Frequently Asked Questions

Marla Mallett   

As the web has expanded, the number of requests for information that we receive daily has grown exponentially; thus it has become difficult to respond personally to every e-mail. Here are a few questions we are asked repeatedly. 


The number one question:  Can you tell me where my grandmother's textile (embroidery, tapestry, kimono, etc.) is from, when it was made, and what it's worth? Can you tell me how to sell it?

It normally is impossible to evaluate an old textile from a description, and nearly as difficult with most JPEG snapshots. Furthermore, I am not a licensed appraiser prepared to assign values to other people's properties. If you must know the market value of very special antique textiles you own, I suggest that you send clear photographs and detailed condition reports to one of the auction houses listed on my website Links page. If the items are of a type appropriate for their sales, most of these specialists will give you complimentary auction estimates. If you need  appraisals for insurance purposes, most will provide those for a standard fee. If they are unwilling to offer free estimates, you can probably assume that the item's value is not substantial. They are unlikely to give serious attention to textiles such as late 19th century mass-produced jacquard tapestries, or to most 20th century ethnic weavings, embroideries and costume items. Some auction houses and museums have periodic free "walk-in" appraisal days, and those provide good opportunities for learning about a mystery piece.  

If you wish to sell a textile collection through one of the auction houses, they will furnish you with information regarding their commissions, sellers' premiums, storage fees, shipping and insurance costs and the  fees assessed if your items do not sell.  Most of the large auction houses are unwilling to accept just a few items unless they are of quite high value, thus for a majority of pieces, the on-line e-Bay auction is a reasonable option. 

Whenever you  obtain an appraisal, you must specify whether you need to establish the item's market value (auction or wholesale price) or replacement value (retail price or insurance value), as these vary considerably.  It is unethical for any dealer to appraise an item he would like to purchase, so if a conflict of interest seems likely, you need to find another appraiser. 

I selectively buy antique textiles that are in good condition. If you are interested in selling pieces, I will be glad to review photos--but preferably after you have decided on the approximate prices you wish to ask. Please remember that no dealer can pay a retail price and then expect to resell an item.  If you send photos, please reduce the file sizes, so that they are not rejected by our e-mail program.  Detailed close-up photos can be very helpful.

 

I notice that all of your textiles are priced on the website, and you say that your prices are firm.  You can still give ME a discount, can't you?  

Sorry, but "firm" really does mean non-negotiable--no haggling and no discounts. I carefully calculate my investment and expenses, then add a fair profit. My prices are lower than just about anyone else's for comparable quality, because I am a private dealer without the overhead of a gallery. One need only wander through an ACOR or ICOC dealers' fair or large Tribal Arts exhibition to confirm this. I select pieces with excellent craftsmanship, superior aesthetics and good condition, and my prices reflect these factors, as well as age and rarity. I don't offer bazaar-quality tourist merchandise, and I don't inflate prices so that I can then reduce them.

My prices are the same for everyone. That means I don't juggle prices to take advantage of an affluent customer's fat wallet.  Prices are the same for decorators, art consultants, museums, dealers and collectors. They are the same whether a person buys one textile or twenty. In fact, a majority of my customers are dealers or designers who purchase multiple items. When my business began 40 years ago, my clientele consisted mainly of interior designers, and I have maintained the same price structure over the years, posting my trade prices on line.   


I'm reminded of a merchant friend in North Africa many years ago who gave me reasonable price quotes, along with a warning that if I ever questioned a price, he'd never sell me another weaving. Other suppliers have expressed much the same attitude. When prices are fair, it is insulting to question the seller's integrity, or imply that he should not receive a reasonable return on his investment. After all, any dealer must make a profit to continue in business. So my prices are firm, and out front for everyone to see. Everyone is free to accept or reject them.  Anyone who considers bargaining an essential part of rug or textile shopping needs to play that game elsewhere. 



The hardest thing about buying old textiles from photos is assessing their condition. How concerned should I be about  flaws on the textiles I am considering? 

