This week, we’re visiting the Central Asian silk ikat weaving center in Margilan, Uzbekistan. Unless he is away tending to one of his myriad projects around the country, we’ll be visiting the ikat weaving studios of Aziz Murtazaev, founder of the Crafts Studio IkatUz cooperative. Like Munira Akilova of Tajikistan, Aziz is a modern renaissance man and wears many hats in the craft world of Uzbekistan and beyond.
“Ikat” is an Indonesian word meaning “bind.” Modern textile experts around the world use the term generically to refer to a method of resist-dyeing bound bundles of threads to create colorful and complex patterns that appear when the threads are woven into a length of fabric. In Uzbek, the ethereal term for this process is “abrband,” meaning “tying a cloud.”
I first connected with Aziz when I volunteered at his booth at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market several years ago. That’s when I began to learn about the intricate process of ikat dyeing and weaving.
According to Aziz, there are two processes involved that make Central Asian ikat weaving unique. The first is the cultivation of silkworms and harvesting their cocoons. The second is the spinning and dyeing of those threads to create the magnificent silk ikats of Uzbekistan.
Aziz, who designs ikat patterns, says, “Ikat making is a community work . . . At each stage, [threads are] handed to one of our masters, an expert in that particular stage, prior to being passed on. It’s because of this delicate teamwork and specific skills that the ikat production process is very particular, meticulous and time-consuming.” Depending on the complexity of the design, the entire dyeing procedure alone can take as long as ten days.
Having studied business at institutions throughout Asia and Europe, Aziz has been able to use his artistic and financial experience to expand his business into the international realm. “I believe . . . the craft is developed as a business by constantly improving the working conditions, quality of products and bringing new ideas that result in prosperity and sustainability. . . I am proud that life turned me into an artist.”
If you would like to learn more about the art of ikat weaving and Craft Studio IkatUz, check out this short video, this second video, or my blog article entitled “Ikats: A Celebration of Color in Uzbekistan”.
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