Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Christmas Story

I have relatives – a very ordinary Uzbek family, not rich at all. The father is a retired police officer, who worked as investigator for all his life; he was a person with ideals and principles and never had illegal incomes. For many years, he was building a house in the village where he was born – it took him about 20 years altogether, brick after brick – and completed it by the time of retirement. He married late and had three children; the elder son is in the army now, the youngest is in the school, and the daughter who is in between had just graduated from community college and works at a clothing factory. His wife works as a cook at the same factory. I would not call them poor, but they cannot afford any excesses. They have a farm, so they grow a lot of their own food, and there is also the father’s pension. However they are usually pressed for cash.

In the beginning of the winter, the girl asked her father to buy her a coat. She dreamed about it; all girls were wearing beautiful long wool coats, and she was wearing a jacket. After receiving pension, her father gave her 200 thousand Uzbek Soum (about US $65), saying: “Go to the bazaar, dear, and take a look. I do not know how much coats cost, but this is all I can give you now; if this is not enough, you will have to wait”.

The girl and two aunts of hers went to the city and wished they did not – they were so upset! All coats which looked more or less good started from 700 thousand Soum (about US $250) and up; the cheapest ones could be bought for about 300 thousand, but they were very ugly. Her budget would be sufficient for a jacket – not the most fashionable one – but she did not need it, anyway.

They searched the whole bazaar and did not find anything to fit into the budget. Her aunts would be glad to top up her budget but could not – their funds were very limited, too.

They were cold and upset, when they entered another shop with coats. There were some nice coats, but they were just as expensive. The elder women wanted to spend several minutes more in the warm shop, so they took a lovely car coat from a hanger and said: “Try it on, we will see what it looks like on you”. Two consultants immediately helped her to try the coat on and took her to the mirror.

This girl, slim and fragile, with a face of a beauty from a Persian miniature, looked stunning in this coat, which cost a fortune for her (about 650 thousand Soum). The sadness on her face, on the verge of tears, made her look vulnerable and even more beautiful.

There was a middle aged man sitting at the computer in a remote corner of the shop, who was watching her all that time. He stood up and came to her, saying in a broken Uzbek (because he was Turkish): “Daughter, this coat looks great on you! Buy it – you will not find a better one!”

The girl was choking, shaking her head and unable to speak; her eyes were full of tears. She mastered her voice at last and said: “No, thank you, I do not need a car coat; I wanted a long one”.

The owner of the shop said he had a long version of this coat and told the boys to fetch it and put it on the girl. This long coat was even more beautiful – and much more expensive.

“Take it, – he said, - You are the best person to own it. I will not let you go without it, I will give you a very good discount”. At this point the girl cried out, unable to speak, and then she managed to whisper, sobbing: “You will not give me such a big discount”. Then there was a river of tears.

“How much money do you have?”

 “Just two hundred…”.

“Take it for two hundred – it is yours!".

The consultants whispered to him that she was talking about 200 thousand Soum, not 200 dollars (which would be about 550 thousand), but he snapped back: “I know that! I want her to have the coat!”.

The girl was crying even stronger now.

“Stop crying, girl, what is the matter? Here – I am taking your money – do not take your coat off, we will put your jacket in a bag! What are you crying about now?”

She said that she had spent 3 thousand from that money to pay for the commute. The man counted 15 thousand from the money she had just given him, gave it back to her and said: “They cook very nice kebab nearby; go and eat, then go home. I am fine with the remaining money”.

The girl was absolutely happy, and the whole family was crying listening to this story. We cried, too, when we heard it. This is what we call a Christmas story.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all of you, dear friends! Wishing you health, happiness, peace and harmony! 

(the postcard has been chosen by my 6 year old daughter who said it embodied everything she loved most about Christmas)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tourmaline Earrings by Gray Cat Designs

I have to boast about the tourmaline earrings I received from lovely Caroline of Gray Cat Designs (graycat26.etsy.com) - are not they gorgeous? Unfortunately my pictures do not do them justice; I am very bad at photographing jewelry.

These are bright and sparkly little pieces, full of saturated and clean little faceted tourmaline beads on oxidized silver wire. Caroline called them "Rose Garden" and they indeed resemble one - a very Victorian garden, seen in the evening, when all the stems and branches look almost black in the fading light, but  flowers almost have a light of their own. It is probably autumn - the garden lacks the feeling of crispness and freshness of spring, when everything is light and new, leaves and petals look like washed and starched, and soil seems to be bursting with energy. Instead, the colors are more of a vintage palette, telling about ripeness and mellowness of autumn, darker shades, richer fragrances with fruity notes. There is still time till winter to enjoy the walks in the garden. "Season of mists and fruity mellowness...".

