My name is Peter Haley. I’m the president of the Calgary Rug and Textile Club. I think my first interest was as a very young child. My grandmother had an Oriental carpet, floral pattern (I don’t know what type or city), but I used to push my little toy cars along the curving routes and the scrolls and the design. And the design always sort of remained in my head. It was maybe the first connection with another kind of floor covering.
Collecting grew out of a necessity to cover the floor of an apartment that my wife and I moved into. It was bare-wood parquetry, and the lease specified that you had to have some soft floor covering. Not far from the apartment building was a rug store on Sherbrooke Street in Montreal. It’s no longer there. And there was an attractive carpet in the window, so we went in and came out with it. That was a Turkmen piece, and it wasn’t the best one in the world, but it was what we could afford and it was respectable.
A few months later, we walked past the same window and there was a nicer one in the window, so we exchanged the first one for the second. And that stayed with us for a number of years. I think it would have been made in Pakistan, but the first copies of Turkmen rugs from Pakistan were a lot better than the later versions. It was at least true in colour, and the design was well drawn. And we were very happy with that in the apartment.
I think we probably have had about 50—between 50 and 60—pieces, mostly small carpets but several main carpets and a few textiles here and there. I’ve never been fascinated by kilims for some reason. I’m a pile-rug or a silk-embroidery type. Those are our two ends of the range. When you have a spouse or a partner and you are living under the same roof, it’s better to agree on these things, so we always have to negotiate.
Perhaps the reason that our small collection has focused on Turkmen pieces, Central Asian pieces, is because of my background as an architect. The appeal of the geometry, the rigour, the structure, and the connection to the cultural background is perhaps what underlies my personal interest. We’re not as enthusiastic about fragments. I would have to also say that, for us, the condition and the completeness of the piece and its aesthetic punch is really what seems to matter.
The Calgary Rug and Textile Club started informally without a name in the late 1990s… it has had up to 40 or so members on occasion and as few as 10 or so. So it’s difficult, as you know—as all rug societies are aware, it’s difficult to maintain a consistent interest unless you are in a large population centre, which we aren’t. It’s growing, but Calgary is a new city with a lot of young people. I say that part of what we should be doing and are trying to do is to bring new and younger people into the field, so they can learn and enjoy as we have in the past.
…it’s very important for our group, but it’s also very important for our mission of trying to broaden the appreciation for Oriental weavings of all types and textiles, in fact, of all types because we are not only interested in carpets and rugs; though, I would say, that’s probably the main interest of the group. Some of our members are interested in just fragments, they are more interested in kilims, and others have some very interesting pieces of embroidery from all over the world. So we are interested in all the textile arts. There are not many of those represented in the university collection here, but I think it’s a long-term interest.
We’ve given some of our pieces to the university to fill some gaps in the collection. Now some of our members have, of course, offered pieces to the Textile Museum of Canada, which broadens our connection. We would encourage that to happen frequently and that the pieces travel in Canada again to broaden the interest.
Interviewer: Natalia Nekrassova, Curator
Date and time of interview: Wednesday, April 16, 2014
Location of interview: Calgary, Alberta