Monday, May 25, 2015

Livadiya - the Tropical Beauty of Crimea in a Russian Shawl

I know, I often show a Russian shawl and say that this is the most beautiful one I have seen. This is because there are too many awesome Russian shawls to choose one favourite. The one I am showing today, however, could easily be my all-time winner, because it is truly stunning.

This shawl has its own name - it is called Livadiya. This is a very beautiful place in the Crimea. The shawl is designed by an eminent artist Irina Dadonova, and it was in production in the 1980s. This is a vintage shawl now, but it does not look outdated - a timeless classic with lots of character. Overflowing with lavish roses, chestnut leaves, rowan berries and countless small flowers, it makes a statement. It is notable that the artist, born in 1939, is still active. I hope Irina Dadonova lives for many years more and produces more masterpieces.

The shawl is not for sale, as it already has an owner, but I have to share the photos.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Uzbek Woman Baking Bread

This is a picture that my husband absolutely loves. It is on display in our Museum of Arts in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and each time we are visiting the museum, he stops to look at it. I guess it reminds him of his childhood in a rural house where they had a "tandyr" oven like this, and his grandmother and mother used to bake this round Uzbek bread called "non". The photo is a bit distorted, but I hope you still can see how cosy and homely that place is. Even if it looks so simple and old, it is full of warmth, and this bread is delicious.

It is typically not allowed to take photos in our museum (unless you pay a hefty sum), but my husband was on assignment there for two days, translating a lecture about Henry Moore, and the director allowed him to take several photos of whatever he wanted. It is a pity that he did not photograph the label with name of the artist; I will check it next time.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Sunday Shawl and a Wind Orchestra

Vintage shawls have a very special appeal for me. A Russian shawl was a very important accessory for a Russian woman, and my great grandmother was not an exclusion. She loved her shawls and wore them a lot, both cotton and wool. I am sure she would love a shawl like this - lavish, festive, light, and somehow unmistakably Soviet. It reminds me of city parks of my very early childhood. I cannot describe them to you; they were to be seen. Very well cared for, full of flowers, and with paths covered in red sand. And on Sundays there would always been a wind orchestra, playing tango and waltz, and people danced. And there would be women wearing their shawls...  Or maybe this is not even what I remember myself, because the picture of parks that I see in my mind is more like post-WWII, and I could not have seen it. Feels like genetic memory, rather. 

This rare and beautiful shawl is for sale in my Etsy shop here

And this is a song that keeps coming to my mind when I look at this shawl: 

It is an old Russian (Soviet) song, about love and a wind orchestra playing in the park. 

Inside a Treasure Cave: Visiting a Handicraft Shop in Samarkand

Besides its gorgeous architecture, Samarkand is famous for arts and crafts. Whenever I come there for a business trip, I also go shopping with my colleagues. During our last visit in April, we have visited a very special shop. It is located in the most central place - in Ulugbek Madrasa at Registan Square.

The shop is quite large, mysteriously dark and full of amazing things. You discover new rooms and corners, as you walk around. It is stuffed with suzani, rugs and silks. This place is like a treasure cave.

Most suzani are very traditional, but you can recognise some familiar designs - those famous cats by Rosina Wachtmeister! Obviously, Samarkand artists do their best to cater for all tastes. Of course, I prefer the classic suzani with their elegant branches and lavish flowers and paisley, but I also appreciate the creativity and desire to be flexible.

Right in the shop, there is a woman embroidering a suzani. The process is fascinating to watch. She is another tourist attraction, of course, but the suzani she is making is very real and beautiful.

In another part of the shop you can see more suzani - this one is on silk - and a very unusual headpiece.

This looks like a Karakalpak or Turkmen headpiece for a women's festive costume. This might be a refurbished piece; I would think that the elements are antique or vintage, but the whole piece is not that old, or, let us say, it is refurbished. Still, it looks impressive. The stones seem to be smalt (or paste).

And these are two traditional gowns, lavish and beautiful. One is beautiful ikat silk, the second one has suzani style embroidery.

There are several shelves with traditional Uzbek pottery, too. I like these small organic looking jugs. 

These pieces are made in Rishtan, Ferghana valley, or maybe they are made in Samarkand to resemble Rishtan style. In any case, I appreciate their elaborate beauty and the combination of colours which are so close in style to the ancient Uzbek architecture.

Uzbek and Turkoman jewelry is a big separate topic. Silver, turquoise and corals is a favourite combination here, in Central Asia. «Les bijoux doivent être sauvages!» - said Amedeo Modigliani, and these ones are indeed quite savage-like.

A bunch of handwoven bags. I love those in earthy colours.

