September 17, 2010

Suzani: Joyful Expression of Central Asian Culture

Suzani, a Persian word meaning "needle", is the term used to describe this Uzbek Samarkand embroidery. Traditionally, mothers would start embroidering large strips of cotton or silk cloth at the birth of a daughter. When that daughter was old enough to learn to embroider, she and her friends would take on completing the work, which was used for bed, wall coverings, and other types of home decoration.

I've been in awe of these intricate needleworks since I first saw them in the 1980's. I've been like a kid in a candy store buying them for our business here in Turkey since 1999. As much as I love all the cultural textiles of the Near East and Central Asia, for me suzanis display the most exuberant expression of color and graphic whimsical patterns. I wonder if the artist Matisse ever saw them? I certainly see connections between his Jazz collages and these.

Suzani patterns are drawn on by hand, and like all imperfect handmade treasures, sometimes the stitching covers all the outlines, sometimes not! Each roundel of swirls and flowers is meant to bring the "Garden of Eden" - a lifetime of happiness and prosperity into the home. This unlined suzani is about 40+ years of age, with offwhite cotton satin-stitched in jade, violet, magenta, aubergine, indigo, black and grey silk thread. 

To see more suzanis, please visit us at Bazaar Bayar. Thanks!

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