Monday, March 8, 2004
Rugknots and Tardig
Saturday morning was unusual; it was the first Saturday morning without a basketball practice since late October. To fill the time, we made a family outing to midtown KC, picked up a few things at Wild Oats, an organic grocer, then headed over to Waldo on a whim. See, we got a certificate for a Persian rug from A.--a good friend who runs a gallery in south-central Kansas City, just beyond the Plaza and the campus of UMKC. We don't get over there often; in fact, we hadn't been in at least a year. Originally from Persia, just before it switched to Iran in '35, A., now 80-something, gifted us a generous certificate for a 3x5 carpet from his shop; we've put off the visit for the past seven months because of the chaos of our incongruent schedules.
A life-long chemist by trade, A. wasn't at the shop. His son-in-law, J., was filling in. He called A. on the phone, handed it off to me. A. and I visited for a few minutes, much like we used to, back when I was an undergraduate ghostwriting monthly letters to antique dealers on his behalf. We met because he and his late wife, P., were alums of my alma mater; I was the recipient of the first award named for his wife, the first recipient after her passing. And I thanked him with a letter. He invited me to lunch at the Kabob House, and so on. Over the phone, A. said he was disappointed to miss us Saturday, but he hoped we would return this week to have lunch with him. He was giving a talk on chemistry to a group of boy scouts in the afternoon. Couldn't be at the gallery Saturday for that reason.
J. showed us the 3x5 rugs in the shop. A new shipment is scheduled for tomorrow--A. already encouraged me to come back then--but J. wanted to familiarize us with the inventory, with the factors that might affect our choice. And nobody else was in the place; we had time. I don't have a strong handle on the discourse surrounding Persian rugs. They are named by region, and the regions are subtle, varying from town to town. The rugs signify an incredibly rich range of details--about the makers, the pace and process of making, the quality of wool, the colors of die, the age of the piece, the elevation and climate of the environment in which it was made, and the disposition of the maker(s) to symmetry and structure, both in art, and as J. suggested, in civic ideology (where regional variation might be best polled through knot patterns). I know this last bit seems like a stretch, but as D. and I listened to J. talk for twenty or thirty minutes on Saturday morning, I thought about the importance of reading Middle Eastern (as in East-Turkish, Armenia, Iranian, Afghani, Pakistani, Iraqi) cultures through art-objects such as knotted wool rugs. This seemed like a promising, humanistic alternative to the predictable, often villainizing droll sent through major Western news media.
So we just listened about the rugs as J. told us that Western buyers generally preferred tidy symmetries, neat symbolic systems (depictions of leaves, flowers, balanced shapes), and complimentary color schemes. He said it was a European notion to hang a rug as a piece of art, and that rugs were commonly collaborative household or neighborhood projects produced for short-term economic reward (spare money for this or that). He compared these dynamics to manufactured rugs coming from India and China. These rugs ship in batches that often follow an identical pattern. They're all hand-made, but the wool is a lower quality (again, in J.'s opinion), which is why A.'s gallery doesn't carry any such items. A couple of examples he showed us were really peculiar; one was 35 inches on one end and 42 inches on the other end. It had a broken border and different colored dies--evidence, J. said, that it was probably a training rug where younger makers were learning to knot or where the rug sat idle for long interruptions, long breaks.
We left Saturday and headed to the Kabob House (it's on Wornall and 87th or so), filled up on Kansas City's best joojeh kabob, barg, and tardig (crusted rice, bottom of the pot) topped with vegetable stew. And the house dressing is simply dill weed, olive oil and lemon juice. I could drink it. But then I wouldn't need the tea, which is best taken with an occasional sugar cube. Oh, and the ground sumac peppered generously on top of it all. That's it. I'm going to call A. and go back tomorrow.Posted by Derek Mueller at March 8, 2004 10:14 PM to Gobstuff