

I notice that some of us are thinking very differently about this salon.

First, Pat and Steve are arguing that we should be putting up the ugliest rugs ever. I, on the other hand, Wendel and, I think perhaps even Jerry, have put up rugs that are primarily disasters from the collector perspective. These latter pieces might be seen to be considerably less offensive from the view that Pat characterizes as the "decorator" perspective.

It may be that Pat is right but I have questions about whether a "collector/decorator" dichotomy captures the various qualities being alluded to. I know for sure that I was not buying my Tekke bag with decorating objectives or criteria in mind. I "thought" I was collecting.

But let me speak only from the collector perspective and suggest that the mountain of standards is very high indeed and even the very first step off the mountain top can have precipitous results. How else do I explain the experienced collectors who wander into my office and say uncued on seeing the Tekke torba hanging on the back of my chair, "My God! Do you still have that?!?!?"

I also want to suggest that the ugliest of the ugly is too easy and that there is not much to be learned at that level. But from the "collector" perspective learning opportunites abound, as I tried to show in my description of how one might recognize a rug that has been chemically washed.

Anyway, Jerry's charge here is clearly open to two quite different interpretatons.

I vote for examining decisions we made once we decide we might, just might, be collectors.

Note to Tracy: Most of the august "standards" you read us talking about here are "learned." If you hang out long enough, you will learn them too. The only problem is that quite a few of them are likely just plain wrong. This is not an argument to discourage you from learning; only one that suggests that you be wary of what poses as learning.


R. John Howe

Subject  :  Re:Mea Culpa 2
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  04-09-2001 on 09:08 p.m.
A second note to Tracy:

You wrote in part:

"But I'm finding that my exposure to a lot of the better new rugs weakens my esthetic sense when looking at collectible pieces, and I'm not exactly sure why."


There is a phenomenon in the world of dog breeding and exhibiting called "kennel blindness." Its refers to the fact that most breeders and exhibitors spend the most time with their own dogs. What this can result in is that "your" dogs begin to look like what the standard says aesthetically correct dogs should look like whether they do or not.

The "cure" in the dog world is to go to lots of dog shows and both look at and put your hands one (yes, just like rugs) lots of dogs. You then have a basis of comparison.

In the rug world this is one of the reasons for subscribing to Hali and Ghereh, for owning expensive full-color rug books but especially for looking closely at rug exhibitions and for both looking at and handling the dealers' wares at the major sales and conferences.

In these ways, a rug version of "kennel blindness" is avoidable.


R. John Howe

Subject  :  Re:Mea Culpa 2--"Kennel Blindness"
Author  :  Tracy Davis mailto:%20tracy@northfield.org
Date  :  04-09-2001 on 11:06 p.m.
John-- I appreciated your comments very much. I've subscribed to Hali for three or four years, as well as the auction catalogs from the major auction houses, and have been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to handle a good many collectible rugs (dealers, exhibitions, etc).

I have a background in the field of graphic design, and have a good sense of line and color. None of this explains why many Turkmen weavings, even good ones, leave me rather cold, but i keep falling in love with Hamadans of a certain age (1890s-1930s). I suppose part of the problem is that I haven't really found my identity yet as a collector. I have a couple of nice Baluch pieces, a gorgeous Veramin torba, a Khamseh or two, two or three Yomut chuvals, and a couple of Bakhtiaris. Most of these are at least "B" grade collectibles (all I could afford at the time, and I've been upgrading slowly). But I keep buying Hamadans, and I continue to be seduced by new Tibean production and by various oddball rugs that have a certain charm I can't explain, such as the turn-of-the-century Turkish piece with extremely fugitive dyes. I know it's "all wrong" from a collector's perspective, and i know why, and I can even look at these pieces and feel the requisite scorn.

I'm confused. Maybe I'm being undone by my own compassion. Maybe I just feel sorry for these rugs and want them to have a nice home, with someone who appreciates them for what they are, instead of focusing on what they are not. Is there any hope? Is there a 12-step group for people like me? An advice columnist? HELP!

- Tracy

P.S. Fortunately, at least JP Willborg agrees with me about the Hamadans.

Subject  :  Re:Mea Culpa 2
Author  :  Jerry Silverman mailto:%20rug_books@silvrmn.com
Date  :  04-10-2001 on 02:07 a.m.
Dear Tracy,

You've raised an interesting question that's really about "taste." John has given you his perspective on it. Now let me try.

For a certain kind of person - collectors/connoisseurs - what we like...what appeals to us...what we'll put down good money for - evolves. Generally the direction of this evolution is from "diffuse" to "organized." (Not everyone is this kind of person. Surely most people aren't. Just those of us with the "collector" gene. I'm not making any sort of a value statement here about who's better, just commenting on my observations.)

To get from "diffuse" to "organized" we must internalize the sets of standards that John talked about. Turkoman collectors have to learn what's good, better and best according to the prevailing fashions. Ersari pieces that would have been ignored thirty years ago in favor of Tekkes or Salors now have enough "scholarship" behind them to ascend to a high level of collectibility. Beluchs have experienced an even more dramatic ascension. This has been made possible/inevitable by the accumulation of information about them, exhibitions, and most decisively, auctions.
One builds on the other until there is a body of knowledge a collector must have to make good decisions about the quality of a piece.

But just because a person is an expert in Tekkes doesn't mean that his/her tastes need to be equally evolved to choose a rug for the foyer. Different issues apply. Will it wear well? Does it complement the wallpaper? Is it the right size? (You'll notice that none of these is particularly important to the collector.) For instance, my collecting tastes have taken me toward Kurdish and Shahsavan pieces. But my foyer has a nice turn-of-the-century (19th c.) Hamadan. I don't know very much about Hamadans, but I liked this one immediately. In the pantheon of Hamadans I'm sure it's a very lesser light. But the size is perfect, and the colors are right, and it's worn like iron. Has this affected my "eye" for the rugs I'm interested in collecting? I don't think so.

What I think I'm getting at in this somewhat rambling discourse is that what you've been experiencing is a manifestation of the somewhat "early" stage of your collecting mania. Lots of things look good to you. I feel the same way when I watch the Miss America Pageant. I know the judges have particular criteria/standards they are applying, but I could just draw a name out of a hat and be satisfied with my choice.



Subject  :  Re:Mea Culpa 2
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  04-10-2001 on 06:28 a.m.
Tracy -

I would not agonize much about your seeming predicament. Better to enjoy the current variety that appeals to you.

In truth, the only blot I can detect in your aesthetic character so far is that you do not find Turkmen weavings as appealing as some others.

But then some of the most experienced collectors I know have views similar to your in this area and say they often experience even quality Turkmen weaving as having a kind of repetitive sameness that can verge often on to the mechanical.

I pray for them too, despite my relative inexperience.


R. John Howe

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