[Pinned] Splendid Suzani

Suzani comes from the Persian word for "needle," and the word refers to embroidered hangings or fabric coverings, generally a meter and a half wide (4-5') but sometimes much more. The birthplace of suzani is in what is now Uzbekistan, the area along the Silk Roads that interconnected the cultures of Europe, Turkey and China with the Muslim world. Islam came to this area in the eighth century, and over time splendid cities arose there: among them Bukhara, Samarkand, Shakhrisabz and Khiva.

Central Asia has always been a land of textiles. The lives of nomads and settled peoples alike have always been hard, and the landscape is often bleak, but women have long decorated every object they could-prayer rugs, saddlecloths, cradle covers, mirror cases, yurt bands, tent flaps, salt bags and gift wraps-with weaving, embroidery and applique in wool, silk, cotton or felt.

As children, nomad and village girls alike began putting together dowries to show the community their skill and industriousness, and throughout their lives their textiles were a principal means of expression and of control of their immediate environment, be it a house, a tent or a yurt. The textiles were also, if needed, an economic resource, for fine pieces could be sold, and city people often commissioned work from the village women.

Homes became veritable cocoons of splendid textiles that were not only functional and beautiful, but also served as status symbols and links to history. Many patterns that are now largely abstract, or so stylized as to seem abstract, have very old roots, for they can be seen on finds in the tombs of Pazyryk, in the permafrost of the High Altai, which date back to the first millennium BC.

Throughout Central Asia, individual regions developed their distinctive designs, for this part of the world is a human as well as a topographical patchwork: Khazakhs, Kyrgyz, Uzbeks, Turkomans, Lakai and Arabs live there and, within those groups, each tribe had its gol, or crest, with colors and motifs that were recognizable at a marketplace or on pilgrimage. Client tribes placed the gol of their protector more prominently than their own and, as with western heraldry, in these crests could be read the past history and the present "pecking order" of the steppe.

Most of the suzani surviving today, however, are village or urban works, and though scholars often divide them into "eastern" and "western" on the basis of design and color, less is known about suzani than about other textiles from the region. Except at a few museums, suzani have been little studied because, traditionally, they were made in the home for personal use and asia textile thus rarely appeared in the written records of merchants or travelers.

The oldest surviving suzani are from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but it seems likely that they were in use long before that. Writing at the beginning of the 15 th century, the Spanish ambassador to the court of Timur (Tamerlane) left detailed descriptions of the royal tents, with their hangings and embroideries, that agree precisely with the scenes depicted in miniature paintings of the period. (See "The Ambassador's Report," page 10.) Some of the textiles the envoy saw were surely the forerunners of the suzani, particularly the densely worked pieces from Bukhara and Shakhrisabz, some of which have much to say to the medallion carpets of the Timurid period that are associated with Herat, to the south in Afghanistan.

It is interesting that in the 1780's, the time of the first surviving suzani, Haji Murad, the emir of Bukhara, decided to revive the silk industry by planting mulberry trees north of the city and bringing in skilled workers from the Merv oasis to the west. This may well have resulted in renewed suzani production and given rise to the pieces known to museums and textile historians today.

The motifs on the suzani go back much further, however, and they are linked to trade. The wealthy families of the cities of the Silk Roads and of the Khanates of Bukhara and Khokand had long had contact with the textiles of India, China and Persia, as well as decorative motifs from the West. Since the time of Alexander, Hellenic influences have reached well into Central Asia, and from there, Hellenic motifs moved along the Silk Roads to appear in embroidered hangings found in many oasis towns and, finally, in the ceramics of Ming China. The vine pattern that, highly stylized, meanders along the border of so many suzani was quite likely inspired by the scrolls of grapes found across the Hellenic world on stone, ceramics and textiles. Equally old and well-traveled is the palmetto, a fan-shaped, stylized botanical motif from the Mediterranean that may also have been introduced in the wake of Alexander's conquests in India and Afghanistan.

The botah motif, shaped like a teardrop and perhaps a version of the "tree of life" design, reached this area from Persia as early as the fifth century BC. Other flowers that appear on suzani, including tulips and wild hyacinths, are not unlike those on Iznik plates, suggesting a Turkic origin. Sometimes there is a frilly flower often called a carnation, but it is more probably a pomegranate blossom, or a much-stylized lotus whose meaning as a Buddhist symbol has been forgotten in the centuries since the conversion of Central Asia to Islam.

