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Continuing until mid October

Carpet enthusiasts are faced with a seemingly overwhelming array of carpet types for consideration. Carpets are variously classified according to ethnic group, locality, design, style, technique, use, and occasionally by the name of the European artist who included similar rugs in his or her paintings (ie. Holbein, Crivelli). The manner in which carpets are described and classified is likely, on the one hand, a remnant of the 19th century typological tradition, and on the other, evidence of the influence of dealers and collectors. While analysis based primarily on visual characteristics is useful, it is also limited. The study of material culture has, more recently, developed a broader perspective which attempts to shed light not only on the objects in question, but additionally on their cultural significance.

In his work, "Carpets from the Tents, Cottages and Workshops of Asia" (1988), Jon Thompson proposes a framework that helps make sense of the plethora of received carpet types. Thompson suggests examining rugs according to their mode or style of production, thereby facilitating cross cultural comparison and generalization. This is particularly useful when considering that carpets were (and continue to be) woven by people who have not always been fixed geographically, or whose lands have been periodically invaded. He proposes four basic divisions: Tribal, Cottage, Workshop and Court, each associated with differing degrees of skill, technology, commodification, and organization. Tribal weavers, for example, are characterized as mainly nomadic, producing rugs largely for their own use on technologically simple, horizontal looms. At the other end of the scale, court carpets are produced to order, in specialized workshops often under the guidance of a designer/ master craftsperson. Thompson is careful to point out that each of the spheres of production offer unique challenges and opportunities for weavers who's carpets appeal to different audiences.




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