About Uzbekistan

Gijduvon ceramics
22 December 2017

Gijduvon is mostly known now for its ceramics: the so called "Bukhara ceramics" that is known all over the world is actually comes from Gijduvon, a small satellite city 40 km from Bukhara. G'ijduvon craftsmen play important role in the local economy and their work is a major attraction for tourists. The town has a distinct style of the pottery which is defined by applying a unique turquoise-bluish color to the pottery.

The most famous potters and the largest workshop here belongs to Narzulaev family that is producing pottery for 7 generations now. Their workshop is very close to the park, on one of the surrounding streets, if you stand with your back facing the aiwan of Ulugbek madrasah it will be on the right.

... There are two main centers of pottery in present day Uzbekistan - Rishtan in the Fergana Valley and Gijduvon near Bukhara. And Khorezm used to be as well, but nowadays practically no one makes pottery there. Rishtan chose to go way of mass production by producing a cheap and same type Fergana pottery that is very pleasant to the eye. Most of Uzbekistan is using their pottery that can be even found in large markets of big cities in former USSR.

The potters from Gijduvon chose a different path, and their ceramics are still not mass produced and rather an art than business. In the time of the Bukhara Emirate there were 41 workshops functioning here, of which 5 workshops belonged to the Narzulaevs' ancestors - the brothers Narzi and Tosh, the sons of Ergash Kulyal (Potter) and the grandchildren of the Sharifiddin Gijduvansky dynasty, who was born in 1790 and died in 1885. Their main rivals were the family of Umarovs, but the Soviet authority, dispossession and prohibition of entrepreneurship made them reconcile: Tosh disappeared in 1937, and Narzi died a few years earlier, leaving a widow with a 5-year-old Ibadullah, and soon impoverished Usman Umarov married her. When Soviet power handed out Uzbek names with Russian suffix, Ibadullo became Narzulayev as the son of Narzi, and, having grown up, managed to preserve and unite the craft secrets of his father and stepfather.

Folk crafts became popular and even fashionable at the times of USSR much later, and as the result by the middle of the 20th century Bukhara ceramics remained only in museums and old houses. And the ups and downs of life led Ibadullo to the other end of a large country - to Riga, where was a huge ceramic factory founded in the 19th century by the Russian Old Believers Kuznetsov family. Then by chance he met Constantine Simonov, who was imbued with the knowledge of the potter from Orient, and under his patronage Ibadullo Narzievich began to revive Uzbek ceramics in the Latvian factory. Times began to change, Ibadullo had 11 children, whom he also passed on his secrets, and two of them - Alisher and Abdullah - themselves became eminent potters and revived the ancient art already in their homeland. Their children are now 7th in generation who keep the family business and ancient traditions alive.

Below you will have a chance to have a brief excursion along the entire production chain in this long building from a picture above. The workshop itself:

Examples of pottery and some sketches - Narzulaev family has about 80 standard forms and more than 200 ornaments:

And as already mentioned, the Narzulaevs did not follow the path of large-scale production to reduce costs, but decided to preserve traditions as much as possible. They have modern technology, like this mechanical potter's wheel, but whenever possible the Narzulaevs, like their ancestors, use an old kick wheel:

The main material is a mixture of clay extracted from a depth of one and a half meters (80%) with river clay (20%):

Some reed fluff is also added there - hence the reeds at the 3d picture from above 

Gijduvon craftsmen use an engobe - special clay paints, each color is extracted from different deposits located far away from Gijduvon: red ones from Mount Karnab in the Nurata Range, yellow in the Kyzylkum Desert near Gazli, white comes from the deposit in the vicinity of Tashkent.

Engobe is painted and the drawing is raised up, you can even feel it with your eyes, but at the same time it is so thin than can fit into the several layers of the glaze, and all this makes painted dishes look very lively

By the way, the actual potters (kulal) and masters of painting (nakkosh) are traditionally different artists, and the best potter dynasties were those, where both these arts were in the hands of one person or even one family:

In the next room is a mill, which is usually rotated by the donkey. The glaze is melted here from kaolin, quartz and other components, the most exotic of which is ishkor - the coal of the grass of the same name, which can’t be cultivated and is collected in the desert. The composition of the components can vary, resulting in the change of color, for example, the ishkor glaze is blue (however, it is more typical for Rishtan, the Gijduvan colors are earthy). You can grind 40 kilograms of glaze at a time on such a mill:

Clay, paint and glaze must dry before each next step, so the complete cycle of creating the product (not counting the procurement of materials) is about 10 days.

The next room is apparently just a utility room:

And at the end of the chain is a baking oven. It is heated with gas mainly, but for especially valuable products they use in line with the tradition mulberry and waste products of cotton production:

Here is the furnace, where heat is pumped up to 1050 degrees, with the temperature rising for 20 hours and falling for 30 hours:

That’s how the pottery looks like before baking - the glaze is white and under its layers you can notice three-dimensional colors. Pay attention to clay "paws" - they are used so that things do not come into contact with each other and with the furnace floor:

That’s how they put them in the furnace – they assure it's safe:

The glaze becomes transparent under 500-600 degrees, under 700-900 it gets its glisten, and when the temperature reaches 1050 degrees drops appear on it, which on one side show that it is time to cool, and on the other hand drops serve as some kind of "business cards" of Narzulayev ceramics, a symbol of happiness and prosperity. And that’s how the waste looks like - overexposed plate that was deformed and stained from the heat:

On the other side of the workshop courtyard is a cafe for visiting tour groups. There are a lot of quails in small separate cages. These awkward birds make very strange sounds, not like bird singing, but still very beautiful and even mind-bending. In addition, each quail has its own sound and rhythm, and therefore a dozen quails ‘singing’ create a completely special atmosphere:

Opposite it is a museum where you can see the standards and masterpieces of the local art

One of Narzulayev's symbols is abr patterns (abr - in translation, cloud).  These type of pottery is warm and lively. Gijduvan ceramics also "sings", emitting characteristic sonorous crackles when drying after washing. Gijduvon ceramics is not delicate and strong enough for the daily use, that is, not only a decoration to hang it on the wall, but to be used for its original purpose. 

There are also other schools of ceramics of Uzbekistan that you can see in the museum: the right half on the photo above and on the photo below. In the photo below the top row is the blue & white ceramics of Khorezm, which once was famous far beyond its borders, but now it has become extremely rare as Khorezm masters prefer to make tiles; in addition, the Khorezm pottery is the most fragile, as the clay is too salty. The lower row is the pottery from Rishtan, and not the mass produced plates for souvenir shops, but the creation of local ustos (masters), covered with the "heavenly" ishkor glaze: on the right are two plates of the Nazirov dynasty, on the left there is a large lagan (dish) of the famous nakkosh (master of painting) Sharafidin Yusupov. What is not represented here is the pottery from Afrosiab, which ancient tradition the masters in Bukhara are trying to revive, and its feature is Arabic inscriptions and hadiths (quotes and episodes of the life of the Prophet). In general, the differences between regional schools are quite obvious:

In the next room everything is locally produced in Gijduvon by Narzulaev family:

The prices for Narzulaev ceramics vary, for example a large lagan (dish) costs 45 dollars, plates and pialas on average 20-30 dollars – quite a reasonable price for top-class handmade pottery.

Narzulaevs have their own web site (outdated, but they say a new on will be launched soon) and the page at Facebook

Address: Gijduvan Street. Kimsan, 24
Tel: (+998 6557)27-412, 22-412, 21-098

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