..I know, sometimes I get carried away. I probably love jewelry too much - I invent all sorts of stories about pieces I own! Now I want to say a big "Thank You!" to Caroline, who has made this exquisite pair of earrings for me, and I know I will wear them a lot - I like them so much! They also go well with so many colors, it will be easy to wear them. My sister wants to borrow them sometimes, too - everyone likes them!

The earrings arrived very fast, and they were packed in the most exquisite way - there was an organza bag, then a nice little box with Gray Cat Designs business card on top, and inside there was a tiny black velvet pouch for the earrings. The pleasure of opening, unfolding, shaking the earrings out of their velvet pouch to cradle them in the hand, marveling at the colors!

Caroline is an amazingly nice person, and a pleasure to communicate with. I enjoyed the whole process immensely, and I regret about being a very lousy correspondent from time to time. Dear Caroline, thank you very much and sorry about not writing back sooner! Merry Christmas to you and everyone!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Life as a Bed of Roses: Uzbek Suzani

At last, I have fulfilled my dream: we made a pair of pillow cases from vintage Uzbek suzani.I bought this suzani last weekend; it was somewhat more expensive than planned, but I had to buy it. It has a lovely pattern with flowers and my beloved pomegranates, and the colors are so vivid - summer in the middle of the winter!

Suzani are widely used for ritual purposes, such as weddings. The one we used for the cushion covers is called 'gul kurpa' which means 'blanket of flowers'; traditionally, it serves as a bed spread for the newly weds, symbolizing good wishes for their life together.

Most of the elements of embroidery have a specific meaning - for instance, pomegranates mean prosperity, the wavy white stitch called 'suv' represents water, and water means everything for our dry region, as you may know - it is precious here; and there is also the representation of sun in this embroidery (see the photo below, on the right side of the pillow - it is like a white wheel). So, in general, this suzani means wishing a life to be like a fragrant garden, full of flowers in full bloom, ripe pomegranates and clean water running in small canals around - a very traditional Uzbek vision of happiness and prosperity. I have been to such gardens in reality, and I can tell you that I would not mind my life to be like them...

This pair of suzani pillows is for sale in our Etsy shop, here. I believe the price is more than reasonable - this is our first experience with suzani, and I just want them to sell quickly, and then we will make more. Hope they will make someone's life a bit more like a beautiful garden from an Uzbek fairy tale!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My New Silky Rug: More Pillows are Coming!

This is my newest find - a lovely vintage rug, smooth, supple and silky to the touch, in stunning colors. I love the pattern, especially the tiny funny animals. It is much better live - striking! I paid much more than I usually pay for rugs I buy to make kilim pillows, and when I told my mother about it she said I was crazy. But then I took it out from the bag to show her, and of course she was fascinated with it, too.

I am hoping to list cushion covers made from it in the Mulberry Whisper shop on Etsy this week - do not miss them, if you like this rug, because there will not be many; the rug is not big. I guess it is made of rayon and cotton - feels like natural fibers.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Barno Ismatullaeva, Uzbek Soprano

We went to a concert of classical music yesterday (which does not happen often). It was dedicated to the Nobel Prize award to the European Union, and featured young Uzbek artists - the Symphony Orchestra of Tashkent Academy of Music and a number of soloists. I was pleasantly surprised to find a wonderful young soprano here in Tashkent. Her name is Barno Ismatullaeva, and she sang 'Musetta's Waltz' from Puccini's 'La Boheme'. I was thrilled by the very first notes and remained fascinated and fully engaged till the end of the aria. Barno has a lovely soprano, warm and emotional, and she uses this golden instrument really well. Not just me, but everyone seemed to be impressed. I am certainly not an expert in music, but I enjoyed listening to her so much - I now want to see her in opera. I might become a theater goer!

I found her on Youtube; this is a different aria ('Mimi's Story'), but I was pleased to listen to it, too, recalling yesterday night when I was privileged to hear Barno live.

Barno is beautiful, too - a classic Uzbek beauty, like a girl from a miniature painting - but the greatest part of an artist's charm to me is in the talent, the energy she irradiates, the inner strength... I know these are very banal things to say. She needs to be heard and seen to be appreciated - and I certainly hope that she will be appreciated by many people. It feels good to have her here, in Uzbekistan.

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