Colorado State University’s Avenir Museum Opens New Exhibit of Fabled Silk Road Region

Colorado State University’s Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising is hosting an exhibit of artifacts from the fabled Silk Road region of Uzbekistan. The exhibit will offer a glimpse of rare late 19th and early 20th century objects along with contemporary creations that reflect traditional techniques and skills.

“Silk Road Artisans of Uzbekistan” opens on Thursday, Feb. 18 and runs through May 28 at the museum, which is located in Room 115 of the University Center for the Arts, 1400 Remington St. The exhibit can be viewed during regular museum hours: 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Monday through Wednesday and Friday and 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. on Thursday. An opening reception, which is open to the public, will be from 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25.

The fabled Silk Road crossed through Central Asia where merchants traded silk brocades, ceramics, gems, spices and perfumes between East and West. Commerce in textiles flourished at legendary Uzbek markets in Samarkand and Bukhara.

“Our goal is to feature four outstanding Uzbek artisans who are reintroducing the world to the beauty of Silk Road textiles and taking them in exciting new directions. All four have received international recognition for their work through UNESCO artisan designations,” said Mary Littrell, head of the Department of Design and Merchandising.

“To create a context for the contemporary artifacts, historic objects will also be displayed from a recent donation of Uzbek textiles by collector Judi Arndt in Colorado Springs. These 19th and 20th century objects are rare because this region has been affected by hundreds of years of war and instability, and it has a climate that does not provide conditions for preservation of textiles,” said Linda Carlson, Avenir Museum curator.

The exhibit features two specific techniques: suzani, a form of embroidery that is an ancient tradition among both village and nomadic people in the region, and ikat, a dyeing technique, long coveted by both the East and West, in which the warp threads of a textile are dyed in multiple colors before the fabric is woven.

“Among the fabulous objects included in the exhibition are men’s ikat robes and traditional as well as new adaptations of traditional ikat patterns, including velvet, created by master craftsmen Rasuljon Mirzaahmedov and Fazlitdin Dadajonev, both of the Fergana Valley, Uzbekistan,” Carlson said. “Traditional suzani will be exhibited next to the contemporary interpretation of suzani by Zarina Kendjaeva of Bukhara and the fashions of Valentina Romanenko, whose studio is in Tashkent. Also included are paranje, the traditional outer garments worn by women in the region, and veils. The paranje are coat-like capes that enclose the body, hanging from the head with long, non-functional sleeves that are drawn to the back and richly decorated with embroidery and tassels.”

The museum is part of the Department of Design and Merchandising in the College of Applied Human Sciences.

In addition to the new exhibit opening, the Avenir today announced newly scheduled lectures and workshops:

Third Thursday Lecture Series
– Mary Cockram, senior director of programs for Aid to Artisans, will discuss successes and challenges that the organization faces in artisan development around the world. Her lecture will place special emphasis on artisan development in Central Asia from 1994-1999. 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25, 136 University Center for the Arts Annex.

– Raisa Garieeva, Uzbek business leader and former director of the Aid to Artisans project in Uzbekistan, will share examples of innovative artisan work during the past 10 years as artisans enter international markets. The lecture includes a market sale of suzani, ikat fabrics and scarves and other crafts. 7 p.m., Thursday, April 8, 136 University Center for the Arts Annex.

Uzbek embroidery and natural dye workshops
In conjunction with the exhibit, the Avenir is offering three workshops featuring Zarina Kendjaeva, a leading and award-winning young textile artisan from Uzbekistan, recognized for her natural dyed rugs and suzani production in Bukhara.

– Natural Dyeing, including indigo, madder, onions and pomegranate skins. Some previous dye experience is necessary, held Saturday, April 10.

– Suzani Embroidery, including chain stitch embroidery using a hook. Some previous embroidery experience is necessary, held Sunday and Monday, April 11 and 12.
Both workshops are from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. and are limited to 20 participants per workshop. The workshops are $100. For more information or to register, contact Linda Carlson at (970)491-1983 or