Wednesday, March 30, 2016

On Cherry Blossom and Lost Wanderers

I spent twenty minutes under the Japanese cherry tree today, marvelling at its ethereal beauty. We have only had these trees for ten years or so, I think; they are not native to Uzbekistan. The one I was admiring today grows near the Navoi Opera Theatre which was built by the Japanese prisoners after WWII, and I believe the tree has a symbolic meaning - was planted there for a reason.

I must admit that the topic of Japanese prisoners never was of a great interest to me - you see, our life in USSR was infused by the war, we were eating and drinking war - no, breathing it... every family would have veterans, or someone who was killed, or both; there were all those countless books, films, memorials - what does a handful of prisoners mean compared to this huge array of memories, evidence, emotions? However, when you stand under this tree, next to the theatre build by the prisoners from a faraway country, you have to think about them. I read that there were almost 24 thousands Japanese PoW in Uzbekistan, and that most of them survived - only 817 died and were buried here. Local people are kind, and even in the hungry time after the war they would share food with the foreigners. As one article said, "If civilians treated German prisoners like enemies, the Japanese were looked upon as tired wanderers far from home".

I hope that most of those lost wanderers finally made it home.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Rose Evening - a Real Hand Block Printed Russian Shawl

Many sellers on Ebay or Etsy will claim that Russian shawls they are selling are handmade or at least hand block printed. Well, in most cases that is a complete nonsense. The modern Russian shawls as we know them - those made at the Pavlovo Posad Manufacture - are not handmade. They are mass made at a large factory. However, the Manufacture produced hand block printed shawls till 1974: the last such shawl was Russia by Ekaterina Dadonova. As this was quite a long time ago, and Russian shawls, although strong, are made of wool which deteriorates with time and is beloved by moth, there are not too many around in our days. And I can assure you that in most cases the shawls stated to be hand printed are not. This can be a mistake or a marketing move, it depends on the person I guess. Actually I made this mistake myself a couple of times, thinking that vintage shawls printed by photo film method were hand printed (in all instances they were designed by Simeon Ryjov, and his designs always look like hand printed). Now I know better.  

This topic merits a separate lengthy post with examples of different printing methods, but now I just want to show a shawl which was definitely hand block printed. It is called "Rose Evening" and this was an antique design restored by Victor Zubritsky ("Розовый вечер", художник Виктор Зубрицкий, ручная печать). To me, it is immediately obvious that this is a hand block printed shawl: it has that living and breathing quality of print that I value so much. It is as alive as a watercolour, with same lovely imperfections. Some lines seem to be trembling, and dye can run a little beyond the contours, lending a very touching feel of alive beauty to this design.

This shawl is not for sale at the moment, but we have many others in our Etsy shop.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Russian Scarf For a Picky Girl

My daughter is very picky about her clothing, so when she asked for a Russian scarf I knew I had a problem. I told her that I needed some time to think and choose. As she is just nine, I did not want a very classic looking scarf, and certainly not a black or red one. I was looking for something more subtle, to go well with grey and beige shades that she loves. Finally, I found this: Amber Evening ("Янтарный вечер"), a smaller sized scarf (34 inches or 89 cm), which seems to fill the bill. Its soft grey background and orangey-creamy roses look good with Madina's own subtle colours.

What I especially love about Russian shawls is their versatility. It suddenly became cold? Cover your head with it!

..And when it becomes warm again, you can just drape it around your shoulders. Or fold it and put into your purse. My daughter is an expert now, and she is the only girl in her class who has a scarf like this - not something synthetic.

I do not have a scarf like this for sale, but I have many others in my Etsy shop.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Different Shawl

Some Russian shawls are really famous and recognisable. For instance, this one was featured in a very famous old Soviet movie called "The Gypsy" ("Цыган"), where it was worn by a very beautiful young actress, Matlyuba Alimova (Матлюба Алимова). The movie is from 1976, so the shawl is quite vintage.

I do love shawls which are different. I handle so many of them, and some are truly stunning, with lavish and intricate design, with huge roses and rich colours. I like all of them, but sometimes I become a bit tired of sophistication and luxury, and a shawl full of grasses and wild flowers is a welcome change. This one also has hydrangea which I love. I have it in stock, and I foresee that it will not last, so get it now if you want it.

Monday, March 7, 2016

No Regrets About Cherry Blossoms

We do not have many sakura trees in Tashkent, but I am fortunate to have one close to my house. Today I spent half an hour under the tree, marvelling at these blooms. They look like vintage lace to me, frayed edges and imperfections making it even more precious. It is a pity that these blooms do not last, but I remember their fleeting beauty throughout the year.

There was a haiku by Issa:

when cherry blossoms
no regrets

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