Monday, April 6, 2009

Uzbekistan Fabric

Uzbekistan Fabric

This contemporary suzani textile is handwoven and hand-embroidered by women incorporating designs traditionally used in the 18th and 19th centuries in the Silk Road cites and towns of Uzbekistan. By the early 20th century the art of natural dying had largely fallen by the wayside in places like Samarqand, Bukhara, Tashkent, and Shahrisabz. However, with independence from the Soviet Union in 1991 there has been a return of some of the traditional commerce of the region. One of the happy outcomes is the rediscovery of the use of natural dyes and a renascent production of suzanis, this traditional needlework of the women of the Silk Road.

The silk used in the embroidery of these pieces is colored with natural dyes from various plants and insects. The reds come from madder and cochineal; the blues come from indigo; the yellow from a variety of local plants; the black from pomegranate, and so forth. The brilliance of the dyes, along with their subtle variations, results in an appearance unmatched by the flat regularity of modern chemical dyes.

The ground fabric is handwoven with a silk warp and cotton weft. The silk warp gives the ground fabric a “hand” or touch that is superior to that of a simple cotton fabric. The silk adds a subtle visual richness to the surface. Compare it to the machine made 100% cotton backing, which, while a very nice quality material, does not have the same look or feel.

The fabric has been woven on a narrow loom by hand, resulting in a piece of cloth typically about 17-20” wide. The strips are then tacked together to make the larger piece of cloth. Then a master draws the design on the fabric with a pen. The pieces are then taken apart and each is embroidered separately by hand. When the pieces are rejoined the design will never match exactly at the seams and changes in color will also be noticeable. These slight variations were not traditionally considered to be a defect. Rather, they add some interest and give each piece its own character. This is how these items have always been made, and the variations do little to detract from the color, beauty, and rhythm of the designs. Each piece is also a slightly different size, slightly different color, and even if made by the same artisan, never exactly the same design.

Dimensions: 39" x 54"

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