Tag Archives: ceramics

Rustam Usmanov (Master Ceramist from Rishtan)

Rustam Usmanov

Rustam Usmanov’s art amply reflects the culture of the Fergana valley and the rich ceramic making heritage of Rishtan town, the oldest centre of ceramic art in Central Asia.

The Usmanov family migrated from Russia to Rishtan to add to Rishtan’s rich tradition of pottery. With Rishtan being situated on the Silk Road, the ancient major East-West trade route, it is thought that Rishtan potters may originally have tried to copy Chinese porcelain, despite the necessary kaolin clay not being locally available. This led them to the discovery of the local Rishtan clay, which more than made up for the absence of the kaolin clay. The Rishtan ceramists say their clay is so good that it does not require preliminary processing and exposure time. Adding to the beauty of the Rishtan ceramics is the ishkor glaze which gives Rishtan pottery its brilliant blue-green glaze, bringing alive the colors of the earth and …

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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 6: To Samarkand!

Nisha's Tiles

We lugged our rather large bags to the train station at Tashkent to board our train to Samarkand. (Note for next trip: travel light! Balancing big strolleys and self over sleet covered paths is not fun.)

Uzbek trains are quite comfortable and the locals travel like us – with loads of luggage. They also have in-train entertainment. So we got to see Jean-Claude Van Damme’s Double Impact in Uzbek while a young couple on the seat next to us played Céline Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” [listen] on their mobile phone. It didn’t stop me from sleeping but Nisha was clearly disturbed by this clash of cultures.

Samarkand was also snowed in when we arrived. Our hotel overlooked the Gur-e-Amir (we insisted on getting a room with a “view”) and we trooped off to see the mausoleum despite the snow. Samarkand’s monuments have always been captured in bright summer …

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Day 3: Fergana to Rishton

Rishton Master Ceramist

Rishton is the home to the craft of ceramics. An hour’s drive from Fergana, it’s a rather well-to-do town on the Tajik border. Ceramics made in this town find their way to all other cities in Uzbekistan. There are an estimated 300 practicing ceramists in Rishton. The red clay in this region forms the base for the stunning ceramic platters, pots and other decorative objects.

We spent the day with two master ceramists in their studios. After the initial “what-are-these-two-girls-doing-here?” look on their faces (the standard response we get everywhere), they warmed up and took us through their workshops, their firing kilns and even their private museums. They fed us well (delicious pumpkin samosas, dried apricots, fresh bread, copious amounts of tea and coffee). All artisans we’ve met so far were incredibly nice, warm people with no hint of arrogance. They love their craft and they shared every bit of …

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Day 2: To the Fergana Valley

Kamchik Pass, Tian Shan Mountains

We left Tashkent this morning to drive to the Fergana valley. On our way, we dropped in at a contemporary ceramist’s studio. Over tea with macaroons and biscuits, he explained how his grandfather – a well known ceramist – had dedicated his life to documenting traditional motifs and ceramic techniques. Sections of his handwritten diaries could be seen in the family’s private gallery. This young man started learning from his grandfather when he was six years old. He said grandparents are more patient than parents! His own father is a renowned ceramist and had exhibited around the world. As we stepped into their gallery, we were introduced to many styles of ceramics – the Tashkent style, Steppe style, contemporary designs inspired by embroideries, traditional blue pottery and more. This ceramist clearly loved his work, spoke at an unhurried pace, and was rather tolerant as we gushed over his pieces.

We headed out to …

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    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.

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