Leatherwork

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Country: Uzbekistan
Ichigi, the leather boots, beginning of XX century

Artistic leatherwork is part of urban crafts, but is rooted in the traditions of the nomadic and semi-nomadic lifestyle of the peoples of Uzbekistan. Leather was used to make clothes, footwear, travel gear and household items. Goat, sheep, calf, horse, bull, cow, donkey and camel skins were used to manufacture chamois, shagreen,  Russian leather, buckskin, etc. At the end of nineteenth and beginning of twentieth century, there were many craft centers on the territory of Uzbekistan that processed and produced leather products. Renown leatherwork centres included Baysun, Shakhrisabz, Karshi, Kitab, Samarkand, Urgut, Bukhara, Khodjeyli, Nukus, Urgench, Khiva, Tashkent, Andijan, Namangan, Kokand, Ferganaand Margilan.

Leather items were decorated with embossing, tambour embroidery, coloured leather applique and metal plates. The art of embroidering the skin with silk threads was men’s craft. Often sitting in their stores and workshops at the market, right in front of the customer, they would quickly embroider ornate patterns using tambour stitching on top of chembar (men’s pants) as well as on velvet and cotton saddle-cloths and blankets for the pack and riding animals. The range of traditional men’s, women’s and children’s footwear from leather was great; it included makhsi moccasins and kavush overshoes on top of them, amirkon mahoi moccasins from black lacquered leather and varnished amirkonkavush overshoes and etik (high-heeled boots). Book covers and paper folders (dzhuzgir) were in great demand, They were decorated with the finest embossed patterns, sometimes gold plated.

In between 1920s and 1980s, the art of leatherwork underwent certain changes. Its development goes in two directions: industrial and artisanal. Under new conditions, many of the products that associated with old way of life are no longer made.  In 1990s, there is a further decline in production of traditional leather items. In the 2000s, steps were taken to revive the best traditions of this craftsmanship. Using old technology and artistic techniques, modern artisans create various leather items with traditional characteristics. Particular attention is paid to the production of leather book covers, mostly used as souvenir. In connection with the revival of miniature painting, beautifully crafted leather has found its new use: often artisans are using this material for their ornamental and thematic compositions.

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