Discovered in the Topkapi Palace in 1929, the Piri Reis Map as it is known, is the oldest known Turkish map showing the new world and one of the oldest maps of America still in existence anywhere (the oldest known map of America that is still in existence is the map drawn by Juan de la Cosa in 1500). The extant fragment of the map represents approximately one-third (1/3) of the original and was compiled by Piri from various sources as he himself had never sailed into the Atlantic. The map was signed by Piri in 1513 CE and later presented to the Ottoman Sultan Selim I in 1517 CE. It’s discovery was serendipitous as it existence was theretofore unknown when German theologian Gustav Adolf Deissmann – who had been commissioned to catalog the palaces non-Islamic items – located it in a search of the palace. Feted at the time as it was then the only known copy of a map by Christopher Columbus, the Piri Reis map is an invaluable look into he technology and skill of the past, and is widely regarded. This is the carpet the map inspired.
When I took my first job in the rug and carpet world – as a porter no less – I was still full of that invincible hubris and newly minted air of superiority that makes a more aged version of myself now cringe. Fresh from university and full of confidence, I was certain I was the first person ever to discover that design functions in rote, methodical cycles. I marvelled as the past returned to the present only to once again fade into oblivion. This was the thinking that compelled me to highlight ‘Circles’ in the Summer 2017 Issue of Rug Insider and it remains a strong influence in much of my critique. New and exciting is hardly new, nor is it exciting when it’s been done before.
Though I was prescient of the return of the past I knew from old design magazines and quaint television programs in syndication, at the age of twenty-two I had not yet fathomed there would be a point in my life when the return would be that of things I witnessed in my own lifetime.
The Carpet Design Awards recognize annually the best in handmade carpet design and are, to quote, ‘a coveted international badge of excellence in quality of execution and uniqueness of design for modern hand-made carpets.’ As with any design competition however there are caveats. For instance, entrants and thus winners – with the exception of those in the ‘Best Studio Artist Design’ – must be exhibitors at DOMOTEX which obviously restricts the pool of eligible carpets. As such, it is best to think not of the Carpet Design Awards as ‘the world’s best’, but rather think of them as one would of cinema, with the Carpet Design Awards as the DOMOTEX equivalent of an Official Selection during Cannes. Similarly just as movie critics will critique with superior air, so too must those who judge rugs chime in on what is – in their opinion – hot, hot, hot.
Within the world of rugs and carpets if one is to mention ‘Tiger Rug’ the foremost thought aught to be that of Tibetan Tiger Rugs. Not because of any exclusive domain over the motif – which there most certainly is not, but rather because in the grand and storied history of tigers as inspiration for carpets Tibet has produced some of the most amazing, lively, and original versions of the design. Whether the motif originated in Tibet, in a geographically proximal region, or in Timbuktu as a metaphor for far-off unknown places, is a scholarly debate for another time. Regardless, know that amongst the collectable and pre-commercialized rug market, Tibetan Tiger Rugs are, if you’ll pardon the pun, the cat’s meow.
‘Twilight Zone’ shown in colour ‘Denim’ (other multichromatic colourations are available) is a stunning Tibetan weave carpet that, like much of Wool and Silk’s work is irresistible to the eyes. ‘The blues are amazing and I really love the geometry of the design.’ I said while browsing the images. ‘Yes..’ Erbil replies ‘but it is asymmetrical with great depth [as well].’ And then, with the almost incomprehensible warbling of an overhead announcement our beautiful respite was over and our respective journeys continued…
‘It was the loveliest party that I’ve ever attended, if anything was broken I’m sure it could be mended.’ – They Might Be Giants. This opening quote, like so many random quotes, has been taken out of its original context and dropped headfirst into the void allowing for a new meaning more suited to the purpose at hand. For unlike the song from which the line originates, there are no socially inappropriate connotations to be had, only the simple sincerity of the words at face value: It was a lovely party – hosted by the passionate Christiane Millinger – and with certainty had any carpet inexplicably sustained damage the fastidious Ms. Millinger would have been able to execute the repair.
Photorealistic designs in rug production is not a new concept, but it is one that is enjoying popularity mostly due to, in my opinion, advancements in technology and not great artistic or creative merit. An iconic photograph, of an iconic building, in an iconic city. That’s great. Let’s “design” a rug. I’ll just desaturate the image, drop it into the rug graphing software of your choosing, maybe pick the colours, but likely let the computer, and viola! I’m a designer. Now I’ve heard Mr. Irwin did not design this rug, but that is neither here nor there. He is passing this bunkum off as design and frankly it is not. Don’t believe me? That’s fine, I believe you to be wrong. That notwithstanding, it is a fantastic technical achievement in rug construction, but it might as well be a screenprinted design on a cotton chenille machine woven rug. It’s that stupid of a concept and it is insulting to think that people with real taste and style would appreciate, let along purchase such a rug. It’s pretending to be iconic by borrowing provenance and anything else it can from both its origins and the exceptional skill of those who wove it. It’s an affront to taste (good or bad) and we need not ever speak of this again, but of course we will, because on the other hand… .