Silk Road Ceramics of Uzbekistan

Silk Road Ceramics of Uzbekistan

Some of the first creations of prehistoric humans were containers meant to carry and store food and belongings. All over the world, people learned to make vessels, dishes, pots and vases out of clay. What began as a necessity evolved into a decorative art form through the centuries, with each locality boasting its own characteristic shapes, colors and motifs.

An Ancient, Fragile CraftIn Uzbekistan, that art is very much alive. Centers of Silk Road ceramics production sprang up in the vicinity of Gijduvan, Rishtan, Samarkand and Tashkent long ago, and are still flourishing.

Just as food varies from region to region, so do ceramics. Why? For starters, the clay itself is different from region to region, and so are the local ingredients used for dyes to paint the plates and jars. Even more, every artist’s eye sees things a little differently.

Pottery in Gidjuvan, Uzbekistan

Pottery in Gidjuvan, Uzbekistan
Photo: Devin Connolly

Gijduvan CeramicsNear Bukhara, Gijduvan has been a ceramics center for 1,500 years. Gijduvan-school ceramics are characterized by flower motifs and natural colors with an emphasis on greens and browns, and are unusually lustrous because of the clay-heavy paint they are brushed with.

On a tour with MIR, you can visit the Gijduvan workshop of the Narzulaev brothers, whose work includes more than sixty different shapes, using over a hundred design motifs and a variety of natural colors. You can observe the process of preparing the clay by hand (or foot, as sometimes the air is pressed out from the clay mass by walking on it), turning it on the potter’s wheel, firing it in the wood-fired kilns and painting and glazing the resulting dishes.

A Case of Blues: Rishtan CeramicsBlue is the favored color in Uzbekistan’s lush Fergana Valley, home to Rishtan, the oldest oasis for ceramic art in Central Asia. On a MIR tour, you can visit the studios of master artisans here, watching them shape balls of naturally pure, local reddish clay into lagan, plates for plov, piala, bowls for drinking tea, and the big jars called khum.

Next, they paint free-form local designs onto this earthenware, from fruit and flowers to branches and butterflies. Finally, Rishtan’s prized glaze called ishkor (made from ashes of herbs) is applied and baked, resulting in a profusion of blue hues: cobalt, turquoise, ultramarine, robin’s egg and indigo.

The beautiful blue hue Rishtan is known for<br>Photo: David Parker

The beautiful blue hue Rishtan is known for
Photo: David Parker

Travel to Uzbekistan with MIR

MIR has nearly 30 years of travel experience in Central Asia and has an affiliate office in Uzbekistan. We have a roster of contacts that can take you to places that you didn’t even know you wanted to go. Our full service, dedication, commitment to quality, and destination expertise have twice earned us a place on National Geographic Adventure’s list of “Best Adventure Travel Companies on Earth.”

Get a first-hand look at how these traditional Uzbek ceramics are made on MIR’s small group tours that include a visit to a master’s ceramic workshop:

You can also book a custom private journey.

Top Photo: A variety of hand-painted plates in Gijduvan. Photo: David Parker

PUBLISHED: March 28, 2016

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  • MARGUERITE russell

    I traveling with MIR on October 20 through November 6 with Smithsonian. I wish to purchase a full set (8) Piala and saucers, Lagan dishes, and (3) Khum. Will you be able to provide shipping from Narzulaev Brothers Tour or from our hotel????????? Thanks.