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Last week, as I was riding a train I happened to be sitting to a woman who was travelling to Paris. We first started talking about the duration of her trip, then slowly moved onto ikat fabrics (I had my ikat bag with me), Uzbekistan and eventually come to a topic of rugs. She told me she designed rugs. I mentioned I know silk rug dealers who can probably introduce her to rug makers to work on her designs.

We exchanged emails and she wrote down the name of her gallery.  Before this piece of paper vanished in my recycle bin, I went on to google her works and found out I was talking to an author of beautiful works. Meet Luisa Zanibelli!

 

Coffee table by Luisa Zanibelli

 

 Copper embrossed and brassed coffee table

 

Brass and mirrored and colored glass

Comments | Posted By Uzbek Alive

This documentary is a great introduction into artisanal and cultural soul of Uzbekistan. There is a part of the movie where they talk about making ikats and a love legend behind it.

The documentary was filmed in 2014 by Russian cinema production company and for now is available in Russian only. I will keep an eye out for a version with English subtitles and will share it as soon as it is available.
 

Comments | Posted By Uzbek Alive

Why Uzbek ikats are so narrow?

10/3/2014 8:57 AM

I just got off the phone with a gentleman who is looking into buying ikat fabrics from us and one of the topics we got into was a narrow width of Uzbek ikats. Here we got into a history of how in the Soviet days, when there was no such thing as a private business, the production of ikat textiles was in the hands of the government and the production was industrialized in a sense there were industrial scale weaving machines. However, even those machines could not make a fabric wider than 90 centimeters. Why not? Because old Soviet industrialized looms were limited to 90 cm!

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the opening up of the market revived artisanal craftsmanship. Fabrics that were made in big factories started being produced by artisans at home on hand looms, which are narrow.  To these day most of ikats made in Uzbekistan are made on hand looms. 

To answer the question as to whether the Uzbek ikats can be made in width greater than 90 cm, I had to drill ikat gurus with my endless questions and have to report that, sadly, "no" is the answer. There have been attempts to try weaving ikats on wider looms that were imported from India - another ikat making culture - and unfortunately, in trials, it was discovered that the quality of Uzbek silk is not suitable for wider loom weaving. 

This conversation reminded me of pre-1991 era photos which I received not long ago from an ikat maker in Margilan. Here we go – black and white photos from the old days. 

 

Uzbek SSR silk ikat fabric production

Sorting out silk cocoons


Ikat fabric making in Uzbek SSR

Young woman weaving


Soviet textile factory

Soviet textile factory


Uzbekistan's textile heritage - ikat making

Textile factory in USSR days, city of Margilan



Comments | Posted By Uzbek Alive

There is something simple and natural  about the beauty of ceramic. A few weeks ago, at an exhibition,  we met an amazing ceramic master Bakhtoyor Nazirov. The beauty and the quality of his work is so pure and inspiring,  If you happen to be in Rishtan, Uzbekistan, you will immersed in a small world of ceramic, that's what the city is famous for. Make sure you ask for a house of Bakhtiyour Nazirov and enjoy his ceramic works as well as a typical Fergana hospitality where courtesy to guests takes a special place in the culture. 

Here is a quick intro to Uzbekistan ceramic traditions - Rishtan or Gijduvan (near Bukhara, Uzbekistan) – these are two ceramic Meccas of Uzbekistan. The distinction between the two is very easy - Rishtan ceramics are bright blue, as if taking inspiration from the clear sky. Gujdivan ceramics are in yellow, green and golden hues as if inspired by the autumn.

 

Rishtan ceramics

"Fish" shaped ceramic plates

 

 

 

Rishtan ceramic from Uzbekistan

Handmade ceramic works are usually signed by a ceramic master. 




Rishtam ceramic dishes from Fergana Valley of Uzbekistan

Plates, bowls, tea cups - some sort of a ceramic paradise

 

 


Comments | Posted By Florin Florea

Bedroom zest: ikat quilts

8/21/2014 8:36 AM

Ikat quilits from Uzbekistan


If changing your bed sheets and pillow covers is an easy way to add some newness to your bedroom, adding a unique ikat bedcover qualifies as adding spice to your bed life. Gorgeous artisanal ikat quilts are taking bedroom interiors to a whole new level.

 

Here are some beautiful examples of using ikat quilts to add some interest and spice to a traditional bedroom.

 

Ikat throw used in the bedroom

Apartment therapy | Green Style: Organic sheets in the Mix

ikat bedding by INC

Ikat bedding, ikat quilt

Trina Turk Ikat Purple Bedding


Elle Decor ikat bedroom

Elle Decor: Alessandro Twombly's Rustic Italian Bedroom

 

Ikat bedding from Pottery Barn

Pottery Barn | Cruz Ikat Reversable Quilt

Comments | Posted By Uzbek Alive

Washable suzani?

8/3/2014 10:56 AM

I just added a new machine embroidered suzani on a grayed jade green silk fabric on the website which took me down a memory line…

A few years ago I had a customer who was looking for suzanis for a decoration project. We exchanged a few emails but she did not go forward with an order because she found suzanies from another store, which were washable

For those who are new to suzanis,  just a quick definition info: suzani is a textile embroidery which is traditional to Central Asia, primarily to Uzbekistan, Tadjikistan and probably Afghanistan.  Back in the old days and even now in remote villages, Uzbek girls were trained to embroider from an early age. By the time they were of a marriable age, they would have embroidered suzanies for their dowry.  Suzanis are used as wall hangings, space dividers and bedspreads.

