The word ikat is internationally used for the process of resist dyeing threads before weaving. “Abrband” is the Uzbek term for this process, meaning “tying a cloud.” Aziz Murtazaev and his craft studio Ikat-Uz, a cooperative of independent artists–including five masters and more than 43 workers in the fields of ikat weaving, natural dyeing, and block printing–are redefining traditional silk ikat through contemporary design.
The making of Aziz’s ikats is a family and community undertaking involving over 35 processes and using all local raw materials. Once the silk threads from local silkworm farmers are ready Aziz and his team of masters begin the designing and dyeing of his warps–the dyeing process alone taking up to ten days. Dye colors come from a variety of sources including pomegranate and onion skins, walnut shells, turmeric, and even “fruits and vegetables that we eat at home,” Aziz explains. The dyed warp is dried, given to a master for making heddles, then to a weaver–most of whom are women from neighboring rural areas.
Aziz’s hometown of Margilan was once famous for its silk production until central Asia came under Soviet control. The 1990s brought independence back to Uzbekistan and its textile arts have again flourished. Aziz’s studies in finance and business, combined with his love for color and pattern, have allowed him to expand his business internationally. He has published a book on natural dyeing techniques, was awarded a UNESCO and World Craft Council “Award of Excellence”, and recently appointed a Vice President of the World Craft Council. “I am proud that life turned me into an artist,” says Aziz. “Determination, persistence and initiative helped us to find a market niche for our products, contributing to the development of craft and culture, maintaining the family, educating children, and…collaborating with other artisans to pass our skills to future generations, giving as much job opportunities as possible for people from our community.”