These motifs are common among the western group of suzani, which often show the influence of textiles imported from Mughal India through Kashmir. Curiously enough, some of these patterns were also exported westward in the 17th century, where they became the basis for English Jacobean embroideries.

Although each Central Asian town had its own style, the place of manufacture of many suzani cannot be identified with certainty, simply because not enough is known. For example, Shakhrisabz, Timur's own city, is famous for the lushness of its vegetation and reflects this characteristic in the embroidered flowers and rich color range of its textiles-but similar pieces were made elsewhere. And the stitch known as kanda khayol, a slanted couching stitch, is most frequently found in Shakhrisabz embroideries-but is not unique to them.

Typical suzani from the small town of Nurata have a star in the center and scattered sprays of flowers, or sometimes botah, on the main field, which is usually naturally colored cotton or linen. The embroidery is generally in delicate shades, often muted indigos and rust. One Nurata nim suzani (a half-size suzani) has the classic sprays of flowers and a central star and then another motif, common in the region, that may represent either two little coffee pots or two ewers for rose water-in either case, symbols of hospitality, prosperity and joy.

Samarkand had been one of the largest towns in the world in 1400, but by the early 19th century its population had shrunk to some 8000 inhabitants. It is therefore not surprising that its embroideries are less sophisticated and-perhaps because it is close to the eastern area of suzani designs-bolder in their patterns. They are not infrequently worked on yellow, pink or purple backgrounds and often embroidered in a limited range of colors. The designs are almost abstract, as they are also in the Jizak asia textile area to the northeast, on the edge of the steppe.

Eastern suzani are much closer to the traditional nomad designs of the Kyrgyz and Uzbeks, who in pre-Islamic times worshiped the sun, the moon and the stars. These are bold designs, with an archaic symbolism centered on a circular motif, whose exact meaning is debated by specialists: Does it represent the sun, the moon, the heavens, a flower-or an open pomegranate, a symbol of fertility from the Mediterranean to China? It is clearly a positive image of continuity and survival, and it appears over and over again in the life of the region: It is painted or incised on the walls of houses, stamped onto bread, sewn into other embroideries used for everyday tableware, and even echoed in the brickwork of the domes of mosques and madrasas (religious schools). It often employs powerful contrasts, as if to distinguish dark and light, good and evil, life and death, and strong colors such as red for blood, brown for the earth and blue-black for the sky.

This symbolism is most clear in the suzani of the Tashkent, Pskent and Fergana Valley regions. They are hallmarked by a particular central roundel, known as the palak, which is so distinctive that the word itself is used at Tashkent instead of suzani to refer to these embroideries. A palak is a heavenly orb, and it can also appear as the oi-palak, "moon-sky," occasionally with a star, and is often stylized to look like giant red flowers. This flower-and-sun palak appears again and again, not only among the Central Asian nomads, but also in the embroideries of Rajasthan and Gujarat, in Kashmir and in Turkish-influenced pieces from the Balkans, and in all of these places it is a symbol of power and fertility.

The term palak likely comes from the Arabic falak, the celestial sphere, and the root in turn probably goes back to the Sumerian word for a spindle whorl, which of course rotates. The roundels on the suzani often contain six dots, sometimes with a seventh in the middle, and it has been suggested that these represent the seven planets, or perhaps the seven layers of the sky, an idea that has come down to our own day in the expression "seventh heaven."

Palak sometimes have a triangular motif in the corners, often called a "comb" or "earring," but close examination shows that it more probably represents an amulet case used to carry a written verse of the Qur'an. Although almost unrecognizable, birds are sometimes found in older pieces, probably intended to be the cock, the bringer of light and dispeller of darkness and a very important creature in Central Asian symbolism from earliest times. There is also a motif that looks like a scorpion-surely used prophylactically, to ward off these creatures. These are two of the few non-botanical motifs in eastern suzani.