Going back to a topic of washing, I will say that Uzbeks love color. When it comes to choosing threads for the embroidery, logic and practicality thoughts fly out of the window. The main focus is on choosing threads of beautiful colors!  Quiet often there is a rainbow of threads from different shops, which work beautifully together color-wise but … come from different manufacturers and may or may not be colorfast.

Now knowing what I just told you, imagine you decide to wash a suzani, what will happen? Some threads will bleed, other will not, but the suzani will be ruined forever!

This is why when you hear about washable suzanis, please ask the vendor to wash it in your presence.  Please also drop me a line if you like the “after” product. I personally have never heard of anyone washing suzani though i have come across vendors who claim that their suzanis are washable.

Samarkand suzani
Pinkpagodastudio.blogspot


Suzani wall hanging

Uzbek suzani used as a wall hanging


Suzani upholstered bench

Bench upholstered using a suzani textile 

 

Suzani tablecloth

Beautiful garden setting with a suzani tablecloth

Comments | Posted By Uzbek Alive

Summer color scheme

7/23/2014 10:26 AM

 

 

Just a quick post to share some beauty and to reinforce a well known fact that most designers / architects / other creative minds used the Mother Nature as an inspiration for their work. Here is an example – while picking apples in the garden, I noticed how incredibly perfect this color scheme was - fresh, vibrant and very timely given the World Cup that just ended in Brazil.

Comments | Posted By Uzbek Alive

Years ago, while roaming in my favorite vintage fabric shops, I bought several meters of black and white polka dot vintage silk fabric. This silk fabric was later turned into a beautiful classic dress.

During the last fitting, I was chatting with a tailor and a subject of caring for silks came up. I remember my tailor’s response to this day and, to be honest, really like it because it makes so much sense and it works.

She said: “hand wash your silks in a cold water with a shampoo, preferably Pantene ProV shampoo, because a silk is like your hair and needs to be taken care of the same way”.

Now if you like any other shampoo, go for it. As for me, Pantene has been my favorite for years and I did not question why Pantene and not something else.

 

wash silk fabrics with a shampoo, how to care for silk fabric

Comments | Posted By Uzbek Alive

Before I get into a topic of today's blog may I just share my joy and tell you how happy i am that the new website has a blog? Now instead of explaining things in emails to specific customers I can just put my thoughts here for the whole world to read. 

So, the question of the day is how to care for ikat fabrics. Let me start off with a bit of history.

In 19th century, a silk yarn was as expensive as gold, ikat making technique was known to a few and the ikat garments were amazingly pleasant to wear. These were the days when the ikat textiles were only available to the richest and were considered to be a true luxury item.

With time, the ikat makers thought of a way of making ikat textiles more, let’s say, democratic. They started combining luxurious silk yarns with a more affordable cotton fibers and created, so called, “adras” fabric. Adras is a beautiful and rich blend of silk and cotton fibers (usually around 50% silk and 50% cotton but percentages may vary).  This brought the cost of the ikat fabrics down but by not that much – ikat fabric making still remained to be a highly manual process. 

This manual process involves a finishing step called “calendar”.  The calendar finishing uses a mixture of egg white with a special glue which is evenly applied to a surface of a fabric and then pressed in calendar rollers. This process makes the fabric stiffer and glossier, adds a noble moire effect and serves as a protection against dust and dirt.

Now let’s assume you decided to wash the ikat fabric. You are facing two risks: 

1)   Colors may bleed – this is less likely with newer fabrics but there is chance of color bleeding. This is why when     you wash ikats, make sure you hand wash them in a cold water with a mild detergent.

2)   The fabric will lose its shape because the finishing white egg / glue mixture will wash off, moire effect will be gone and you will have a soft fabric. The fabric is still beautiful and it may be what designers are looking for to create that special worn and organic look. However, the washed fabric, in most cases will not work for upholstery, for curtains, for anything that will require the fabric to hold its shape.

 

 
 Plum ikat fabric - washed and unwashed

 

Wisdom ikat - washed and unwashed samples

For these reasons, even though the care instructions for ikat fabrics are  “cold hand wash with a shampoo” (I will tell you “wash your silks with a shampoo” story in a separate blog post), it is still the best to get your ikat products dry cleaned. Here at UzbekAlive, if we say that the fabric is washable, it only means “the colors will not bleed”.

0 Comments | Posted By Uzbek Alive

The day has come!

7/6/2014 12:00 AM

This week we have kissed good-bye to our old website and re-launched a new and improved UzbekAlive. In 12 years of business, this is our 3rd version of UzbekAlive.

We are still ironing out a few wrinkles here and there. Otherwise, we are on a roll and working on bringing you ikat fabrics (ikat silk velvets anyone?), a new line of pillow covers  as well as new products in general.

As always, we are one email away from you for custom-made designer items at nilufar@uzbekalive.com.

 

Comments | Posted By Uzbek Alive
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