Suzani

Some readers of David’s blog entries about Samarkand may wonder why we spent so much time shopping: looking, looking again, discussing and returning to that suzani room at the Antika B&B.

Suzanies are the region’s traditional embroidered wall hangings. A suzani would be started once a girl was born, to be finished when she was married and given to the new family as part of her dowry. Most suzani makers used silk threads, naturally or chemically dyed, on cotton cloth. We heard that the cotton fabric was more expensive than the labor (women’s labor, naturally) so great care was given to using all fabric.

Back to why we found the suzani fascinating: they are handmade originals, so no two are exactly alike. Sometimes several women relatives participated in making one, each embroidering a half or a quarter, with the final work assembled later. The accuracy of the pattern matching was a testament to the pattern maker and the embroiderers’ proximity to each other.

Another marker of quality, or at least of time invested, is how much of a suzani’s fabric can be seen. The “museum pieces” are completely embroidered, pattern and background, so little or no fabric shows. The size, regularity and density of the stitching are evidence of the skill and commitment of the embroiderers.

The patterns were traditional, abstracted and geometric, but most are legible: snakes skins (somehow related to women), suns, knives to cut bad luck and hot peppers to ward it off, pomegranates for fertility, many forms of flowers. Each suzani recombines regional patterns to create a unique variation of a familiar composition. The pattern for a new suzani was typically drawn to order on the fabric by a paid artist, also a woman. When the embroiderers altered the pattern slightly or veered off the lines, they left the indelible ink lines, which are still visible.

Last, we learnt that every suzani has an intentional imperfection- an unfinished corner, a distorted shape, or the “wrong” color. According to Aziza, this is “because the world is not perfect, so your suzani should not be perfect”.

Learning to read the patterns, detect the differences and evaluate the quality and technique was part of the process. Aziza was a knowledgeable and enthusiastic teacher, and we enjoyed the education, and kept coming back to look again. It was a process!

A&P Considerations

A&P Considerations

Aziza Showing a Suzani

Aziza Showing a Suzani

Tashkent Crafts Museum

Tashkent Crafts Museum

Our First Buy

Our First Buy

Our Second Suzani

Our Second Suzani

Tight Stitching, Nice Border

Tight Stitching, Nice Border


2 comments to Suzani

  • Judy Christis

    So, I assume woman are now making these to sell as well as for the dowries? What is the general size, nothing to scale.

  • There have much knowledgeable education of Suzan in this blog which was unknown to me. Now I have acquire much knowledge about making and design of Suzan which has come to attract me. All of the designs are as difficult as beautiful to look at.

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