"Condition" is always a concern when dealing with old textiles, and should always be reflected in the pricing.  Rarely are the genuine ethnographic pieces that interest collectors in perfect condition, as they were of course used.  During their lifetimes  they may have been altered or mended. Thus it's a matter of personal judgment just how much or how little "wear" is acceptable, how much restoration or how many repairs are OK.  (For a discussion of this issue as it applies to old kilims and bags, see
In the Restoration Studio.)  I am usually more fussy than most dealers, and I reject piles of textiles because they are dirty, stained, too worn, or badly repaired.   Instead I pay a premium for unusual pieces in excellent condition or I buy pieces that can be successfully restored.  But with rare old pieces we may have to be a bit forgiving. Sometimes only fragments have survived, and indeed we can be thrilled to have those. When textiles are framed, some condition problems are minimized, as the works then take on a more "precious" aura. In general, I can say that I want the overall appearance of each piece to be attractive.  I don't like to offer textiles for sale that are dingy, stained, badly faded or ragged.  Recently, however, I started a separate website Unrestored Collectibles section in which I am offering a few Middle Eastern tribal bags and kilims that have NOT had their flaws repaired. Those pieces are offered "as is," primarily for people who have some restoration or conservation skills. The condition of these pieces is reflected in the pricing.

Occasionally someone tells me that they want an "old faded piece." They fail to understand that with antique kilims, for example, old vegetable dyes are clear and strong in the best collectors' pieces. It's usually more recent, synthetic-dyed examples that have faded, because those dyes were used improperly. Frequently, in today's  marketplace we find recent pieces that were too gaudy for the market and that have been artificially bleached or "sun faded." These items inevitably have an insipid, washed-out, granular surface.

The matter of small flaws comes up in an odd way with Japanese kimonos, in which gorgeous pieces that were terribly expensive originally may be available to us only because they have a tiny tea stain or two.  A hand-painted piece that may have sold for  $4000 to $8000 originally, when it was made, we might now be able to sell for $400-$800!  Without that small area of discoloration, we might not have the piece.  Heavily embroidered wedding kimonos that cost $25,000 to $40,000 originally, and routinely RENT for $1500 a day for weddings in Japan, we can sometimes sell for $800 to $1500... usually because of an insignificant spot on a sleeve, lapel or hem that is actually hidden when the piece is displayed.  

In my website write-ups I try to describe any condition problems that aren't obvious in the photos. Routine tribal repairs and excellent quality restoration,  however, are not always spelled out.  If you require mint condition, it is probably wise to inquire.    



Why are some textiles marked HOLD on your website?  How do I know what's currently available?

A HOLD designation usually indicates that a purchase transaction is underway. Thus pieces on HOLD are normally sold, but there's always a chance that they might become available.  Just let me know if you are interested in such a piece. Unfortunately, when things are hectic here I sometimes forget to mark pieces, and so it is best to check with me on the availability of items you're considering.  Please don't ask me to hold pieces while you make up your mind about them. Because of the numerous inquiries about website items that we receive daily, that has become difficult.  It is always wise for designers or art consultants who wish to present pieces to their clients to check with me first about their availability.  

I update the website nearly every day, either adding or removing textiles. It is possible, though, for you to be looking at old, outdated web pages. Search engine caches sometimes store old pages for long periods; also, your computer may be retaining web pages in its memory, so that you see last week's or last month's pages instead of the most recent versions. To see current material on any of  the pages, click Refresh while holding down your Shift key.



Would you please notify me when you have acquired textiles that you think I might like, or have added new things to the website? 

Just about everyone who has ever bought a textile from us asks that I do this. Since I am adding pieces to some part of the website almost every day, however, notifying individuals has become nearly impossible.  I don't want to promise what I can't deliver, so please check out your favorite sections periodically.  In some website sections a surprising number of pieces have been selling within a day or two of being posted.  

Some of the most wonderful pieces don't show up the best in photos, and may stay on the site for quite a while.  Then inevitably three people want them at once!



Your kilims are in such perfect condition it's hard to believe they aren't new.  How do you know the pieces you have collected are antiques? 
 

