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      Woven Legacies: I Buy, Sell and Write About “Truly Tribal” Pieces

My current business brings me full-circle to my first interest in tribal rugs in the late 1960s. An initial trip to Iran in 1970 introduced me to the greatest place on earth for anyone attracted to tribal rugs: Shiraz and the Bazaar Vakil. Stuffed with nomadic “jens” (goods) at the time, that colorful setting gave me my start in the rug business, as a dealer and student of tribal rugs. Absorbing all I could from Shiraz merchants, weavers and anyone with a story to tell, my primary motivation for publishing Tribal Rugs of Southern Persia in 1982 was commercial—to enhance my young business. But I also sought to share what I had learned, for authors of various books focusing on tribal rugs, then in print, clearly knew much less than my teachers—all the dealers in and near Shiraz--knew.  (Those dealers knew, for example, that since the 18th century very few rugs had been made in Shiraz proper, though great numbers were still called “Shiraz” in the trade.  They knew that many rugs labeled “Qashqa’i” in the West actually came from Lurs, or from Baharlu, Nasiri, Arab or other tribes in the disbanded “Khamseh Confederation.”)   

As I continued to travel, nothing helped as much as struggling to write accurately about a subject filled with complexities. Learning year by year, my second book, Tribal Rugs, appeared in 1992 and since then HALI, Oriental Rug Review, Carpet Collector, The New Yorker, Material for Thought and Parabola have shared articles with diverse audiences.

This  website includes some  of these writings, organized chronologically, and shares selected images of exceptional weavings. I do not expose everything I own but invite inquiries from serious students of tribal rugs, including collectors who hope to acquire “truly tribal” pieces.

Fresh essays will expand the site as I continue to recount my long career, sharing what I have learned—and still question—regarding these amazing woven legacies.    

      James Opie, March, 2018