So each time I dive into the woven world of rugs I come back refreshed renewed and amazed at the indescribable depths of rug information. How does one choose what will be their expertise? Imagine for one moment the area called the Caucasus. This has been this month’s obsession! How to learn each village, each rug, each tribe? Where would one start in their exploration?Thirteen years later after my first moment in Persian rug territory I finally feel I have made the step out of novice. But my word, after learning the basics how does one acquire all the knowledge to recognize each and every rug ever woven? Question and answer, question and answer everyday I ask myself what do I not know about rugs.
This month’s questions began with the what do I not know about Kazak rugs and some others from the Caucasus. According to Ian Bennett, author of many tomes on rugs there are about 350 tribes in the area, speaking 150 different dialects and there are about 123 villages or so in the Southern Caucasus that produce unique carpets.
Then you can imagine just how many weaving villages there are in the Persian empire. Sometimes in this life we are a student and at times a teacher, yet the scope of the project to identify every rug in the world can stagger the mind. Do I dare continue? I realize the enormity of the task and say , Yes! Why? If I don’t who will?
Going to the Rug lovers changed my life. It was a positively motivating experience bordering on spiritual.To be in a room with 50 or so rug appreciators who talked incessantly about rugs like me and it English was life altering indeed. I realize that maybe some you may wonder why I write these things; I answer my own questions and hopefully some of yours! I was thinking more about dyeing; I was working on a color touch up on a rug and waxed sentimentally as that was one of my first tasks 13 yrs. ago. I have been a painter since childhood and have taken formal training at the Worcester Art Museum, and private instructors in anything from color theory, oil painting, portraits and modern art concepts. So I suppose where my fascination with color began. I am also a photograph memory person of sorts as I remember how things look in full color detail, handwritten notes included. Then it comes as no surprise that one of my biggest motivators in rug knowledge is dying. In fact i also worked in a factory that dyes textiles and a herb factory for botanical things just adds to my fascination. So indulge me!
The dyeing of linen and leather in Mesopotamia and northern Syria and Egypt was being carried out as early as 2000 BC in temple workshops, where the sacred vestments for gods and priests were dyed. In Ancient Greece, dyeing was a state monopoly, but private dyeing took place, after the purchase of a dyeing license. In Palestine, as in Syria, dyers were concentrated in certain towns. Complete information on the processes of dyeing is not available, although recipe books for dyers did exist in Ancient Egypt. The oldest known book on the subject is from the third century; this includes notes of an alchemist describing dyeing cloth with alkanet, safflower, saffron, kermes, madder and woad. Woad and indigo were used by the ancient Egyptians: dyes have been found on cloth of about 2500 BC and on later mummy wrappings, though they were apparently not in common or extremely use until 300 BC. In Hellenic times, vat dyeing of wool with indigo was commonplace. It was Caesar who described the native tribes of Britain as fierce warriors painted blue with woad; Britain takes its name from Celtic word brith meaning paint. The Greek herbalist Dioscorides also described the leaves as being astringent, which helped to stem the flow of blood. The detergents used in the dyeing process were contained in the roots of Saponaria officinalis L. (soapwort of the carnation family, Caryophyllaceae), a well known plant in ancient times. Natron and the root of asphodel were also used. The use of urine as a mordant for fixing woad and indigo is mentioned in about 200 BC describing the foul smelling hands of the dyer. The urine-vat is rarely used now, whilst the fermentation method is common in the East.
For more on this subject:http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/life/plants-fungi/seeds-of-trade/page.dsml?section=regions®ion_ID=6&page=early_uses&ref=dyes
Today I had some clients come in and we discussed the patterns in rugs and how they remembered the one at their grandmothers. In the way that a perfume or favorite dish can evoke a time in your life many people have this experience when they see a rug. Sometimes I think its a pattern recognition on a soul level. Most folks are attracted to one type and not another and so many find it brings a memory of someone dear. That’s why I am a rug lover, rugs tell a story!