Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra
In my early collecting years, I came across several collectors who would happily buy fragments and enjoy their beauty.
Fragments are textiles that were damaged enough to strip them off their description of ‘good condition’.
The words evokes the vision of a small piece that is all that remains of the complete piece. But before the textile reaches that extreme state, there are several stages. Smaller tragedies like holes, tears & missing pieces all downgrade the status of the textile to ‘fragment’.
So a whole spectrum of fragments seems to exist:
On one end are those that just about did not make it to the ‘acceptable’ condition but with some repairs could make it back the “acceptable” slot. And at the other end of the spectrum are those that are definitely destined for the graveyard.
In rugs I never did appreciate fragments or worn out rugs. But many collectors focus on fragments.
My aversion was partly because of my reasoning about ‘how’ they got so worn out. I imagined foot traffic with shoes on, wearing them down and it was painful to think that thought.
I remember selling a white field Khamseh because I could not ‘love’ it sufficiently with its few worn out patches. That sale I regret even now and upset myself whenever I see this picture
In the recent times, my purchase trail shows that without being conscious of it, I am now more forgiving of flaws than I was a decade ago.
Am wondering what brought this change. Age related wisdom perhaps?
There are other important questions.
What level of damage would be acceptable?
What would cause me to compromise?
What are the mutli-dimensional factors that matter and how much weightage does each factor get?
What if fragments form a large proportion of the stock in the world? Like Coptic or Pre-Colombian textiles?
Beauty? If its tooooo beautiful let’s overlook the damage? Such as in the case of the recently acquired Kilim.
Price? If its cheaper than a _____________[a cab ride, a dinner, a sari] does it matter if I get it?
Rarity? What if I never see such a piece again? Should I get it in spite of the damage?
[My experience tells me
a) there’s always another one around the corner. And
b) that may never be another one like this again and you will live to regret passing up on this.
Same life, same mind, same wisdom, same experiences.
Yet two conflicting conclusions.
So my ‘wisdom’ & experience are not helping very much]
So how to decide on whether to get a fragment or not?
Besides the hard facts of the case – such as how deep my pockets feel at that moment – the decision boils down to which Type of Error I am willing to go with:
Buy it and then regret it
Let it go and then regret the ‘could-have-should-have’ for the rest of the time that I remember it.
A broader example of this dilemma:
Since we do not know whether we will be wiser tomorrow than we are today, we can only work with the best information available in our present moment. And then live with the consequences of those decisions…
I am still running around in circles in my argument … so how does the dilemma get resolved?
By following one’s own heart maybe.
Such heart-led decisions may cause some turmoil later – but the thrill and fulfillment of those happy moments [which might last forever w- why be pessimistic] are the essence of life!
So let’s all listen to the quiet heart and hope that our decisions lead us to the smiles in the table above!