After spending inordinate amounts of time and energy tracking down rare antique pieces in good condition, I’m flabbergasted when someone then suggests they must be new.  Virtually all 19th century kilims either have damaged areas or have been repaired, and I pay top dollar to have only the most skilled restoration work done on my pieces.  Or I do the work myself.  Perfect reweaves and repairs of damaged areas are the goal, and should be extremely difficult to detect.  The most frequently rewoven areas occur where brown dyes have corroded the wools. 

Distinctive palettes provide the first major difference between excellent old kilims and newer products.   Wonderful old natural-dye colors with a range of subtleties are radically different from garish synthetic-dye palettes.   In the best old pieces the colors are clear, not faded.  It’s normally synthetic-dyed pieces that have faded or have been bleached.  In the best old pieces the weaves are refined, while a majority of modern examples are more coarsely constructed. Antique kilims display lustrous combed and handspun wools, while dull machine-carded and machine-spun wools are typical of modern pieces.  Design evolution and aesthetics are also important factors in assessing age, but these aspects can only be judged after significant study in the field.     

If we put a good antique kilim alongside a modern example, just about anyone can recognize the quality differences.  But for someone not familiar with both modern production and good antique pieces, it is difficult to make judgments about an isolated piece, especially from photos.  My background as a weaver and 40 years of looking through thousands of kilims and bags in the Middle East allow me to confidently identify the finest craftsmanship, materials, and dyes.  Thus I’ve been able to gather choice pieces and present a collection of museum-quality kilims.    

It has now become extremely difficult to find good early pieces.  For years dealer friends in Turkey have been proclaiming the antique kilim business “finished.”  Now it really is true.  Good pieces just don’t appear in the open market in Turkey anymore and lots of folks scramble to grab the occasional good piece that surfaces. 



How accurate are your website textile photos?  Do they really look like the
textiles? 

Presenting accurate JPEG photos of textiles on the web is a major challenge!  I don't want anyone surprised or disappointed when opening packages with pieces they have ordered. Fortunately, most people tell me that the textiles are more beautiful than they anticipated.  Delicate embroidered details often do not show up well in photos. Likewise, the luster of silks or the gleam of metallic yarns may not be apparent on a monitor. Rich textile textures can rarely be shown adequately.  The scale of large pieces is difficult to convey in small photos, thus powerful large kilims can easily loose their impact on the screen. These pieces may be more bold in your rooms than you expect.

We must keep in mind that colors change when we view a textile in different kinds of light. I photograph pieces with my equipment balanced for daylight conditions, and you should keep in mind that a textile may look a little "warmer" under your indoor tungsten lights--the reds a little stronger, for example.

I spend time editing photos so that they represent the textiles as closely as possible.  They are accurate on any professionally calibrated LCD monitor.  Unfortunately un-calibrated monitors can vary significantly.  Colors are overly bright and saturated on some new screens, while on older monitors they are dull.  Photos on any screen can look pale and washed out if there is lots of light in your room.  They can look different at night than during the day.  Thus oftentimes folks adjust their Brightness and Contrast monitor settings so that they do not see the images webmasters intended.  I'm aware that people differ in their textile color preferences--how strong or how "mellow" they would like them.  Thus if you have questions about colors in the textiles you are considering, it is wise to discuss specific pieces with me. 
I should note that colors in many rug and textile photos on the web are much more vivid than in the actual textiles;  sellers realize it is advantageous for their photos to "pop." I have instead normally opted to reduce the saturation to accurately represent the pieces.
 
Over the years I have discovered that the occasional individuals who request "more photos" rarely have a serious interest in the textiles. I try my best to accurately portray each item when I post it, with whatever kinds of photos best illustrate that particular piece, and  I write accurate condition descriptions. Since my time and energy are seriously limited, and the website traffic is heavy, I hope that viewers can understand my reluctance to spend time with additional photo sessions--especially since within the US I send out every textile "on approval." Any piece can be returned if it doesn't meet expectations.  This is NOT an eBay operation in which anyone is stuck with pieces they don't want. 



