Sunday, 28 January 2018

Gilded gods of Nepal

God Shiva metal sculpture in Basantapur, Nepal

In every temple, every monastery in Nepal as well as in many private home shrines you will find at least one metal statue of a Hindu or Buddhist deity. These statues vary in size - from a few inches to as tall as 12 feet - but any of them will strike you with beauty, facial expression and exquisite detailed work. Most of them are made from copper, sometimes from bronze or brass and usually gilded (with gold in its purest 24 carat form because gods and deities deserve the best after all), sometimes painted and additionally embellished with semi-precious stones. The earliest extant Nepali cast-copper sculptures date to the 6-8th century. Little has changed since that time as Nepalese artisans has kept the craft alive passing the skills from generation to generation.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Traditional handmade toys of India

Toys are the simplest souvenirs that one can bring from India. They are light and small, so will not take much space in the suitcase; they are handcrafted; they are unique and have strong Indian identity; they are beautiful. And it doesn't matter what part of the country you visit because every region has its own distinctive tradition of toys.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Chikan embroidery of Lucknow

Indian chikankari embroidery

The chikan or chikankari is a delicate and subtle embroidery done in white thread on a white background, though sometimes yellowish silk is also used in addition to the white thread. The embroidery is characterized by the contrasts in texture provided by the delicacy of fine jali work and heavily embossed stitches on fine fabrics. It is amazingly beautiful with its delicate patterns and the excellence of execution. Noor Jehan, wife of the Mughal emperor Jehangir is said to have introduced it to Lucknow. The earliest samples of chikan embroidery that have survived are from the 19th century. It is not clear where the word chikan came from. It might come from Persian where it means "embroidery", or it could be of Bengali origin where it means "very fine thing".

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Traditional Chinese embroidery

19th century Chinese embroidered silk gauze
Mirror Case with Lunar Scene, Qing dynasty, 19th century. Embroidered silk gauze. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Embroiery in China has a long history dating back to the invention of silk four thousand years ago. It is known that the ceremonial garments of the tribal leaders of that time were decorated with embroidered patterns of the sun, the moon, stars, weed, fire and other auspicious symbols.
To date the earliest survived embroidery works are the two 4th century BC pieces unearthed from the Chu Tombs. The patterns of dragon, phoenix, tiger and beast embroidered on silk appear natural and lifelike which gives full credit to the achivements of embroidery art in the ancient China.
The art of embroidery further developed during Qin and Han dynasties. Embroideries of that time represent the artistic style as well as the high level of embroidery and mostly have patterns of ripple-like clouds, soaring phoenix, galloping holy beasts, ribbon-shaped flowers, geometric figures etc, using basically locking method with neat stitching, compact compostion and smooth lines.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Souvenirs from Russia: Khokhloma

Khokhloma tableware Khokhloma tableware, The Golden Khokhloma Museum, Semyonov 

I believe almost every family in Russia owns at least a couple of wooden wares - spoons, or bowls, or maybe plates - painted in the so-called Khokhloma style. These simple utensils coloured with images of grass, berries, flowers and leaves in red, gold and black look really impressive and beautiful. This folk art dates back to the 17th century and is named after the village Khokhloma on the Uzola River in the Nizhniy Novgorod region. One of the distincitive features of the Khokhoma style is the characteristic gold-ish colour which is created without applying real gold. The technique is very peculiar: first the unpainted wooden article is coated with special priming, then with drying oil and a thin layer of aluminium powder. The "silvered" object is then painted with heat-resistant oil, varnished and fired. The gold colour appears during this final stage, when the article is kept in a kiln at up to 90C.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

Japanese hand embroidery

Japanese embroidery, obi
photo source

Until 1980, when pieces of Japanese embroidery were exhibited at the national seminar of the Embroiderers' Guild of America in DalIas, Texas, its embroidery was hardly known outside Japan. One of the things that makes Japanese embroidery unique is the fact that it uses silk threads that come in up to 500 different colors. The pattern, the season and the age group of the person who will use the finished product all come into consideration when choosing the right colors.

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Souvenirs from Vietnam: embroidery

Vietnamese embroidered picture

If you want to bring a meaningful and beautiful souvenir from Vietnam think about buying an embroidered picture. They are rather costly but one doesn't expect a piece of art to be cheap and those embroideries are indeed works of art. There are many motifs to choose from: animals and still life, landscapes and Vietnamese countryside, portraits and flowers.