Yearly Archives: 2013

Growing Arastan

So, I have all but disappeared from this blog over the past few months. What have I been up to? I have been working on weaving our own collection of high quality cotton dhurries, starting to produce our own range of earthenware ceramic and focussing on growing Arastan. All incredibly exciting!

Putting together our own collections involve long lead times so I have to be patient – not a virtue I commonly exhibit! May was our best non-exhibition month to date and it prompted me to think about why. I think part of it is our authenticity. I started Arastan to share and that will always remain at the core of all we do. I recently wrote to customer service of a popular online store asking why they have a voucher scheme that is illegal under contract law and completely unnecessary. Customers buy because they like your products, I said, …

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Stitches and Loops: Suzani Embroidery in Central Asia

Vintage Kazakh Suzani

It all started a long, long time ago. Sewing is the oldest of the textile arts, beginning in the Palaeolithic era. Before spinning yarn and weaving fabric were even imagined, Stone Age people across Europe and Asia sewed fur and skin clothing using bone, antler or ivory needles, and thread made of various animal body parts such as sinew, catgut, and veins.

Very inventive and resourceful! Here’s another example of sartorial ingenuity: in ancient Japan, traditional clothing was often sewn together with loose chain stitches that were removed so that the clothing could be taken apart and the assorted pieces laundered separately.

From being a necessity, sewing eventually evolved into an art form, in the shape of decorative embroidery for homes and garments. Over millennia, decorative embroidery came to be valued in various cultures worldwide. Stitching methods originating in different cultures are known throughout the world today. Some examples are …

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Nomadic Carpets from Iran: Qashqai, Lurs, and Bakhtiari

A jumble of mini-motifs

Whatever interest I have in oriental rugs, whatever knowledge I have gained about them, whatever research and travel I have undertaken to seek them—I owe it all to a Qashqai carpet. My wife bought it in Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar (after haggling mercilessly, like a good Indian, with a not-so-wily Turkish salesman) because she liked its unusual patterns and sanguine colours, and brought it home without knowing much else about it.

I eyed it with skepticism at first, as I do all my wife’s profligate purchases, complaining that the colours were too dark and uniform, and that the multitude of small motifs in the medallion were indistinct and messy. But in fact it started to grow on me very quickly, perhaps because of this very oddness, this lack of clean, recognizable figures, this disorderliness that makes it so tribal. I was particularly intrigued by the quirky scarab motifs in the corners, …

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Arastan at Soul Sante this coming Sunday

Ikat and Turkmen Embroidered Cushions

From Morocco to Turkey, through Azerbaijan in the Caucasus to Iran, Uzbekistan and onward through central Asia to China, Thailand and Laos, we are bringing a selection of authentic handcrafted objets d’art to Soul Sante this Sunday.

View our latest Uzbek ceramic, Pakistani tribal cushions, Palewa stoneware, Zardozi gift boxes, South African beaded necklaces, Thai fabric accessories and more…

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Sunday’s event features FOReSIGHT 2013, a car rally for the blind, a fashion show presented by Prasad Bidappa and the Sunday Soul Sante flea market, with over 150 stalls. Please do attend, and enjoy what we and the other exhibitors have to offer. The fun starts at 12 noon at Manpho Convention Center Grounds, next to Manyata Tech Park on the Outer Ring Rd at Nagavara near Hebbal. Visit the Sunday Soul Sante Facebook page for further details.

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Daizangi Kilims from Afghanistan

Afghan Daizangi Kilim

Another day at Arastan: a new tribal rug arrives, we learn about another weaving technique, we are awed again by a brilliant skill. Today’s splendid new product is the Daizangi kilim from Afghanistan.

Though often confused with Berjista or Mashwani Nakhunak kilims, Daizangi kilims in fact constitute a genre apart.

The Daizangi are a Hazara tribe from western Afghanistan, living mostly in Badghis and Herat provinces. Daizangi women typically weave on their own looms in village homes, using designs common to their tradition, but also adjusted to suit the requirements of modern rug traders.

Like other Afghan tribal weavers, they incorporate multiple weaving techniques in each rug. Most frequently they combine a background made with weft wrapping (sometimes known as plain soumak) with design elements in knotted pile.

The precision required to make small design elements in knotted pile dictates an unusually high knot count for tribal rugs, up to …

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Inspired by Nature. Designed for Today.

