TurkoTek Discussion Boards

Subject  :  Summary
Author  :  R. John Howe mailto:%20rjhowe@erols.com
Date  :  08-24-2001 on 10:42 p.m.
Dear folks -

This was a salon in which we attempted to look into the future and to estimate what rugs might be collected one hundred years from now.

I made an initial argument that at least some of the rugs collected in 2101 would be drawn from the hand-spun wool, natural production that began about 1985 and which continues today. At my invitation, Emmett Eiland sent a note into our discussion, updating what he had said at length on this point in his book "Oriental Rugs Today."

Yon Bard quickly said that he was not attracted to the "clones" of traditional patterns now being made, while Nathan Koets checked in to say that the traditional designs got his vote as those most likely to interest future collectors.

Yon Bard also suggested that the prediction requested couldn't really be made and Wendel Swan, too, mentioned that the task was perhaps too speculative.

Nevertheless, some predictions were made, some of them by Yon and Wendel.

Yon said that he expected that the rugs collectors in 2101 would be attracted to "innovative styles that have arisen spontaneously within the weaving communities." He cited "folk-life" carpets and the "Afghan war rugs" that in some respects resemble them.

Steve Price, responded that he didn't think Afghan war rugs would be noticed much by collectors in 2101. The historical blip was too small and the vast majority of the production was of very poor quality.

I asked whether we could spot any ways in which techology and tradition might intersect to affect rug collecting 100 years from now. I offered some fractal images that might tempt tribal weavers of the future as computers proliferate. This led to some very futuristic suggestions. Vincent Keers suggested that we may be able to "grow" our own rugs "in situ" (he seemed to offer a "shaving" service) and Pat Weiler talked about computers that could be "painted" on walls and floor and would provide images of any type desired.

It turns out that this latter development may be very convenient in The Netherlands, because Vincent noted that some historical information I had cited about likely room size trends in Holland was incorrect and that the space available for displaying rugs had actually increased there in recent years, albeit mostly in the form of an inexorable march of concrete. These concrete surfaces seem something very much in need of rugs or at least Pat's painted computer images.

There were suggestions that some of the likely dynamics of collecting in the next hundred years are visible in other cycles of collecting about which we have information. Richard Farber suggested that the cycles described by Burton Barry are likely general. Wendel Swan remarked on how short a time one hundred years is compared to the time during which rug collecting has gone on now. I suggested that the things we collect today will still be collected in 2101 in part because more is known about rug conservation and it is being applied more by rug collectors. Yon, said, well perhaps, but such application is not noticeably visible in the pieces that come into his possession.

Steve Price suggested that we look for trends similar to the recent historical one in which "there's a level of respect and interest in cultures and cultural traditions outside our own that was not central to the western mentality prior to the mid-20th century." Stephen Louw, joined us, thinking from the viewpoint of a political scientist to wonder how the factors of "money" and "culture" will affect rug collecting in 2101. He suspects that Europe will be a much stronger economic center than presently and feels that the inexorable homogenizing that is going on in the spread of a kind of "world culture" may work to make folks, like rug collectors, redouble their efforts to search for and connect to traditional cultural pasts.

At one point I suggested that the rug collectors of the future will not be as quick as many of us are at the moment to reject a piece suspected of containing synthetic dyes. Michael Wendorf joined this discussion to provide an informed and lawyerly view of both the tolerance of synthetic dyes and, perhaps, of my own current stage of development as a collector, able to discern important qualities in pieces encountered, without explicitly mentioning either.

Jerry Silverman checked in briefly to suggest that the question of "why" folks collect rugs is perhaps prior to that of attempting to predict "what" they will collect. Jerry offered a beginning list and Steve noted that we had actually explored this ground in an early Turkotek salon (15).

Toward the end, I said that one reason that it may be so difficult to predict what rug collectors of the future will collect is that collecting seems such an internally driven and often surprising experience. Collectors themselves seem frequently taken unawares by the directions their collecting urges take and often seem to have little control over them.

Muammar Ucar reminded us that hand-woven rugs require weavers and that this too could change again in the next 100 years as is has in the past. And Sopia Gates joined us to muse on a formidable and sobering list of possibilities in the world that could affect, as Pat Weiler, too, suggested early on, not just the character of rug collecting in 2101, but whether there will be anyone left to collect them.

At the very end, Yon Bard, mentioned that he knows of someone not particularly interested in rugs who nonetheless collects portrait rugs of leaders of the Soviet era. There is a long and respectable tradition of portrait rugs but these seem less likely to populate the collections of the future. I did have to acknowledge that there is an at least one book literature devoted largely to such pieces already and that last night I received an unsolicited link from a producer in Turkmenistan who prominently offers to produce such pieces. He showed several examples.

Greg Koos said, early in the salon, that it appeared to him that collectors tend to collect objects that either have, or into which they can invest, "highly personal meanings." Later, Greg said that he had run into a George O'Bannon article that touched on a number of the issues in this salon and that he was struck by how little the arguments had changed since 1988.

I think this is correct. We exchanged some views but didn't break any new ground. So much for our current ability to peer into the future.

Thanks to all who shared their thoughts and speculations.


R. John Howe

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