Letter from Aziz Atiyeh in 1929
Mr. Geo. Tadross
330 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York
I have so many things to write you but I do not know
where to start. Today, being a holiday (Friday) I am all alone in the
office, except for Socratekhan, who is about to take his usual "beauty
sleep", (a nap after lunch) and I find this an opportune time to type
you a few lines. Yesterday and the day before I was very busy inspecting
looms in Jupar, a small town about one hours' ride from Kerman. It means
getting up at 4:30 A.M., shaving, breakfasting,and starting at 5:30 in
a "second-hand" Dodge over very rough roads, arriving at 6:30, and going
from one mud house to another through very dusty and narrow alleys and
entering through holes in the mud walls, "wide enough and high enough
to permit your entering with head and back bent level with the height
of knees." Once you are in, the ladies cover their faces or run to a hiding
place, boys and men remain at the looms and here and there, sitting on
the ground or sleeping in a hammock, a crying baby, all are partly dressed
with rags, and the children who are able to talk will shout "salaam."
Out of pity, I or Socratekhan will pass a kran or two to these little
tots, aside from the Baksheesh to the weavers. And I am amazed to see
sometimes, children not a day older, but maybe younger than my little
Phillip, weaving, and holding a knife the size of a butcher knife to cut
the knot. (There is no exaggeration). The looms are scattered all over
town with no auto to cover the distance and no donkey, but trodding through
dust in the very hot sun.
Atiyeh manager, Socratekhan.
Most of these historical photographs were taken by Aziz Atiyeh, so he
is usually not pictured.
At noon we will stop at the "Ritz", where
our agent has his quarters. A hard boiled egg or two, a cucumber, a wormy
apple or peach, eating with one hand, and waving off a swarm of flies
with the other. At 2 P.M. we start again, (as Socratekhan still insists
on his "Siesta"), and by 6:30 we have returned home. It is very tiresome,
but I did not mind it only I was pained to see only repetition of designs
and nothing new. I was so disappointed and to such an extent that I call
down our manager, and I assert what you once stated that "he has no taste".
Moreover, I saw many rugs which have been hung on the looms for many months
and only a few inches have been woven. This is due to the constant intrigues
of our competitors who bribe or threaten the weavers and take them from
our contractors. Of course, our competitors are perfect gentlemen, and
they deny doing such things, but there "agents do it without their knowledge."
In spite of all these doings, we are going ahead, and someday we will
surprise them. The biggest problem I have to solve is to find a good designer
and artist who knows colors and can blend them. Our designer is working
steadily with his staff of eight men, but cannot make enough designs to
go around. One great mistake, that I called to his attention, was his
failure to take into consideration that the designs are enlarged by 33%
to 50% when woven into the rug. He only looked at the designs on paper
and they look well. From now on, he will draw finer and more minute designs.
I asked them to draw the full size on paper, but he stated that it will
not do, due to some complications with the weavers.
If I am unable to find another designer here, I will
try to get one from Esfahan, for there I met a very good one and asked
him to copy for me a design from the walls of what once was Shah Abbas'
Previous to that last two days, I was busying myself
in looking at our stock of old designs, inspecting our looms in the city,
and searching for some ready made carpets. Whatever there is ready, is
made of very inferior quality to sell in London. And they know the London
market is very poor now so they stopped making. And if there is any medium
grade rug to be had, the Persian people are buying it, aging it and shipping
to Teheran or Hamadan and offer it as semi-antique, and they are paying
big prices. For instance, our contractor #34 has a pair of carpets, ivory
background, tree of life design, the same as the pair we once had from
him, size 9 x 12, and if I remember right, one was sold by Mr. Sabbagh.
The pair we bought as "ready made" and the price 130 Krans. Now he asks
170 Krans. He was offered 160 by a Hamadan agent buyer. I asked to see
them if possible, to buy them, but Socratekhan advised against buying
from him at such a price, for then we cannot be able to order with him
at 130 Krans, we are now contracting.
Hand spinning wool yarn.
Shipment #33 has just arrived, and will be
sent by trucks to Dozbad. You probably know that this was shipped about
a month ago, via Bandar Abbas, by caravan, but due to the unsafety of
the road it was stopped on the way so we have ordered its return.
Semi-antiques are non-existent. You will be surprised
to know that there are several new rugs "good and bad quality" spread
in the streets, walked over by people and dogs, trodden over by donkeys
and ran over by the few automobiles, including our Dodge in the course
of making antiques. On of these rugs is similar in design to our carpet
photo #39. Also I saw another of the same design, size about 28 x 14,
very poor quality and in some places worn out but this was spread in a
court yard as they cannot find a street wide enough. I though of buying
it for Senaan's order, but it has poor quality and bad dyes and there
is a duty of 12% on unfixed dyes.
My life here is not a dog's life, far from it, --especially
if you measure it by the standard of living of the Americans do. (Many,
even in New York, will envy the American dog). I go to bed at 8:00 P.M.
The beds made of a few warped planks nailed together and covered with
a thin mattress, thinner than our Kermans. I am up at 4:30, breakfast
at 5:50. Work until 11:00, lunch at noon. Then I hide in the shade until
4 P.M. (others sleep). Work until 7:00, and supper at 7:30, and to bed
at eight. Reading and writing is forbidden at the oil lamps because of
mosquitos and other insects. I am enclosed within a large courtyard, with
a pool of water and a few shrubs. If I go out, I can see nothing but high
mud walls. Few days ago, I was complaining to the chief of Police, who
is Persian but has lived in Europe for 9 years, and he comforted me by
saying that the moon would soon be up and keeping me company. This is
a good "rest cure but I am afraid the dose is too large.
The sheet is about covered and my one finger got tired
typing. Remember me to all and let us hope we will meet again, if not
in 1929 in 1930.
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