In making a suzani, it was rarely the embroiderer herself who sketched the design. Most commonly, when a girl's dowry was being prepared, fabric would be taken to a kalamkash, an older woman who acted as the local designer. A similar system still obtains in the towns of northern India today, where there are often one or two elderly men in the cloth bazaars to whom women will bring lengths or panels of cloth. After much discussion of design elements and price, the pattern-sometimes very elaborate-is penned directly onto the fabric. As the silk wears away on a suzani, it is often possible to see these outlines.

suzani are characteristically worked on four to six narrow strips of cotton, linen or silk, which before 1900 were generally home-woven. After the design is drawn, the strips are divided up to be worked by different members of the family. As a result, the patterns of the suzani can appear slightly misaligned or asymmetrical, and it is not uncommon for the shades of color to vary from one strip to the next, for no two batches of natural dye come out exactly the same. Although this is less common in suzani from the 20th century that use aniline dyes, some women nonetheless embroidered personal touches that ignored the "official" color scheme, adding charm and personality to the work.

The stitches used for suzani are simple. There are two kinds of couching, basma and the slanting kanda khayol for filling; and a chain stitch (tambur) and a kind of double buttonhole stitch (ilmok) to work the outlines. The thread is normally silk, or sometimes cotton, and very rarely wool. In the older pieces, of course, natural dyes were used: indigo from India for blue, cochineal and madder for red, saffron from the wild crocus for yellow, pomegranate skins or pistachio galls with iron for black.

The background color of the earliest and finest pieces tends to be the natural cotton or linen; the use of colored grounds-yellow, pink, red or sometimes violet-seems to be a later development. Silk backgrounds are associated with certain nomad groups such as the Lakai and with the brilliantly colored, 20th-century embroideries still made in Afghanistan.

suzani are still made today, and recently they have become a commercially produced textile and less frequently a domestic one. Some background on the region's history sheds light on how this change came about.

As Timurid Central Asia was in its long decline, following the centuries that had seen the rise of the magnificent cities, the region caught the attention of Russia's Peter the Great in the late 17th century. Over the next 150 years, as local rulers battled each other, the Russian Empire and the nomads, the region also experienced a revival of Central Asian culture, especially at Bukhara, Khokand and Khiva. In the 19th century, the Russians were again looking east, and this time they took control of those khanates.

With Russian annexation and the industrial revolution, the already increasing pressure on agricultural land intensified. Many nomads settled, and in settling they began to lose and change their traditional skills. Others left for Afghanistan, Iran or the foothills of the Himalayas.

The Russians liked Central Asian textiles-carpets, gold embroidery and silks-and set up workshops to produce them for export. The resulting carpets, like those mass-produced for export today, tended, unsurprisingly, to be standardized and somewhat dull: The work was no longer a matter of pride, no longer something to be admired by the whole community and enjoyed for the rest of one's life, but only a way to make a bare living. suzani, however, were made at home, not in workshops, so they asia textilesuffered less than other crafts.

Dyeing, too, is a difficult and highly skilled trade, and in Central Asia it was a craft much practiced by Jews, who were beginning to leave under Russian rule. By the last quarter of the 19th century, as all over the East, brilliant but unstable and harsh artificial dyes were pouring out of tins and packets, and the associated drop in the quality of textile production was almost instantaneous. It is therefore easy to date suzani as being made before or after the introduction of modern dyes.

The Russian revolution of 1917 again threw Central Asia into turmoil. Under the Bolsheviks, textile production was further "rationalized," and more efforts were made to settle the nomads; meanwhile, many city people fled. Dowries were discouraged and lifestyles changed."Women were now more likely to embroider a chair cover than a saddlecloth. Patterns that for millennia had been deeply charged with meaning suddenly became mere design elements, ornamental, pretty or simply out-of-date. Yet embroidery continued, both as a government-organized craft and for the decoration of one's environment, for self-expression asia textileand for money.

