Uzbek scissors are unlike any others in their extraordinary anthropomorphic design and customization. They are not merely tools for creation, but artworks in their own right. Zavkiddin Kamalov, a blacksmith from the ancient Silk Road-city of Bukhara, has dedicated himself exclusively to perfecting the artform. He is part of a long tradition of craftsmen in Uzbekistan that stretches back to the middle ages.
Bukhara became a rich state during the 14th-16th centuries. Its aristocracy developed a taste for clothing adorned with thick gold embroidery, which is created by embroidering over intricate templates made from a thick, sturdy material such as cardboard or leather. To cut these templates and metallic threads the embroiderers needed sharp scissors forged from hard metal tailored to their craft. In the 19th century, a desire for tools that were as elegant and ornate as they were effective led to the development of bird-shaped shears like those Zavkiddin and his family have made for generations.
Zavkiddin’s scissors are mostly made from recycled carbon steel that is harvested from old engines and machines. While there are many artisans in Bukhara that make similar scissors, Zavkiddin’s are especially ornate, engraved with feathery patterns, sometimes incorporating gemstones. His scissors come in a variety of sizes, as well, from under four inches to a foot in length. While their ornamental appearance may have some viewers believing they are intended to be decorative, they are surprisingly comfortable to use and very sharp.