Tuesday 23 June 2009

Origins of Sampler Motifs

You know how it is - you are running for a train, have nothing to read and 5 minutes to fix the situation. I grabbed a book called The Root of Wild Madder by Brain Murphy, thinking it was a history of madder dyes. It may be eventually. Back then I was slightly disappointed to find it was a book about carpets. Don't get me wrong, I love carpets - my aunt collected them. When they wore beyond her liking she simply laid another on top. Every few years she would have the carpenter call to shave off the bottom of the doors so they would still open. And look here at these two antique carpets with their borders which reflect the format of later samplers. The first has a number of tree designs which occur on samplers, most notably the weeping tree found on mourning samplers.

The second carpet with a Tree of Life also has resonances with the more angular and geometric trees found on samplers from the North of England and with this sampler extract here. Somewhere between London and Guildford I found myself captivated by the book and its author. Here is a paragraph for you. The author is watching young country girls weave a carpet in Afghanistan:

These girls, barely able to write their names, were adding to a historical record no less important than any historical transcript. These carpets mean something, and the weavers are part of a vast and ancient sisterhood.
You might be interested to know that the French paid Armenian traders the huge sum of £100,000 in the mid 1700s for the secret of their red madder dye.

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