Craftsmanship & Tradition
Since ancient times the Azeri people have conveyed their life and history, feelings and dreams through handmade carpets, rugs and knitted crafts. Through this, they can restore and cherish their old traditions.
Enabling much closer familiarization with Azerbaijan's cultural heritage, the inimitable artefacts colourfully illustrating Azerbaijani history and culture, like die ceramic and metal items, art glass and thread, miniatures, carpets, embroidery and jewellery are displayed in the world's best known museums or are part of private collections; are kept in the museums of dozens of countries around the world. For instance, tire exhibits of the Victoria and Albeit Museum in London, the Louver in Paris, the Metropolitan Museum in Washington, the museums of Vienna, Rome, Berlin, Istanbul, Tehran and Cairo include marvellous items made by the skilled hands of craftsmen from Tabriz, Nakhchivan, Ganja, Gazakh, Quba, Baku, Sheki, Shamakhi and Ordubad.
Nearly every city of present-day Azerbaijan can be V called a "city of craftsmen" because in the past each of them had a reputation far beyond the country's borders as a center of famous craftsmen: carpel weavers, jewellers, armorers, weavers an embroiders, stone carvers etc. From the ancient Louvre and Hermitage to the present day remarkable souvenirs, household utensils and hand-made jewellery; the Azerbaijan craftsmanship has not only come centuries afar, but still takes an important element in the contemporary world.
The most significant forms of handcrafts in Azerbaijan took forms and major ones included metal craft, embroidery and woodcarving.
Woodcarving is widely spread in Azerbaijan, decorating the design of houses. Special bars are made for windows called "shebeke" and they are cut from wood or assembled without nails or glue from thin wooden plates. In wood carving and other types of applied art, geometrical ornament and stylized inscription of plants are dominant.
As far back as 2,000 B.C ancestors of Azerbaijanis used objects made of bronze, daggers, axes, waist belts, gold ornaments, etc. in their everyday lives. As years passed on, metal craft in Azerbaijan was being perfected.
The Middle Ages are thought to be the peak of this craft development.
During this period the craftsmen forged various kinds of metal armor and household objects: utensils, amazing jewellery and other samples of skilful workmanship many of which have survived up to now.
Later, the Azeri craftsmen stalled making headdresses and waist belts from precious metals decorated with engraved ornaments. Some ornaments on engraved objects were often combined with Arabic language inscriptions. Arabic characters supplemented the ornaments and made them even more beautiful.
Azerbaijani copper craftsmen using hot forging could shape their goods any way they liked, and today, more than 80 kinds of copper items are known.
On this note, it should be noted that the basic manufacturing techniques were engraving, embossing, harasavad, shebeke, khatem karlyg and glazing.
Embroidery is the most ancient folk art revealing rich spiritual world of Azerbaijani people. The technique and a composition of Azerbaijani embroidery traces its roots bark to extreme antiquity.
The beginning of Azerbaijani embroidery can be established on the basis of archaeological data.
The simplest ornaments similar to the embroidered ones straight lines and broken lines, zigzags, dot ornament, circles, triangles, diamonds - can be found on ceramic vessels of the early Bronze Age (3,000 ВС).
The embroidered articles were distinguished by abundance and variety of ornaments most popular of which were flowers: a rose, narcissus, pink, poppy, lily, blossoms of fruit trees as well as ears and leaves of various shapes.
The favored embroidery patterns showed birds: a nightingale, peacock, pigeon, раrrot, hoopoe, sparrow, pheasant, quail, partridge and others. From among the fauna representatives the most popular were goitered gazelles, turtles, snakes-dragons, horses, etc.
The popular household utensils were also a topic for embroidery: pink water vessels, comb cases, cosmetics bottles, jugs and others. The most widespread Azerbaijani embroidery types were: gold sewing, damask stitch, chain stitch; spangles, beads, platelet sewing, "pinning", motif, spiral embroidery and fillet work.
The most ancient of all kinds of embroidery is gold sewing.
It was done on closely woven fabrics. The most often embroidered items were outer women's wear, head wears, household articles, horse harness ornaments and smaller items. There was even a custom to include things decorated with gold sewing into the bride's dowry.
The basic fabrics for chain stitch were locally made or imported velvet and cloth of red, black and deep blue colors.
A complex and intricate pattern was executed by means of bright silk threads on a dark background. Chain stitch was not exclusively women's craft. Many men showed their great skill in this kind of applied art.
First a craftsman embroidered a contour hue of the future drawing on a tambour fastened material and then filled the entire internal field with embroidery.
Chain stitch was used to decorate women's wear, cushion cases, bath mats, and coverlets. Another widely used technique of embroidery was damask stitch.
This embroidery type was created by means of silk and woollen threads of soft pastel tones often in combination with gold ones. Damask stitch was applied clothes, wall ornaments, face veils, curtains etc.
Very interesting are pearls and beads embroidery patterns which decorated apparel elements, household objects etc.
Spangle embroidery is the technique of sewing spangles onto a fabric along the contour of the color silk thread patterns. Motif and spiral arc relatively young embroidery techniques.
Azerbaijan is famous for its carpets, but its craftwork of silk, pottery and copper also make a great souvenir to bring back with you.
A pot of caviar is also a good idea for a present! Be aware though that the export of any cultural item, even if it has no artistic value, is subject to authorisation by the Ministry of Culture and to export tax.