Gradually, however, the new order affected even this. Education was compulsory, and now little girls had other things to do than needlework. Women were freer to work and express themselves in other ways. The generation of grandmothers for whom "every stitch was prayer" began to die out, and needlework became just one more element in a more complicated life, no longer a central one.

asia textileDespite this, a surprising number of suzani are still produced in independent Uzbekistan today, where they decorate homes, workplaces, teahouses and public buildings, and are still used at weddings and on festive occasions. They are for sale everywhere, bought by locals as well as visitors. Scraps of old ones may serve as a saddlecloth for one of the few remaining donkeys or as a tablecloth for a workman's lunch. Some are hand-embroidered, but others are machine-made. The colors may be influenced by imported textiles, and the current fashion in designs may not be as bold as in the past, but in this very recent form, the tradition of the suzani lives on.
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by henry | 不指定 2010/08/03 16:34 | 分类: asia textile | Comments(61) | Trackbacks(0) | Reads(17401)
The Indian fashion industry is just beginning to embrace sustainability. Clothing that mixes and matches fair trade, eco-sensitivity and style is also finding more buyers ...

Shoppers wander around an exhibition hall in Chennai running their hands through the yards of fine cotton of a sari, exclaiming over a particularly vivid design. But it's the tag that always makes them stop for a second look. Not because of the price, but because each tag has a stampsized photograph of the weaver. 'This product was hand-woven by N Ganesh in 1.5 days', says one tag on a pink and orange stole. Murugavel gets credit for an ebony-and-ivory sari that took seven days to craft, Mahesh for a brilliant aqua.

Ethicus, an organic cotton and ethical fashion brand launched late last year, aims to promote sustainable fashion - clothing produced by following fair trade practices with minimal impact on the earth. "Our philosophy is farm to fashion," says Mani Chinnaswamy, managing partner of Appachi Cotton that owns the Ethicus brand. "We grow organic cotton and do the ginning and weaving following eco-friendly practices," he says. Labourers and weavers are paid fair wages and their children educated for free in schools in Zamin Uthukuli village, Pollachi, in western Tamil Nadu.

Fashion's latest trend seems to be sustainability with both niche designers and mainstream brands playing up the fact that their products are green and clean. Both Van Heusen and Arrow launched organic cotton shirts this summer, and designers such as Anita Dongre and Rajesh Singh Rathore regularly use organic cotton.

Mumbai-based Dongre says her Grassroot sustainable fashion line, launched in 2007,was born of her interest in the environment. "I am sensitive about the Earth and wanted to convey the message through my creations," she says. Dongre eco friendly textile procures fabrics that are organically produced from suppliers who follow fair trade principles.

Chinaswamy, who runs Ethicus with wife Vijayalakshmi Nachiar, says they decided to adopt fair trade practices to help farmers and weavers. "These are hard jobs with poor returns," he says. "Neither farmers nor weavers want their children to follow them into the profession, but if we lose their skills, we lose an important part of our heritage," he says. He and Nachiar, a textile graduate, bought 42 looms, refurbished them and set up a design and weaving studio. While designers conceive the line (the current one was designed by Mumbai's Chelna Desai), local weavers adapt their old-world skills to produce new-age cotton fabrics. "Right now, this is a brand for the Indian market, but we're talking to Italian designers too," says Nachiar. Van Heusen's line is an acknowledgement of consumer preferences. "In the last few years, people have become more conscious about going green. We've always procured from suppliers with fair trade certification. We were giving out recyclable bags but decided to go a step further and create a 'green' shirt," says Shital Mehta, COO of Van Heusen, a brand from Aditya Birla Group's Madura Garments. Suresh J, CEO of Arvind (brands and retail), which has brands like Arrow and Flying Machine under its umbrella, says most of their factories have been approved by the international organisation Business Social Compliance Initiative. This means the company spends at least 10 per cent to 15 per cent more on its back-end." For instance, there are norms on eco friendly textile the kind of lighting we have to use, so we end up spending more on electricity. There should be more aisle space between each employee so per sq ft productivity is lower," he says. This makes garments 15 per cent to 20 per cent dearer but it's not just the rich they're selling to. "Often, the younger generation appreciates such values and displays loyalty to brands that follow these principles," says Suresh.Arati T Nagaraja, managing director of clothing brand Zeme Organics, too targets this population, "Not everyone can go to the farm to do their bit for the environment. But they will buy eco-friendly products at the right price."

eco friendly textile Van Heusen's Mehta agrees: "If the same look and feel are offered at the same price with the advantage of being environment-friendly, people will take it." Van Heusen has priced its Eco range between Rs 1,600 and Rs 1,800,like its other shirts, though it costs about 30 per cent more to produce it.

