Shavkiddin Kamalov lives and works in the ancient city of Bukhara, Uzbekistan, where, since childhood, he learned his family’s historic occupation of blacksmithing. In addition to his bustling workshop, Shavkiddin, together with his relatives, operates the Blacksmith’s Museum in the neighborhood of Kulyuta Caravansarai, with the aim of preserving Bukharan handicraft. There, visitors can not only learn the history of the ancient blacksmith’s craft but also participate in making their own metal items.
The history of blacksmithing in Uzbekistan spans hundreds of generations of expert craftsmen. In addition to the manufacture of utilitarian tools, Shavkiddin and his team of artisans produce items which have both practical and aesthetic applications, like scissors, for instance, with elaborately configured bird forms; when the user opens up the scissors to cut something, the bird’s beak becomes a set of twin blades. It’s usable artwork of the highest caliber. The artisan has also perfected the labor-intensive, anciently preserved craft of knife-making. Gorgeously carved and sometimes inlaid wooden handles support elegantly curved, shimmering blades. Shavkiddin has said, “Life for us is an everyday search for new shapes, forms, and material to perfect and enhance our quality of work and craftsmanship.”
A sixth-generation blacksmith, he continues to break new ground with his workshop and museum. Along with not only his own father but also his two sons, Shavkiddin makes sure the integrity and rich tradition of Uzbek metallurgy will persevere for generations to come.