...and countless scarves. Silk scarves, some are made from khan atlas (heavy silk satin) or shoyi (fine silk)...

...these are made from sheer silk gauze or chiffon, and the shop owner claimed them to be hand block printed. They are weightless...

...these are wool shawls, hand embroidered in crewel stitch. I would not call them typical for our country; I think they were inspired by Indian Cashmere shawls. I must say that they are stunning in real life, and the quality of wool and work is excellent. I was very seduced by one on the right, but restrained myself, as I already have too many shawls and scarves that I do not wear.

This amazing shop even had some very nice cashmere shawls, made in Nepal. I must say that I am a cashmere addict and I own a substantial collection. I can say that these were really nice to the touch, and I loved the soft neutral colours. 

...As a way to thank the lovely shop owners for patiently letting me take a gazillion of pictures, I want to share their contacts. The owner and his wife are very friendly, open and willing to negotiate, and speak several languages, as fits a good Uzbek merchant who meets people from all countries of the world. If you ever visit Samarkand, do not miss their shop!

The shop is owned by Mr Alisher Yakubov; 
tel. +99890 2709933

Monday, May 11, 2015

Antique Shawl: Wrap Yourself in Time

Not everyone knows that Russian shawls come in cotton, and not just in wool. Cotton ones are more rare, as their production stopped dozens of years ago, whereas wool shawls and scarves are still produced by the famous Pavlovo Posad Manufacture in Russia. It is a bit sad that cotton has been neglected in this way, but at least there are many vintage cotton Russian shawls that can be found and enjoyed.

I have handled many cotton Russian shawls; some of them are very ordinary, naive or even banal, whereas some are unusual and sophisticated. The one I am offering to your attention is not even vintage - it is antique. Just look at the elegant drawing - it looks like an ink and watercolour drawing by hand...

It is not often that I see a design this alive and breathing. The flowers seem to be trembling under the wind; every little imperfection makes this print only more endearing. 

I am sure that this was hand block printed. The watercolour-y quality is typical for hand block printing. I guess the shawl can be from 1940s or earlier. The dahlias are gorgeous, and look at those fragile fuchsias flowers. 

It drapes in the most beautiful way, with lots of empty space close to the face, and a beautiful lower edge. The fine cotton is soft and lovely to the touch. The shawl is not new - someone loved and worn it... I would imagine her to be daring and elegant; she probably wore the shawl with beautiful slim dresses if it was before the war. Maybe she played the piano and had a dresser full of silver, cut crystal bottles with old Guerlain perfumes and silver brushes. Or maybe not, who knows? In any case, I think this Russian shawl might have seen good and bad times throughout its long life...

...A general view photo is usually convenient if you want to search through old catalogues, in hope to attribute the shawl to one of the designers. I have little hope for identification of the artist, although my friend pointed out that it looked like a design by Abolikhin to her, based on the shape of flowers and how some of them are turned with their backs to the observer. I need to see more shawls by that designer, though. For now, I am just happy to have this antique beauty, which is so much like an old botanical book on yellowed parchment.

This Russian shawl is for sale here. It is one and only - I have never seen another one like this.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day!

This is my Mother and me, about 35 years ago. I am very fortunate to have the most kind, loving, patient, forgiving and appreciating Mother. She is also beautiful and intelligent, and, frankly, I think she has no shortcomings at all. My only wish is for her to be healthy, happy, and to live a very long life.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Our Persian Tabriz Rug

This is Jager testing our new Persian Tabriz rug. He clearly approves of it! I love the rug - it was a very good buy from Kumkapi Carpets, a reputable dealer on German Ebay. This shop was recommended to me by my friend who is also a rug dealer. The rug is in excellent condition, and I paid a fraction of what I would have to pay in a brick-and-mortar shop for a new one. Now I feel I need to make changes to furniture, so that it fits the rug better. Anyway, what we have now will do for the time being. This mellow autumn palette is good with many colours, right? Certainly good with a Malinois.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Silk Damask Made into a Casual Top

Silk damask is often seen as only fit for very formal gowns. Something long, narrow and stiff: beautiful, but not to be worn every day. Chinese gowns, in particular. I have been wanting one for years, but I know I would not wear it much. However, it can be used to produce something very easy to wear, too - like this sleeveless shell. My mother used beautiful vintage silk damask to make this little blouse for my sister. Katherine adores it and wears it a lot, to the great dismay of my daughter who hopes to inherit it in good condition. But then, damask is so sturdy - she does not need to be upset. The top still looks new despite extensive wear. It can be dressed up or down.

You can order a similar one here.

These are the pieces of damask fabric that we have in stock right now.

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