Despite the note of optimism and the definite buzz in the market, sustainable fashion is yet to catch on in India. The biggest limitation to it going mainstream is the cost. "Not much land is under organic cotton so procurement costs more," says Mehta. "But sustainable fashion will be big in the next few years and will drive customer choices."

eco friendly textile Getting certification from the likes of Global Organic Textile Standards is an expensive and often tedious process, which makes it intimidating for farmers to grow organic cotton. "There are some NGOs which work with small farmers and groups of farmers form cooperative societies to get certification," says Nagaraja.

It takes about three years just for the land to become 'clean' enough for organic cotton to be grown on it. "We kept paying contract farmers during that time," says Chinnaswamy, who buys cotton from about 180 farmers in the Kabini area. “You have to raise a couple of crops before your cotton meets certification standards."

In 2007, Appachi cotton received certification from Institute for Marketecology (IMO),a Swiss organisation that provides assurance for eco-friendly products, and from the Control Union of Netherlands, which approved its fair trade practices. "It's not hard, but definitely time-consuming and expensive," he says. Chinnaswamy says it'll take him three to six years to break even. "But we'll stick to it as we're working to keep a weaving tradition alive and get people to think of the Earth."

Indian manufacturers see going green as an inevitable choice. "The customer is open to the idea of spending a little more to make a responsible choice," says Chinnaswamy. "For a person in a city, a simple way to help the environment is to choose a product that's produced responsibly."
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by henry | 不指定 2010/08/03 16:18 | 分类: eco friendly textile | Comments(47) | Trackbacks(0) | Reads(15239)
Debra Roth is the founder of Pink Inc., which creates incredibly breathtaking tension fabric structures.  Used for events, interior design, halftime shows, and basically anything you can think of, Pink Inc. creates sculptures from fabric that go beyond any conventional ideas of design.  And they're all BEAUTIFUL!!!

functional fabric Love and Water- Your work is so stunning and unique.  How did you get started doing this kind of work?

Debra Roth- I do so much work in events, and there has been a lot of this kind of work over the last ten years.  But I came to it because I have a sculpture background, and ended up working with some fabrics for a project in school.  I studied fine arts and sculpture, and I took a class that required us to do a collaborative project where we had to use mediums we had never worked with before.  So we ended up beginning to work with fabrics, and used performance to stage a live manipulation of the fabrics.  From there people started asking us to do various shows, so we started building stage sets to put our work in, and it just evolved and grew from there.  The first ten years I was focused on the art world and theater, and wanted to stay in that genre.  But then we started to get picked up with festivals, that lead to us doing events and put us in a whole new industry, and we just went with it.  The next ten years were spent getting organized and really finding ways to explain clearly to people what we did, because people were just becoming familiar with it but it was still a new way to design events.  After that, we started to see more of it in various areas of event design and architecture, so people are more familiar with it now.  

L&W- What do you think helps your work stand out among other similar styles?

DR- We really still have the creative edge because I think a lot of companies began to do this kind of work from a monetary perspective, because they knew it was an upcoming industry.  But we never looked at it that way; we always came from an art perspective.  I think that's what makes us unique.  We're always developing ideas and listening to our clients and trying out new things.  We're really engaged with our clients and with our work, so we enjoy the process of creating a new piece from beginning to end.  

functional fabric L&W- Who are your clients?  Can you do the same work on a smaller scale as well?

DR- A lot of our clients are events producers, which includes corporate events and smaller events.  We work with a lot of production companies because the fabric works so well with lighting.  There are a lot of hotels we work with as well.  Exhibits have also played a part in what we do, which is always fun and interesting.  But now interior designers and architects are starting to discover how they can use these kinds of structures because they're so light weight and easy for them to design with.  You can pretty much make any shape with the fabrics, so there are a ton of options available.  There are a few things you can't do, but what you can do you can do really well with the fabric.  If you have to make a curved wall out of sheet rock, it can be really difficult, but to make a curved wall out of fabric is really easy.  These days people are remodeling every three to four years, which is also an advantage because you can remove fabric structures very easily.  We're doing something for Google right now that I believe is going into the corporate office.  The fabric will have printing all over, which is an interesting twist.  It will be something that they can use for as long as they want, and can change it just as easily.