Could you please tell me the safest way to hang a cherished rug (or tapestry, or embroidery or other textile)?  How can I go about cleaning my textile and repairing damage that it has sustained?

My website page on Mounting and Hanging Textiles explains the simplest and most satisfactory ways of hanging most items. People often ask how to hang pieces without any sewing, assuming that stitching through them must damage them. Usually, however, the safest methods do involve stitching--to distribute the weight evenly.

We are often asked for advice on textile restoration, cleaning and conservation. It is impossible to give competent advice without seeing your textile at first hand, however, so please consult with conservators in your area.  Your local museum may be able to refer you to qualified persons. If you wish to wash a piece yourself, check out Wet Cleaning Procedures for Textiles & Rugs.



I don't know what to do about wrinkled old textiles.  Is it safe to iron them? 

Yes.  Almost every type of piece can be carefully pressed on its back side with a steam iron.   Or on the front if you use a press cloth between the iron and the textile itself.  A piece of old sheeting is ideal for this purpose.   I normally use a steamer for kimonos, but these can also be pressed.  Even the African raffia pile cloths can be steam pressed lightly on the back side



Can you tell us how to protect our antique textiles from fading? 

Normally I've just replied to this question by stressing that we need to keep our rugs and textiles out of direct sunlight.  If we are careful about this, the light levels in most of our homes do not pose significant problems.  Then someone asked me whether or not the new LED bulbs are damaging to textiles.  So I contacted Dr. James Henderson, a lighting technology specialist, to get the most reliable and pertinent current information.  He is a physicist with a long career working for GE.  He is also a textile/rug collector, and so shares our concerns.

According to Jim and other specialists, it is important that we control the CUMULATIVE exposure to VISIBLE light energy.  Our concerns should be both the exposure TIME and the visible light INTENSITY.  Sunlight is far more damaging than most electric light sources;  indirect daylight is less damaging.  I was surprised when Jim told me that contrary to popular belief, damage from UV rays is almost insignificant, and that we normally need not worry about UV filters.  According to Jim, the use of LED bulbs does not alter standard light level recommendations. To sum up:  It is the total amount of time that we expose our textiles to various kinds of light that is important, along with the intensity of that light.

Rather than paraphrase Jim's advice here, I have posted one of his articles published a few years ago in ORIENTAL RUG REVIEW:  "Light Sources and Fading: A Perspective for Textile Conservation and Display."  Much of this is concerned with determining reasonable museum lighting standards, but collectors can certainly consider how the recommendations might apply to displays at home.   I have also posted a much more technical article--a paper on the same subject presented at the Annual Conference of the Illuminating Society of North America. 


Where can we find information on the differences between natural and synthetic dyes in our textiles? 

For  the best comprehensive survey of the natural dyes used in Asian textiles, see Harold Bőhmer's book, Koekboya: Natural Dyes and Textiles. Ganderkesee, Germany, 2002.   

Dye questions have come up frequently on the Turkotek rug discussion board.  I have posted some of the contributions offered there by dye specialist Pierre GalafassiClick here to read those.  I've also listed links to some of the most pertinent rug board discussions on dyes.  For more, see Turkotek's archive section.


You seem focused on "antique" or at least "old" textiles.  Why aren't you offering more pieces from places where attempts are underway currently to promote or revive  traditional work? 

My interest is in genuine ethnographic folk art.  Such pieces are quite different from reproductions of old work, "revivals," or simply well-crafted copy work.  I want inspired, creative expressions, and unfortunately, in most parts of the world where fascinating hand-crafted textiles were always an integral part of the culture, those crafts have now been commercialized until the work is sterile and boring.  Skilled workmanship, adequate design and good materials are not enough to raise textile production to the level of art.  I am always thrilled to find new work that is inspired, dynamic and nuanced, but such pieces are rare indeed.  To find superb, creative traditional textile art we must normally look for older examples--pieces produced before the work was corrupted by commercialism.  This is true, unfortunately, of products from all around the world--whether it be Middle Eastern kilims and bags, Peruvian/Bolivian mantas, Indonesian ikats, Chinese Minority embroidery, or Native American blankets, to name just a few diverse examples.  I've discussed this issue in more detail in Criteria for Selecting Tribal Textiles.            