Karen Orchid Necklace

Karen Silver Jewellery: necklaces, pendants, earrings and rings. Highly individualistic, superbly crafted, finely designed – each piece a conversation stopper! Hand-crafted by the Karen hill tribe, this silver jewellery combines aspects of their native culture and natural environment with modern designs, styled for the woman of today.  And you can practically see evidence of each piece having been formed by the hands of a Karen craftsman. These pieces are not usually hallmarked in any way, but there is absolutely no doubt as to their origins or authenticity. Because, only the Karen can make silver jewellery this beautiful!

The Karen People

The Karen hill tribes are from amongst Thai and Burmese hill tribes, originally from Tibet, and whose ancestry can be traced back to the 12th century AD. The largest group from around 20 hill tribes, the Karen population presently numbers over seven million spread across the Union of Myanmar (Burma) …

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Chiang Mai Shopping

Hmong Market

A trip to Chiang Mai was long overdue. Over eight years had passed since I was first there and over three years since I moved to Bangkok. Living in Thailand, it’s hard to escape the allure of Chiang Mai. Every Bangkokian tells you how it’s a shopping haven, a creative paradise and a beautiful, peaceful place. So when Nisha asked if I could go there for a few days to source for Arastan, the decision was easy.

Chiang Mai is the creative cradle of Thailand. Nestled in a valley surrounded by the Doi Inthanon mountain range in the northwestern part of the country, it’s the second largest city in Thailand. Yet, time moves much slower there. The verdant mountains and misty cloudy sky create the perfect backdrop to the slow paced, relaxed vibe of the city. Upon my arrival, I wandered through the town, covering the major section on foot, …

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Arastan at Good Earth in Mumbai

Pakistani Tribal Kurta Cushion, Arastan at Good Earth

We had a wonderful ten days at Good Earth in Bombay. Saw lots of our old customers and many new ones. The space we had was lovely although with carpets you simply cannot have enough. The Good Earth team were warm and gracious and our accessories looked so beautiful mixed with Good Earth’s furnishings. Then there was the master class in visual merchandising: Mrs Lal is brilliant at it and has clearly inculcated it in the organisation.

As well as the carpets, our latest collections of ottomans, cushions and ceramic were enthusiastically appreciated but the highlight was probably our tribal cushions – especially the bright and colourful tribal kurta cushions which all sold out!

Some of my favourite carpets from the collection (as you can tell I have many!):

If you liked anything you saw but didn’t get a chance to come back, contact me on nisha@arastan.com. We ship globally (well nearly …

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A World in Miniature

Kamancheh Player, painting from Hasht Behesht Palace, Isfahan, 1669

The historic, colourful and bustling city of Jaipur, Rajasthan, is home to some remarkable artists who are repositories of that ancient skill: the painting of miniatures. Miniatures that have found their way around the world! And, thanks to my meeting with one such extraordinary individual, a selection of Jaipur Miniatures now graces the display cases at Arastan.

It is no exaggeration to say, that every time I see a miniature, I am taken by surprise!

Its size never ceases to amaze me. Then there’s the intricate detail – down to the last, delicate eyelash resting on a rosy cheek. The smooth, flowing lines of the human body, a bird’s wings, a horse going full tilt. Vibrant, vivid colours – picked out in burnished (in fact 24 karat!) gold and sparkling silver.

Amazing! And to think that the Indian miniature is an art form that can be traced back to about …

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Bordering on the Infinite: Border Motifs in Oriental Carpets

If you read my first, tentative post about carpet motifs, you may remember that I promised a follow-up dedicated exclusively to border motifs. My attempt at compiling a comprehensive glossary of border motifs, however, very quickly ran into a wall. There are countless border motifs out there in that jungle that is the world of oriental carpets, and many of them have multiple interpretations and variants. No wonder that no-one has bothered to publish a simple, helpful compendium of border patterns. It would be a mind-boggling and thankless task.

Out of the galaxy of border motifs that can be found in oriental rugs, I have chosen just a few, because they are either common and worth knowing, or because they are simply cool to look at. This short list, therefore, is not by any means exhaustive. It is just a beginning, an elementary text to jump-start your own motif-hunting expedition.

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  • Welcome to Arastan

    Arastan was an online store that curated rare and handpicked treasures from exotic bazaars along the ancient silk route. Unfortunately we ceased trading in early 2014.

    You can read about the reasons for closure.

    You can still browse some of the products we used to have via the category links above, although none of these are available for purchase.

    Relive our travels and stories by browsing our articles and archives from the menus below.

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