L&W- What is the most moving moment you've had in designing a piece?

DR- We did the halftime show for the Dallas Cowboys over Thanksgiving.  It was really cool because we took something that we already do and just enlarged it for them, and sent it to them to assemble.  They rigged them and did a great job.  I was watching the game and when halftime started they weren't out there, and I thought oh no, it didn't work.  But then they got them up in a flash, and it looked great.  It was really moving to see it on television, looking so good.  The sponsorship for the event was the Salvation Army and they wanted parts of it to look like flames, and they actually raised the flames during the show.  The whole thing was really cool to watch.

functional fabric L&W- What do you enjoy most about your work?

DR- It has a lot of potential to keep going.  Some people in the event industry get tired of certain looks, but this look changes all the time.  Working with fabric is really cool and always evolving, which I really enjoy about this work.

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by henry | 不指定 2010/08/03 16:08 | 分类: functional fabric | Comments(83) | Trackbacks(0) | Reads(16458)


functional textile I began my art career with the idea of art being an approachable and tactile experience, even an interactive one, where people who are often intimidated by art, learn that it can be relaxing and fun.  In other words, I wanted an environment where people would feel free to touch my artwork, and wanted it to beg the viewer to interact.

functional textile These ideals have evolved for me over time, and grown with maturity into a love of art that reflects my belief in the theraputic value of art in everyday living.

functional textile Life is challenging and, at times, can be very hard.  I find that when I surround myself with functional objects that are meaningful and beautiful all at once, it makes life more enjoyable.  The more I trust in this philosophy, the more I find it to be true.

functional textile My background in steel sculpture and furniture, African art and my newest ingredient - color, meld together to create a recipe I call, Art Meets Interiors.  I now use vintage and new textiles to create pieces that can be hung on a wall, or used in everyday life, in a modern context.
by henry | 不指定 2010/08/03 15:31 | 分类: functional textile | Comments(74) | Trackbacks(0) | Reads(15696)
Dr. Juan Hinestroza, an assistant professor in the Department of Textile Engineering, Chemistry and Science at NC State, and researchers at the University of Puerto Rico have pioneered a method to develop chemical-resistant textiles by attaching nanolayers to natural fibers hi tech textile.
These layers are only 20 nanometers – or 20 billionths of a meter – thick and made of different polymers that can control what passes through the layer. The process is called selective transport.
“These layers are customized for different chemicals,” Hinestroza said. “We can specifically block warfare agents like mustard or nerve gas, or industrial chemicals, while still allowing air and moisture to pass through to make the fabric breathable.”
Chemicals are blocked, Hinestroza said, when they bind to the polymers of the fibers, which are made of materials that are attractive to the chemical agents hi tech textile.
These fabrics could be made into garments that offer very high levels of protection. “We can attach hundreds of nanolayers to a fiber without affecting its comfort or usability. This idea has been tried in the semiconductor industry, but hasn’t been achieved with flexible fabrics,” he said hi tech textile.
The nanolayers adhere to natural fibers by electrostatic force, similar to the way that magnets attract or repel depending on the electromagnetic charge, Hinestroza said.
There are literally dozens of potential uses of this technology involving smart textiles. “Imagine gloves coated with arthritis drugs; military uniforms coated with antibacterial layers to prevent infection in case of wound; antibacterial sheets for submarine bunks to prevent illness spread as these bunks are shared by enlisted personnel; and comfortable protective clothing against several chemical and biological warfare agents,” Hinestroza said.
Additional uses could include diapers coated with anti-itching polyelectrolytes as well as tissues coated with anti-allergy medicine, he added.
Hinestroza and his colleagues are funded by the Institute of Textile Technology and recently received a seed grant from the NC State nanotechnology steering committee.
The team’s initial work was published recently in the scientific journal Nanotechnology.
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by henry | 不指定 2010/08/03 15:20 | 分类: hi tech textile | Comments(125) | Trackbacks(0) | Reads(17990)
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