My decorator has suggested upholstering a couple of arm chairs with an old kilim.
Is this practical?  Is it a sacrilege?  
 

There are several aspects to consider.  First, most distinguished kilim patterns are so big and bold, that cutting and using segments of diverse design sections to cover the various parts of a piece of furniture inevitably creates a scrambled and ineffective result. If you are drawn to old kilims, I definitely encourage you instead to consider using one of these dramatic pieces on your floor or wall, with simpler, complementary fabrics on your chairs. Or hang a beautiful old tribal bag face or two if your space won't accommodate large pieces. 

These days we hunt diligently to find good antique kilims in excellent condition, they are increasingly expensive, and it breaks my heart to see a beautiful piece cut up. Folks ask if I don't have old damaged pieces that would be suitable. In fact, if the damage is localized, antique kilims are now universally being restored. More often, however, damage or wear is spread throughout, so that it's impossible to work around frayed areas. Anyone absolutely determined to cut up kilims for upholstery needs to look for new or fairly recent pieces. The problem is, of course, that the synthetic dye colors of such pieces are normally garish and the weaves are coarse.

 You may feel initially that using bits and pieces of dramatic old works of textile art in an unexpected context can add an exotic and unique element to your interior.  I understand this completely.  Over time though, you may come to realize that upholstering with such pieces displays an insensitivity to this wonderful art form and a lack of respect for the fascinating West Asian tribal cultures represented. The objects then project negative vibes instead of positive values.  Refined, sophisticated interior design is achieved by introducing unique antique art and craft objects in a respectful manner. They need to be presented as would a serious collector or museum.

For me, the same considerations should apply to cutting up ikat weavings, embroideries, or any other handmade ethnographic textiles and re-purposing them.  To be blunt, we display an arrogance and blatant attitude of superiority if we present the work of third-world artisans disrespectfully.  Can you imagine facing Indonesian women, for example, and declaring that you planned to cut up and combine several of their ikat shawls to cover your lounge chair?  What an insult to those artisans!  And what a total lack of aesthetic sensitivity.


 

I am impressed by your collection of kimonos (kilims, etc.).  How can you certify authenticity?

I'm tempted to answer this one by replying, "We can't...I made them all last week!"  But seriously, realistically, it is normally impossible to "certify" an exact date, "certify" the precise origin, or "certify" the quality of any anonymously produced, hand-crafted object--particularly those with some age.  It requires handling and studying hundreds--or thousands--of such objects to be able to make valid judgments about them, their relative aesthetic qualities, their craftsmanship, their dyes and materials, their probable dates, and their original intended use.  We can only make educated guesses about their origins.

With kimono, for example, it requires study of the individual decorating techniques of yuzen (resist dyeing with hand painting), shibori (tie dye), katazume (resist-dye stenciling), kasuri (resist-dyed warps or wefts), and sumi-e painting to separate hand-decorated fabrics from machine-printed copies.  In some cases experience is required to separate jacquard loom brocading or machine embroidery from hand work.  Handling the fabrics is necessary to make judgments about the silks, and study is required if we are to separate the styles of different eras.  Familiarity with historic design development is crucial in separating authentic ethnographic garments from those produced purely for the tourist and export market.

To make value judgments about old tribal kilims, we must study design evolution within each group, understand and identify the dyes used,  be able to assess several aspects of the weave structures, and judge craftsmanship, wool quality and the particular kinds of wool processing involved.

Any "certification" is only as good as the experience and the word of the person doing the "certifying." Thus "Certificates of Authenticity" produced for Customs processing are usually a joke, as anyone can fill in the blanks on such a document. If the quality of a vendor's presentation, merchandise and reputation do not inspire confidence, one might as well purchase the least expensive products cranked out for the souvenir or export markets and promoted on eBay or similar venues. 




