A Brief Introduction to Suzani and Popular Suzani Field Designs

Which pillow will look lovely in the bedroom? And, if your partner says “Suzani pillows” (https://www.alesouk.com/product-category/cushions-pillows/suzani-cushions/) then your partner has a good sense of interior design. Today, people usually see Suzani as a print style. However, if you go to the Uzbekistan area, you will find that Suzani is an elaborately embroidered fabric. Suzani pillows easily get noticed due to large floral medallions and colorful vines.

Suzani is a Farsi word which means ‘needle’. However, people living in the west have a different description for this world. For us, Suzani is a specific type of embroidery done on silk or cotton. And, according to the western textile industry, embroidery and/or any other technique from the Middle Eastern tribes is Suzani. Suzani is a widespread household decoration in the Middle East. The motifs, patterns and designs on Suzani symbolize long life, luck, health and fertility.

The Decline and Rediscovery of Suzani

When Russians occupied the Central Asia, the circumstances and values of tribes expert in Suzani were changed for a brief span of time. This art was almost declined when some Russian ethnographers started making attempts for identifying the meaning of symbols on Suzanis. However, the meaning of some symbols had already been lost. The original ideas behind these symbols were lost. However, the art of Suzani was rediscovered. Some of the best examples of Suzani in the western world were found in British private collections. These pieces were sent to Britain by British families living in the Indian subcontinent. However, these examples are very different from the well-known types.

Variation in Suzani

There is a plenty of variations in this traditional art form. Artworks in the same region or in the same tribe come with great similarities. However, no two handmade Suzani artworks are completely identical. There is some degree of similarity in the objects made in the same region, village or by the same family. However, some of the Suzanis are inspired by the style of more than one region. Certain types of Suzanis come from specific places. The ground cloth, width, motif drawing style, guard pattern, the border, handling of individual ornaments, embroidery techniques, shades of colors; the presence of lining fabric, braiding or edging are the common characteristics that are very similar in all Suzanis made by a family, in a village or in a region.

Common Suzani Field Designs

The design scheme and the border are the primary and secondary identifications respectively used to categorize Suzani. These field designs come from different tribes or regions. Some of the most popular Suzani field designs are:

Flowers

Flowers of different species are used to represent indigenous flora. All species had a different symbolic significance. However, with the arrival of Russians and industrialization, the ancient folklore of the region disappeared. Now, the significances of these symbols have been changed according to the contemporary needs.

Bouquets of Flowers

Bouquets of flowers are used to depict the art of the garden from the different regions. For example, Suzani from Kermina, Samarkand, Bukhara, Tashkent, Ura-Tube and Shakhrisyabz feature motifs.

Four and One

This design is a composition of the most common Suzani designs. There is a central motif which is surrounded by four similar motifs. The fours motifs at the corners are usually smaller than the central motif.

Double Edge

There is a second level of design which is overlaid on a field composition. This type of Suzanis comes from Zarafshan Valley.

Medallions

These designs are inspired by the art of illumination and book binding. These designs are originated in Persia. However, similar designs are also found in other regions.

Rows of Ornament

This design features a series of similar ornaments that are repeated in one or more than one vertical column.

Prayers or Niche

These Suzanis are divided into different types according to the size. The largest one with the plain center and embroidered border is called Ruijos. Single-niche and small Suzani prayer mats are also very popular.

Lattice

This design features a wide range of schemes such as diamond trellis made up of fine stems or leaf stems. There might be top-view flowers, side-view flowers or a combination of both side-view and top-view flowers within the lattices.

Ascending Tree

This design features a variety of flowers, leaves and buds. This art comes from fertile valleys surrounded by mountains and deserts in different regions.

The Fish Pond

This is a rare Suzani design from Kermina. Blue is the dominating color in these Suzanis. However, some of these Suzanis come with features of Suzani from Bukhara and Karshi.

The Black Dot Group

This Suzani design features scrolling black tendrils. These black tendrils are terminated with a large black dot. These designs are embroidered using the Ilmok technique. This embroidery is outlined with beautiful patterns.

Spiral Arabesque

This design is a sophisticated composition. Spiral Arabesque design is also found in oriental carpet designs. This design features outward and inward pointing palmettes. Side-view flowers connected to stems create a series of diamonds and circles. This design comes from Nurata and Bukhara region and Zarafshan Valley. The finest Spiral Arabesque Suzanis come from Shakhrisyabz.

Large Medallion Bukhara

This Suzani field design features large central floral medallion. This is the most impressive design from Bukhara. This design is highly regarded among people who love to collect Central Asian embroideries. Basma is the principle stitch used in large medallion Suzanis. Motifs are outlined using Ilmok. Some designs also feature ornaments in Tambur. These medallions can be rectangular, oval or hexagonal. There is a small rosette at the center. Ornaments, birds, human figures and small ewers are used for decorating the remaining areas.