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The term suzani is used to describe the embroidered panels of Uzbekistan and Khojand Province of nor them Tajikistan. Traditionally the work of embroidery began at the birth of a daughter and continued, with the help of family and friends. Until the bride’s dowry was complete. The dowry of a bride from a well-off family in Nurata was expected to include ten suzani is of different sizes and functions. They were used as covers for the bridal bed and the brazier as dividers between living and sleeping quarters, as well as for prayer rugs and wrapping cloths. And although nomadic influences are sometimes apparent most suzanis were the products of a settled urban tradition.
Today great efforts are beingmade to renew these techniques and traditions which languished during Soviet times. Dr Ilhom Davletov is one of the pivotal figures leading the revival!. Born in Urganch in 1959, he studied medicine in Tashkent and worked at the Medical institute there for six years. Where he specialized in rheumatology but his life changed after independence. In 1991 all borders were opened and Ilhom traveled to Istanbul. Amazed at the number of Uzbeks selling suzanis and antique carpets, he wanted to join them. This ultimately led to a successful\ second career as a dealer in Central Asian carpets and textiles.
After a century of synthetic dyeing, moving back to natural dyes proved difficult. But determined to continue with this venture he sold five hundred of his antique carpets to raise enough capital to begin a 10caJ suzani revival without any state involvement.
The beginnings were difficult. While traveling through the country he repeatedly asked the women in the villages if they had any type of handwork remaining in their homes – old or new – but the response was always negative. With his wife Sulfiya a graduate of the Textile Institute, he decided to set up a workshop in the Museum ofApplied Arts in Tashkent and invited fifty women from villages in the Nurata region to learn the old techniques. with all expenses paid for two months. Only one, Emina Sharipova accepted. After perfecting the techniques she returned to her village and began to work soon becoming the envy of her neighbors. Little by little others came Emina now supervises six groups of fifty women each. Other workshops beganto open across the country and today Ilham employs almost three thousand women in areas of Urganch, Nmata,Samarkand, Andijan and Baisun.Their wages are higher than those of the state and bonuses are given for high quality.
The process begins in the Tashkent workshop where the ground material woven in the Fergana Valley is chosen; cotton and silk (adras). cotton and cotton (karboz), and silk and silk(shoyi). being the choices. In the antique examples the backing was invariably hand woven cotton but at the turn of the 20th century, imported Russian cotton. Colored silk and ikat were introduced. The cloth was sometimes given a bath of tea or onion skins before embroidery began.
In IIhom’s workshop between two and six strips of fabric are used for the backing each measuring between 35 and 50 cm (ı4″-20″) in width, depending on the desired size of suzani. They are loosely basted together and the patter is then drawn with a marker on the fabric; previously. They were drawn with a reed. Different women embroider the individual panels before they arereassembled on completion. This explains the irregularity of patterns at the seam line and color differences from section to section.
Although patterns motifs and color can of ten give c1ues to area of origin. It is increasingly difficult to establish provenance and give precise dates of creation. As dowry items, suzanis were often kept safely in chests as prized possessions. Produced only on special occasions, which accounts for their often pristine condition In addition the foundation doth, may have been woven years before it was actually embroidered.
Patterns thought to have derived from pre-Islamic times and to have been influenced by Zoroastrianism and cosmological signs and symbols may have evolved into the floral motifs that are prevalent today. Pattem names still speak of their early history. yi/duz pa/ak (starry sky) and oi pa/ak (lunar sky) to name a few. Birds, fishes, trees, fruits Herbs and knives all allude to the early symbolic content of purity, fertility, curative powers and protection from danger and evil spirits, although litde written documentation remains.
Ilhom uses the old suzani patterns of Bukhara, Shahrisyabz, Nurata, Khojand, and Baisun areas, employing mainly three stitches: yurma (chain-stitch) done with a needle or with a crochet hook. tambur. When used this stitch makes the colour appear particularly rich because of stitching adjacent rows in opposite directions. and is of ten used to outline a form but used excursively in many of the suzani is from Bukhara./roqi (cross-stitch) is used by itself and in combination; half cross-stitch is used as a filling stitch. Basma (satin stitch) is also used alone and combined with others.
Dyeing takes place in the Tashkent workshop. All colors are produced from natural dyes, including indigo, madder, skins and barberries (brown/ black), pomegranate skin and turmeric (yellows). sumac (maroon) and combinations of the above. Most colours are mordanted in alum for 2+ hours prior to dyeing; ferric oxide is sometimes used to fix red. And copper oxide to fix yellows; ammonium phosphate is used with indigo.
There are of course many other people who are also continuing this tradition. Dilbar Khalimova in Bukhara has been working with natural dyes in the production of suzanis since a visit to Indiaseveral years ago. Her workshop is in the Bukharan Artisans’ Development Centre, and is supported in part by the city of Bukhara. Sayfullah Majidov of Shafrikan heads an NGO called Centre for the Centre for the of Rural People that also works with village women producing suzanis, although i was unable to visit his workshops. This year another small workshop was set up in theMuseum of Applied Arts in Tashkent, where Sulfiya, Ilhom’s wife, teaches students who are anxious to learn the art of making suzanis. It is heartening to think that women in hundreds of communities throughout Uzbekistan are relearning an ancient craft.
One further thought: since this work is being produced for the commercial! Market, women in each area of the country are not able to concentrate on their own ancestral patterns but rather are asked to employ motifs from other areas as well. Will this serve to dilute their artistry yet further or will it lead to a true revival? Where once again mothers, daughters and neighbors will join forces to create the flowering gardens of the future?