How can I get help in identifying an old Oriental rug, kilim or bag I've just acquired? (A lucky flea-market find, perhaps, or an inherited piece...)

You can elicit a variety of opinions by posting photos of your rug on one of the web's rug discussion boards. The most active board currently is TurkoTek (on the Show and Tell Forum)You need to provide as much information as possible about the rug's structure (kind of knot, warp and weft material, etc.). A close-up of the rug's back is useful, as well as a corner that shows a part of one selvage and end. To identify the kind of knots used, and include a knot count, I suggest you read the knotted-pile section on my Basic Tribal Weaves page.  Antique geometric village or tribal rugs are the main interest of collectors who are TurkoTek participants, although a few participants also have an interest in old city workshop carpets.  TurkoTek's strict non-commercial ground rules prohibit a discussion of market values. 



Can you suggest where to start a rug study?  Can you recommend a good book or two?  A good kilim book?  How about information on other textiles?

The TurkoTek board conducted a two-week-long discussion of rug books a while back that you might find interesting. Look under that site's "Salon Archives" for Salon Discussion Number 19. For my recommendations on kilim books, check out the Flatweaves Bibliography on this website. I've included candid commentaries. I've also suggested three good books for serious beginning pile-rug collectors. On the website I am gradually providing bibliographic listings for other kinds of textile: posted so far are resources for researching Japanese kimono, Chinese costumes, Chinese Minority textiles, African textiles, Laces, and Southeast Asian textiles. Specialist rug and textile book dealers are listed on my Links page.  I recommend that you check out their offerings, because the best publications are rarely available in your local bookstore. 



I'm going on vacation soon to Morocco (or Turkey, Uzbekistan or elsewhere in North Africa or Asia) and would like to buy a rug or two. Can you tell me what to look for, how to judge quality, and how to get a good "deal"?
                
These are very common questions that are impossible to answer briefly. If you have not already spent time (months or years, not days or weeks) learning about hand-woven rugs, you will find the subject quite complex. You are sure to be a "sitting duck"--the uneducated tourist that bazaar merchants love. You may do just as well at your neighborhood rug store at home. Prices may be no higher, and it is a great advantage to try out pieces in your own rooms where you can consider them leisurely. Dealers buy from wholesale sources overseas, and with their experience normally get better quality than do tourists. New reproductions and outright fakes have become commonplace and can fool even knowledgeable collectors. Antique rug supplies in some countries of origin have been nearly exhausted, and some Middle Eastern dealers search Europe and the US for old examples. When on vacation, it is reasonable to buy souvenirs. Just don't invest major money unless you are a knowledgeable collector.  If you wish, you are welcome to write for a complimentary copy of my booklet, Middle-Eastern Tribal Textiles: Some Notes on Collecting. It's an introduction to the rug world.



Would you please look at rugs I bought recently in Kazakhstan (or Azerbaijan, India or elsewhere overseas) and tell me their value?

Wait a minute...If you just bought them, you already know that! Merely transporting rugs to a different location does not alter their values substantially. In the current world-wide rug market, retail values do not vary greatly from place to place. Merchants in countries that seem exotic and remote to Americans know how to price their goods properly, and are likely to have Sotheby's auction catalogs and HALI magazines on their shelves, so the chances of finding an antique "sleeper" are rare. If you add shipping costs and possible customs charges to what you paid, that total is likely to be close to current North American or European values. Of course prices fluctuate along with collecting fads and fashions, and vary depending upon the kinds of retail outlets involved. Over the years, several individuals have come to my place with car-loads of rugs that they have bought in the bazaars and souks while vacationing overseas in hopes of reselling in the US. They are invariably surprised to find American retail prices close to the amount they invested, and the quality of their purchases lower.  



I'm concerned about some irregularities in the design of my kilim (or embroidery, etc.) If the design is not symmetrical, does that lessen the textile's value? 

