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A FASTI model of rugs: features, actors, space, time, ideas

The FASTI model has been proposed (in informal communication, during a walk through Salisbury, while I was burdened with several old rugs I had picked up at the Netherhampton Saleroom auction house earlier) by John Lindsay, who has developed it to deal with notions of arcadia, the pastoral, the bucolic and their aesthetic, historical and socio-political context (including sexual politics). Basically, it works like a nmemonic: F=Features, A=Actors, S=Space, T=Time, I=Ideas. There are some texts by John on this site and others elsewhere.

Applying FASTI is also a way to assess the value of it as heuristic tool or model. Whether it will offer more than a rather general heuristic function (i.e., filling a rather large tableau, making sure that nothing important is left out) I do not know yet.

This is the result of filling in the FASTI scheme tentatively:


The empirical / technical: every technical or empirically verifiable aspect, i.e., regarding rugs themselves, the weave type, end finishes, palette, common types and formats (trappings, sacs, gabbehs, sets) sizes, material (wool, cotton, silk), dyes (chemical dye analysis if anyone wants to go to such length). Some authors such as Brüggemann and Böhmer (1982), Willborg (1993), or Hubel (1965) provide the level of technical analysis needed to compare relevant feature sets.

But features should not be constrained to features of the artefact, but extend to its environment. It can include documented field research (Beck 1991) and sources about rug-related business ventures, such as the weaving business set up by Reichert & Strauß that was instrumental in the establishment of big-style export-oriented carpet manufacturing in Persia epitomized by the Ziegler & Co. and PETAG empires (cf. Hegenbarth 1988).


Agent or actors may start from the functional, social and economic context of rugs:

  1. Utility or use value: utility (sleeping rugs, grain bags, tent bands), and decoration or ceremonial functions (animal trappings, funeral rugs)
  2. Social: social and power relationships: from families, roles within clan or society (e.g. rug weaving conferring status, Khan carpets, the custom of dowry rugs - linked to economy and gender—women as weavers generating considerable share of revenues?)
  3. Economic and market: weaving as production of high value tradeable commodities; rug trade from weaver to picker to gross sale to retail, and parallel streams, new internet enabled economic models and the role of technology in them; role of users and collectors impacting on demand; forgers, rug copies (Pakistan Buchara), emergence of new types with primary and secondary production (example of Afghan war rugs)

Another way of slicing the cake is by identifying the agents themselves, i.e.:

Rather than just identifying, a good integrating concept are the main activities around rugs: weaving, trading/dealing, collecting, using, repairing?


There and here: The rug-producing countries, and on the other hand, the place where the buyers, collectors and the money are.

The somewhat artificial segmentation of space into 1. Persian, 2. Turkish, 3. Caucasian, 4. Central Asian / Afghanistan / Turkmen, 5. Chinese. Groups that sit across these boundaries such as Baluch (Persia / central Asia). Similarly, the lack of the entity 'Kurdistan' reflected in the lack of a Kurdish category proper in almost all books (dealt with under Persian, and Turkish/Anatolian).

Then space in the distant past: Kairo. Then the partly derivative production in European places (Bulgaria, Sweden, Ireland and UK, France, Spain). Then the forced movement of people in space, from Shah Abbas moving difficult tribes as buffer to Asian border areas. Difficulty of establishing inhabitants of space way back, leading to questions such as who wove the Caucasian rugs (Armenians? Kurds? Islamic groups?), or where were the Safavid carpets woven?


The basic time line, two calendars and a transformation formula (+/- 622 ?); date inscriptions or regisitrations of purchase as T anchors, wrong or forged date inscriptions, empirical dating methods (radioactive carbon analysis), reference rugs in Renaissance and later paintings, e.g., Holbein rugs or Lotto rugs (Compare King & Sylvester 1983).

History then spans time AND space and Actors: Starting with the European market from 1300?-1850, to the industrial phase, the market created from 1870? until today. Of course this is space and time and economy together.


  1. Source ideas in the context of production: conception of weavers and their (largely gone) culture on tribal or larger scope - meaning of symbols, practical aspects - the eye symbol wards off evil spirits, the gul representing the tribal clan or expressing power relationship to conquered clans, etc; but also import of ideas that seem attractive or exotic or suitable to increase the market value (e.g. use of high or court style in tribal settings, Qashqa'i Mille fleur rugs, Karabagh roses or Qum hunting scenes)
  2. The art or design historic layer: making certain connections regarding motive history such as im- and export of motives (e.g. did the boteh pattern or the turkmen guls come from Chinese shawls via the silk road, or did traders bring originally central Asian patterns to China where they were refined, etc.) - also referring to F (features) as grounding evidence, putting this evidence into causal or probability relations with I
  3. The rug lore: dealers, rug trade ideas and half-knowledge of attribution and provenance, real places names, place names used to describe types actually made also elsewhere, and dealer invented names (often misconceptions or useful mythology, such as 'princess bukhara' rugs)— also, the role of rug book authors, publications, auction house valuations for the appreciation of rugs— this must be differentiated from A (market)
Last update: 22 May 2007 | Impressum—Imprint