From ‘HALI’ Issue 137
You can see related products at: Suzani Embroidery
Posted May 28th, 2013. Add a comment
Turkish fabrics are unique in weaving features, materials used and designs reflecting Turkish taste. Research on the subject identified about six hundred and fifty names such as Kadife, Atlas, Gezi, Canfes, Selimiye, Hatayi, Catma, Seraser, Sevayi, etc. The main material was silk with gold and silver threads, rich in motifs such as flowers (tulips, carnations, roses, spring blossom, and hyacinth), trees (apple, date palm, cypress), animals (peacock, deer), crescent moon, star motifs, fruit (pomegranate, apple, date, artichoke, pineapple), etc.
An excellent reference on the subject is “The Art of Turkish Weaving”, by Nevber Gurusu, Redhouse, Istanbul, 1988 with an extended list of additional resources.The geographical situation of Ottoman territory has always made it a natural trade route for merchants plying between the East and West, and from the very earliest times Bursa has remained a lively centre of trade and commerce. Textiles were given great importance in the Ottoman court and were registered as belonging to the treasury. The demand by members of the court for luxury fabrics was an influential factor in the increase in production and rise in quality. It was from the Palace that all the arts were orientated and retained under the control of a single centre. The principles to be obeyed by all groups of tradesmen were contained in the regulations in the Bursa, Edirne and Istanbul laws governing trades and markets ((Ihtisab kanunameleri) of 1502. A very large section of these laws applied to weavers, and to silk weavers in particular. The methods and the standards to be applied in obtaining the raw material, in spinning the thread and dyeing the material were clearly laid down. The number and weight of the warp threads, the main factors by which the quality of the fabric was determined, were also clearly established. Craftsmen failing to comply with the required standards were liable to punishment. Moreover, the gold and silver threads used in textiles had to be drawn in workshops (simikeshaneler) under direct state control and bear the official control seal. The state was responsible for pressing the cloth after it had been removed from the loom. The cloth was finally measured, its length checked and stamped, and permission was given for its sale. All this was carried out by officials (muhtesip) under state supervision. The state was also assisted in this work by the control exercised by the guilds over their own members. There can be no doubt that these various controls provided the basis for the excellence achieved in 16th century fabrics.
Textiles were divided into three categories-cotton, wool and silk. Although a great deal of cotton was produced in Anatolia, it was not sufficient to meet the demand and cotton was also imported from the East, India in particular. The same applied to wool supplies. Broadcloth was manufactured in Salonica from the 15th century onwards, but as this was used in both civilian clothes and military uniforms local supplies proved insufficient and cloth always had to be imported from western countries such as France, England, Italy, Holland and Hungary. On the other hand, the mohair produced from the 16th-17th centuries onwards in the Ankara region, a type of cloth that was always very eagerly sought after, not only satisfied the local demand but was also exported in very large quantities. An inferior type of cloth of rather cheap affinity to European serge, was very popular among the common people. Silk is a costly fabric which requires a great deal of labour, the raw materials for which are very difficult to obtain. There is documentary evidence to prove that the silkworm was being cultivated in Bursa and the surrounding countryside long before the arrival of the Ottomans. Bursa was thus an important commercial centre in which silk thread was both produced and woven in quantities sufficient to meet the requirements of both the domestic and foreign markets. Bursa was the most important of all the centres of the silk-weaving industry, including Istanbul. The main types of silk fabric can be classified as taffetas, satin velvets, brocades, kemhas, dibas and serasers. Among other types of more lightly woven silks canfes (a fine taffeta) and burumcuk (a kind of silk crepe) may be cited.The Turks were superior in weaving of silk fabrics, in which the colours, motifs and compositions employed resulted in productions of quite incredible beauty. The favourite colour was a dark crimson known as guvezi. This colour was used mainly as a ground, in perfect harmony with the blues, creams, greens and black fibres with which it was woven. An incredible harmony was produced between strongly contrasting colours. Turkish designs are most clearly distinguished from Iranian in particular by the sharp contours and ornamental patterns around the motifs . Natural motifs such as tulips, carnations, hyacinths, roses, hatayis, pomegranate blossoms, spring blossoms, pine cones, the sun, the moon, clouds and stars are naturalistically rendered and clearly-recognizable, creating a very lively and attractive composition. The brocade cushion covers of the 16th-17th centuries and the 18th century embroidered cushions displaying the same designs arouse the interest and admiration of all who see them. As many varieties of silk fabrics as possible are displayed in both the permanent and temporary exhibitions at Topkapi Saray. The exhibits are selected mainly from the collections of catmas, silk velvets, serasers, serenks, satins, velvets, kutnus, canfeses and burumcuks. Catma is a kind of velvet fabric with a double ground and raised design. In the 16th century the fame of Bursa catmas spread far beyond the confines of the Empire, Although a very costly fabric, it was in great demand in foreign markets and was one of Bursa’s most important exports. It was also very popular on the domestic market and occupied an important place among the gifts presented to foreign heads of state by envoys and ambassadors. This is the reason for the large number of catma cushion covers in European and American museums. The Ottoman kemha fabric known to westerners as “brocade”, was also very popular abroad. It was a silk fabric with a double ground very often with an admixture of wire thread. In the 16th century, orders were placed for this type of fabric for use in papal robes and the ceremonial apparel worn by the imperial entourage. Papal costumes made from Ottoman brocades are found in museums and church treasuries. There were large numbers of kemha and catma weaving workshops in both Istanbul and Bursa, and a plan of a workshop specializing in the production of these particular fabrics is found in the palace archives. From the 17th century onwards, Ottoman art began to reveal a growing Western influence. This period is characterized by compositions consisting of large and small fan-shaped carnations and sprays of flowers covering the whole of the surface.