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These are articles of interest to rug collectors and fans, that are written by myself as well as others in the industry. This section will be updated often. If you have any submissions, please email me.


Why Tribal?
Or Jazz and Rugs

The question, I think, is historical as much as it is personal. From an anthropological perspective I guess it depends on what you're collecting. If you're not collecting at all, then by all means consider a formal rug from one of the manufacturing cities of Iran, or even a budget copy from one of the countries that invariably cause rug dealers to raise their noses a notch.

If you are collecting, you have to decide why you're collecting, what interests you about rugs. Is it the use of color? The motifs? Is it the function of historical items? As you begin to unravel these questions, it becomes easier to identify why a collection of tribal rugs from various areas is the only way to go. Rugs change over time, tribal rugs are influenced by families marrying each other, nomads doing what they do (moving around) and outside influences (read European introduction of synthetic dyes et al.)

For this reason, collecting antique tribal rugs, can quickly give you interesting material to study and learn about. An antique Isphahan, albeit a very beautiful and authoritative piece, may likely look extremely similar to a brand new top line Isphahan. This is not to say that in the snapshot of the 200 or so years that we can generally collect, decent quality rugs from the motifs, structure and color schemes have changed so dramatically from region to region as to produce rugs that are now not recognizable to the context of what they once were. Simply, that even between two rugs from the same region, even by the same weaver, there will be interesting variance in design.

I have summarized this choice of tribal over formal city rugs in the following analogy for many of my friends, who are almost universally musicians:

There are only two kinds of people in the world of serious music, classical people and jazz people. Sometimes these worlds cross, but rarely. In the past thirty years, jazz has become heavily institutionalized and studied at the university level to the point that there are several PhD programs at serious universities in jazz studies. In other words, both forms of music are considered equally serious, and equally worthy of academic consideration.

Those who prefer classical music, study composers. They study the structure, the form, the compositional mastery of the great works. The listen to Bartok's Microcosmos, and marvel at his use of the Pythagorean theorum in the construction of music, and marvel even more at the fact that it has aural appeal. They listen to Britten's operatic inventions with equal zeal, but rarely (not never) do they focus the thrust of their attention onto the company, group, or individual performing it, beyond admiring their unique virtuosity, or simply applauding their technical or interpretative accomplishments. Even when we do study an interpretation, it is far more often a conductor who call genius then the actual musicians performing the work.

Those people who prefer jazz, listen to it studying structure, form and compositional mastery, but also the individualism inherent in the art. Jazz students study the interpretation of a twelve bar blues beginning with Dexter Gordon, listening to the explosive developments of Bird, approach Sonny Rollins' thematic playing on 'Sonny Moon for Two" and usually wind up their formal education recovering from late Coltrane. The point is that the individual voices of the musicians are so important that the best in jazz can usually be identified within three or four notes. Moreover, every single time a great, like the very active modern saxophonist David Liebman plays one of his own compositions, it will be different. Yes, the basic form will still be there, if he is playing a standard, "There'll Never Be Another You", will likely still have it's form, some of it's chord progression, and melody, but the rest is open season, and different enough to warrant his fans eagerly awaiting a chance to get a rare live recording of the piece, even though they already own the album it was recorded on. Not likely with say, Brahms.

So how does this apply to rugs?

Easy. City rugs are essentially like classical music, those who love them love them for the work of the master weaver, and the technical virtuosity with which the individual weavers working on the piece have knotted the piece using the finest materials, and carefully following the direction of the master weaver in bringing the work to fruition.

Tribal rugs are like jazz. One weaver usually creates these pieces, as was taught to her by rote. Her motifs will be added improvisationally, only concerned about keeping the general form of the rug, but everything else may change, in fact she may even change her mind about the design or color halfway through the construction, and create a dramatic dissonance in the rest of the piece. Each rug is unique in a far more tangible way then with city pieces, and this is why I say Tribal.


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links to my rugs: Arbedil / Baluch / Bidjar / Karajeh / Luri / Qasgai / Shiraz / Hamadan(1)