Tag Archives: artisans

Spotlight: Central Asia – Arastan returns to Mumbai

Tibetan Carpet

After the great welcome we received in Mumbai earlier this year, we are back with a new treasure chest of handpicked décor items from Central Asia. We will be exhibiting at ARTISANS’, Kala Ghoda from 20th to 22nd September between 11 am and 7 pm. Highlights include vintage carpets from East Turkestan (now the Xinjiang Uyghur Region of China) and Tibet, thangkas and jewellery from Nepal, miniatures and ikat from Uzbekistan and limited edition furniture incorporating striking Central Asian fabrics created especially for us by designer Pragati Toshniwal.

Rugs from the oasis city of Khotan (now Hotan) are particular favourites of Nishas. Khotan lies on a branch of the Silk Route that headed south from Kashgar to skirt the Taklamakan Desert. This remote region of western China, ringed by mountains and desert, vaunts a millennial tradition of tribal carpet weaving. Wool-on-cotton Khotan rugs are characterised by a blend of Persian and Chinese motifs, a testament to …

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Zaakpay, Angels (the investor kind) and Rogues!

We have been busy! Remember the vendor induced shingles… well they (the vendors!) are being replaced on a war footing! These were not artisans but service providers who are just not up to the mark and consume vast amounts of our management time. First on the list is our payment gateway. We went with the biggest but have found them to have a shockingly poor interface and unresponsive to feedback. Our international clients have confirmed that they find the design (which we can’t change) confusing. Well they won’t anymore. The new payment gateway, Zaakpay, is much easier to navigate and should be live in a few days. Started by a young lady who clearly saw the opportunity to do it better and different. Kudos to her. Also we have just partnered with another young company, Gharpay, who are redefining cash payments in India – they certainly won’t be making the …

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Treasures of the Silk Route – Exhibition at Artisans’, Kala Ghoda, Mumbai

Handicrafts from the Silk Route

Arastan will be exhibiting its “Treasures of the Silk Route” in Mumbai from 16-18 February.

ARTISANS‘ 52 – 56 Dr V B Gandhi Marg (Behind Rhythm House) Kala Ghoda Mumbai

16,17,18 February; 11am-7pm

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Strange things happen sometimes…

RainTree Carpets

On the 3rd day of the exhibition I didn’t get a chance to answer my phone and when I did check there were 9 missed calls! Oh no – someone was lost and I was going to need to get them to Raintree. Nothing could be worse. I have difficulty with spatial awareness, the kind that means if I have to drive anywhere my husband draws me a simple map which I have to turn in the direction of travel in order to read. (Like from London to the Mars office in Waltham in the UK –  for those who don’t know it’s straight up one road!) When I did return the call, I spoke to someone who was visiting from abroad and who had heard about us having ‘unusual things’ through an acquaintance. He came, he saw, he bought. Three gorgeous carpets – an Iranian Gabbeh, a northwest Persian …

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Day 4: Kutahya – Ceramics and Chicken Soup!

Potter at Work

I travelled to Kutahya which is the centre of ceramic and porcelain production in Turkey. The town has a long history with the Ottomans taking control in 1428. Tile workers from Tabriz in Iran were resettled here and in Iznik in 1514 and it became the centre for the Ottoman ceramic industry.

While there are large factories producing porcelain (I was reliably informed that the industry is controlled by one family who are amongst the richest in Turkey), ceramic work is done in small unsigned studios. Each studio supplies its wares to specific customers and I got to see three different ones. There is production line precision to the entire process (with specialist potters, painters and kilns) but what remains is the freehand painting done by the artists. Magical to watch and stunning when completed! I particularly like the traditional iznik pattern tile panels (there is something about those tulips …

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Day 2: Shopping in Istanbul

Tree of Life

I had arranged to meet someone who was to introduce me to several vendors and we started at 9:00am little realising we would be on our feet till 9:00pm! A long but very fruitful day.

We started by meeting a master craftsman who is famous for making Sikke hats and has made the ones for the tomb of Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi (‘c’ pronounced as ‘j’ in Turkey) in Konya. I discovered that feltmaking is actually quite difficult as it involves opening up the wool, laying it out with the end object in mind, applying just a touch of soapy water and then rolling it in reed mats. The end products are very impressive and I now have my eye on both Turkish and Kyrgyz felt for the Arastan collection.

We also met several carpet vendors. Turkey has always been a trading point between the East and the West and the …

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Bukhara Brass Platters

Bukhara Brass Platter

These superb brass platters were made by a master craftsman in Bukhara and are now available for sale by Arastan. They are carved multiple times to traditional patterns, with each platter being a one off piece created from the craftsman’s imagination and never repeated.

The heavier, more intricately patterned, platter weighs 1.046kg and is 2mm thick and the other is 0.916kg and 1.5mm thick. They are made of brass with a purity of approximately 80% copper and 20% zinc: the copper is mixed with zinc to become yellow copper, or brass.

How they are made (translated from description given by the craftsman himself):

There is no stencil used for the design: it is made manually using a hammer and chisel. The overall design is divided into eight parts in order to make the complete pattern as consistent as possible. At first the design is done on one of the eight parts and then …

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Day 11: A Royal Breakfast, Bukhara Artisans, Chatty Uzbek Dinner

Coin Necklace

After a rather cold and miserable day in Bukhara, we woke up feeling hungry and ready for a new day. Our lady at Amelia served us breakfast fit for queens. The table was loaded with pancakes, rice porridge, potato pies, sausages, cheese, non, yoghurt – a treat that was tucked in with great enthusiasm by both of us. With all that nutrition in our systems, we set off to explore the many domed (covered) bazaars of Bukhara famous in the good old days for trading gold, spices, prayer caps and more. The walk through the crossroads of these markets gave us leads to master artisans in the area.

We met the master of copper chasing (the art of decorating metal items in relief). His tiny workshop was lined wall-to-wall with his handiwork. Each piece had been meticulously etched three times – which gave every plate its depth and sturdy weight. …

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Day 1: Valentine’s Day in Tashkent!

Amir Timur Statue

Zahid, our guide for the trip met us bright and early in the morning. He got the first whiff of what the next two weeks had in store for him i.e. two hyperactive women who believe that a day has more than 24 hours and hence want to do more than is humanly possible! We gave him a rather ambitious plan for what we wanted to do on Day 1.

As we stepped out, Tashkent on first glance was odd and sanitized. Old box-like Soviet style buildings, mixed up with new structures pretending to be grand give the city a rather confused identity. New buildings are coming up around the city in record time especially in the Amir Timur square area. The new International Affairs Center that came up in (hold your breath) just four months! Only 3,000 people worked on it – if only we could ship this efficiency …

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Visiting Master Craftsmen In Moradabad

nickel-plated brass box

Reshma and I drove from Delhi to Moradabad early in the morning. Moradabad is famous for its brassware and we were told by the Head of the Brassmakers Association (we named him Mr White as he had on a pristine white kurta-pyjama, white sandals and yes a white phone!) that over 400,000 artisans work in the industry. We got to meet a national award winner and see the product he got his award for.

It was fantastic but very sad as well. The sons have focused on making products for the mass market and do not have the skills their father has, so his craft will die with him. He learnt it from his father who learnt it from his father – a skill that dates back to the Mughals, and now on the verge of extinction. He knows it and you could see the profound sadness in him.

Saw …

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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.

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