The short answer is, "No." We often hear the old saw, Islamic artists leave a flaw somewhere in their work, so as not to offend Allah, the only perfect one.  I think that is miss-stating the matter.  Rather, traditional Middle Eastern textile/fiber artists are comfortable with the notion that they cannot achieve perfection;  thus "perfection" is not their goal.  Learning and growing as competent and creative artists is the aim.  The process is more important than the product.  Western attitudes differ significantly as Western weavers, for example, typically make samples to try out new ideas, then produce the actual piece using that idea.  That is an alien notion to Asian primitive weavers.  Instead, with ethnographic textiles each piece is a learning experience that quite naturally displays experimentation, occasional miss-steps, variations, errors, and then accommodations. 

Domestic weaving among Middle Eastern tribal women is most often a joint project, with family members or friends working together.  No one expects two individuals weaving side by side to produce identical results.  One artisan is quite likely to be more skilled than the other.  Mothers rarely correct their daughters' work, but instead point to it proudly when it appears in their own pieces.  Visiting friends who sit for a while and participate in the weaving may, in fact, add their own unique touches or "signs" to the work.  These additions are looked upon with great pleasure, as a reminder of that person's friendship.  While nomad and village women often are quick to praise superior work, rarely is anyone criticized.

Domestic embroideries such as the colorful Uzbek suzanis are also frequently shared projects, with separate panels made by two or more family members or friends;  thus when they are assembled, it is to be expected that the parts are not identical.  Rarely are two side borders the same; rarely are the parts perfectly symmetrical.  Some areas may be more filled with detail than others;  it's not unusual to find occasional small areas left in a sketchy state.

Creative freedom and experimentation are the most important features that separate ethnographic textile folk art from purely commercial products.  Merchants typically require strict adherence to their dictates in work they commission, believing that "regularity" above all is what the market wants.  When "cottage industry" or tribal products from anywhere instead manage to retain the freedom of the traditional art form, allow for the whims of the artists, and display freshness and vitality, I think we should be grateful indeed. 





I’m considering the purchase of a rug (or textile) in a local shop. Would you please look at a pic, tell me what you think of the piece, and tell me if the dealer’s price is fair?

Pleeeeze!  I simply cannot evaluate other merchants’ items!  That’s a great way to lose friends, and negative comments inevitably sound self-serving.  It’s hard enough to manage my own business.  I do my best to offer good pieces at fair prices—prices often lower than elsewhere because I don’t have shop overhead.  I am willing to give advice when someone is considering my textiles, and I am willing to compare their relative merits.  I can help distinguish between those textiles or rugs considered “collectors'” pieces and those that are more purely “decorative.” This can be an important distinction for novice collectors, but also for interior designers or art consultants who might like a little assistance in choosing pieces for specific clients.  Although I have an interest in pile carpets from an academic/research perspective, my passion is for true ethnographic textiles—and among Oriental rugs that normally means the old flat weaves.  I’m quite happy to share that passion and the experience accumulated over the last 50 (gulp!) years.   



I need a room-sized rug...Do you have kilims that are at least 9 feet by 12 feet?

Sorry, but I handle only old ethnographic kilims.  Tribal and village weavings were made to suit their makers' needs, either in tents or small village houses, and thus we rarely find old kilims wider than about 6 feet; most are narrower still.  Wider looms are very difficult to manage, and thus have been used almost solely in commercial workshops, where larger products have been made specifically for export. These are rarely the kinds of weavings that interest collectors.

Thus if you wish to use antique ethnographic kilims in your home, you need to be flexible and imaginative in the way you arrange your furnishings.  Bold kilim patterns are not displayed to best advantage with furniture placed on them; it's usually more effective to place a kilim in front of a sofa or seating group, rather than under it.  This kind of textile folk art needs space around it, as do paintings.  Often room arrangements do well with a couple of smaller kilims, rather than one large piece.  I have found that people who are unfamiliar with tapestry-woven or brocaded kilims typically begin by looking for pieces larger than they can use effectively.  

If you are hunting for a dining room rug, you probably need to consider something other than a old kilim, as these are rarely wide enough to place under a table with chairs on both sides.  One good solution:  use a plain floor covering, since it's mostly covered anyway, and hang dramatic textile art on the walls in that room.  



