Posted by R. John Howe on 02-16-2003 05:22 PM:

"Jaff" Kurd Sumak?

Dear folks -

I mentioned in my initial essay that Joe Fell described the piece immediately below as "Jaff" Kurd.

I also said that the flatwoven pieces I have seen with this design, have, I think, all been designated as "Khorassan" Kurd.

I own the following sumak piece with a similar design.

There seems no doubt that the design apes Jaff Kurd pile bags and in fact in mine this imitation includes moving over only one warp at a time in the steep angles seemingly to simulate the offset knotting frequent in Jaff Kurd pile pieces.

The color palette in Mr. Fell's piece is somewhat different, and the border is, I think, both much more effective in framing his field and has a different "feel" visually than the one in my own.

Mr. Fell said in this rug morning that he is a more visceral collector, not so much interested in technical things, and so his momentary indication may not be something to pick on, but I do want to ask those with more experience in this area whether they have encountered Jaff Kurd bags, of this design, woven in flatweave?


R. John Howe

Posted by M. Wendorf on 02-16-2003 06:06 PM:

flatwoven diamond bags

Dear John:

You ask whether others have encountered Jaf Kurd bags of this design woven in flatweave. Flatweave encompasses many techniques and constructions including soumaks and brocades. And before answering your question directly, let me suggest that you are being thrown off by the design orientation of the Fell piece. If you rotate the bag 90 degrees, I believe you will see a much more familiar version of a fairly standard design.

Regarding your question, I am reasonably certain the Jafs also wove this design in several flatweave techniques. I would go further and suggest, as I have before, that these Jaf diamond bags probably come from a brocade tradition. A complete double bag woven in a form of reciprocal brocading with this design orientation can be seen in the image labelled number 16 in the first part of Salon 88. However, this example is probably not Jaf work.

The piece you illustrate of yours does look like it is from Khorassan, but are you sure it is soumak? I can not see it clearly, but it looks like it could be a brocade as well. Joe Fell is probably responding only to the design when he describes his bag as "Jaff" Kurd. This is quite dangerous and doubly so when confronting soumaks. The colors and color saturation do not look like Jaf work to me. It could be Sanjabi or some thing from further south in Fars. It could be Kurdish or something else.

There are not a lot of known soumaks woven by Kurds. Among the best known is plate 138 in Wertime's "Sumak Bags." That piece has a typical diamond design and very saturated color. Even this piece can not be firmly attributed to Kurdish weavers. Further north, it seems fairly clear that Kurdish weavers used a reverse extra weft wrapping technique. Ironically, the most simple form of extra weft wrapping, that with no ground weft, was used by Kurds in several areas of Anatolia in the 19th and 20th centuries.

So, I think the picture is a bit fragmented. What does seem clear to me is that this design in its many variations, has its origins in flatweaves.

That is a long way of answering yes, I think so.

Best, michael

Posted by R. John Howe on 02-16-2003 08:36 PM:

Michael -

Thanks for this informative reply.

What you say about the orientation of the Fell piece is interesting. We quite frequently see weavers rotate designs in pile pieces and there are, of course no reasons, why, using sumak, a technique as unrestricted as pile, why this couldn't be done with flatwoven pieces as well. And it is clear the the warps in the Fell piece run vertically as the piece is positioned on the monitor.

I agree with you about the colors in Joe's piece. They seemed quite pale as compared to the Jaf pile pieces I've encountered.

You ask if I am sure my own piece is sumak. Well, I'm hardly a technician, since I have fairly recently misread the knot on a worn and finely woven Turkmen piece, but I have been told repeatedly by others that this is a variety of sumak.

I can testify reliably that it has lots of threads hanging loose on the back and that is an appearance that the instances of brocade that I have handy on Turkish flatweaves do not exhibit. I don't think my piece is done in brocade.


R. John Howe