"I give my soul to the work."
Rasuljon Mirzaahmedov is a fifth-generation ikat master living in Margilan, Uzbekistan. Mirzaahmedov employs eight other ikat masters and more than 40 weavers in the Crafts Development Center. He’s been in business for over 20 years.
“The main folk art we do is ikat weaving,” Rasuljon explains. Ikat is a time-intensive dyeing technique that produces a bright pattern on both sides of a piece of fabric, usually silk. “We produce silk and ikat textiles, ready-to-wear garments, bags, and interior décor items,” Mirzaahmedov says.
The work provides himself and his employees with steady, reliable income, as well as an opportunity to celebrate and proliferate their Uzbek heritage. “Our art helps sustain my family and community—we can afford school for our children, and improve our infrastructure,” says Rasuljon.
The group is honored that this group was selected to be a part of the IFAM | Online program. Rasuljon explains, “The training is building capacity to expand our business. We will be able to sell our products all year round, so new job opportunities will be created for our women.”
He grew up with his parents in Margilan, Uzbekistan. “I was born into a family of craftsmen,” he says. Rasuljon’s father, Turgunboy, was an Uzbek ikat pioneer. “He was always considering new designs, structures, and coloring techniques,” Rasuljon remembers, “and that inspired me.”
Ikat emerged in northern India, and by the 18th and 19th centuries, the Great Silk Road had brought the technique to Central Asia. “One can view astonishing examples of early Central Asian ikat worldwide,” Rasuljon explains.
During the Soviet era, Rasuljon recalls, many private ikat workshops were forced to close. Independent artisans were placed instead in factory-like organizations, and distinctive, historic techniques like ikat temporarily disappeared.
But with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s, traditional textiles reemerged. “Today, ikat is the national textile of an independent Uzbekistan,” Rasuljon explains.
The artists of the Crafts Development Center use silk and cotton, all produced in Uzbekistan, to make tunics, wall-hangings, and other items. The weaving of ikat is a complicated process: raw silk goes through 37 steps, including many dyeings, before a piece is considered complete. “Our hands touch up to 4,000 strands of silk during the process,” Rasuljon says. Traditionally, men warp and dye the silk, and women complete the weaving.
“With the coming of spring,” Rasuljon explains, “we celebrate Central Asian New Year. Most Uzbek women wear ikat dresses for this holiday.” Ikat is widely used in the home, and the colorful, durable fabrics signify brightness and happiness in the owner’s life. Inspiration for motifs comes from both the natural and social realms. “Ikat celebrates animals, insects, holidays, women's names, natural phenomenon, and so on,” says Rasuljon.
Meanwhile, Rasuljon dreams of writing a book on Uzbek textiles. Ultimately, he wishes for people all over the world to understand and value the ikat tradition, and for handmade ikat products to be used in every home.