Would you please send me information for a textile term paper?

I cannot do homework for students;  that is rarely what teachers have in mind when suggesting "internet research." Nor do I have time to compile bibliographies for specialized research. That's what library research facilities are for, and most now provide on-line catalogues. Unfortunately, there is currently very little in-depth information on historic or ethnographic textiles on the web. On my Links page I have listed some of the more interesting internet resources I have found. But in most cases, students need to begin with library research, and take advantage of interlibrary loan services if local collections are inadequate. 



Could you please send me information on how to do ikat weaving…how to set up my garage sale loom...how to start learning to weave...how to do specialized embroidery stitches…how to learn to spin, etc.?

I’m sorry, but the website business keeps me so constantly busy that I cannot offer lessons in textile processes, or hunt written materials for you.  A visit to your local library should produce books that lay out practical guidance. Weavers’ guilds exist in many areas where both beginners and advanced craftsmen can get support and guidance; often these organizations have specialized libraries for their members’ use.  The on-line DMOZ Open Directory Project has an extensive listing of Guilds; see links to other textile resources on this site’s Links page.  A search on Google.com will lead you to several web discussion groups devoted to these and other textile subjects. If you would just like to experiment with some simple weave techniques, take a look at my web page on Building a Frame Loom.



Do I need a rug pad under my kilim?  If so, what kind?

The answer is yes. First, a pad will cushion the rug a bit and prolong its life.  Second, a pad will keep you from slipping and breaking your neck!  Under kilims, I like a thin rubber pad that grips the floor and also clings to the kilim. One good product is Rubber Anchor, marketed by Jade Industries. I much prefer solid rubber pads, although they are a bit more expensive than open mesh types. You simply trim the pad to the shape of the kilim, cutting it about an inch smaller on all sides. The rubber cuts easily with scissors. This material must usually be pieced for larger rugs, as it is only manufactured in narrow widths. Many rug stores now stock suitable products. One downside: rubber pads last only a few years. They eventually dry out, stiffen, and lose their clinging power. 



You've mentioned spraying kilims with Vectra to protect them. Where can I get it?

In my opinion, Vectra is wonderful!  It's a petroleum product that can be sprayed on kilims and works much like Scotchguard to prevent soiling. I first discovered this product when it seemed impractical to use Moroccan flatwoven hambels on the floor because they included some white cotton. A light misting with Vectra, however, works wonders. Vectra is also useful for pieces in heavy traffic areas or in areas where there is a possibility of food spills. The first Vectra representative I encountered sold me on the product: He pulled out a Kleenex that looked as though it was straight from the box--a tissue that he claimed had been sprayed with Vectra. He poured Coca Cola on it. Well, that Coke rolled around and rolled off!  One light spraying of a kilim supposedly lasts through two or three washings or cleanings. It does not affect the feel or appearance of the fabric. Museum folks are reluctant to add any chemical to a textile, but with a piece that we expect to give hard use, I think it is worth considering. Where can you get Vectra?  If it is not available in your local rug or fabric shop, you can order a small can with a spray pump directly from www.vectraspray.com.

For anyone living in a tropical climate with high humidity, Vectra offers another kind of protection:  a light spraying can act as a desiccant, preventing the formation of mildew.  Useful indeed! 



Finally, why is my e-mail ignored if I send an anonymous inquiry? 

Through the web, I've made many delightful contacts. Anonymous e-mails, however, are a pet peeve!  Why should anyone expect another person to spend time providing information when he is unwilling to even give his name?  That seems hardly civil, and I, for one, have stopped responding to such inquiries. 

Enjoy the website, thanks for visiting, and happy rug or textile hunting! It's a fascinating subject!

                                                                                              Marla Mallett

MARLA MALLETT
1690 Johnson Road NE
Atlanta, GA  30306   USA


E-mail: marlam@mindspring.com
Phone:  404-872-3356        


HOME
Links
SITE INDEX