The arts and crafts of Uzbekistan have enjoyed a well-earned fame for centuries. The pre-eminence of the applied art here can be attributed to historical conditions shaping the cultural development of the Uzbek people. Uzbeks have developed their technical and artistic traditions over centuries. The applied art reflects everyday life; its main attribute is the close connection between artistic creativity and daily material necessity.
The social nature of decorative art lies in its collectivity. Art is the heritage of many generations; it represents a series of consecutive layers, which reflect people's culture through the ages. The skills and knowledge imparted by various ethnic groups that eventually came together to constitute the Uzbek nation created this diversity of artistic traditions that is the distinguishing feature in works of art of all genres.
Architectural-decorative art holds a prominent place in the arts and crafts of Uzbekistan. Principles of ornamental construction and profound knowledge of the plastic and artistic properties of local building materials that were well-known throughout the Middle East, such as ghanch (a sort of alabaster), wood, stone, and ceramics, constitute the time-tested fundamentals of this ancient art. The world famous architectural monuments of Bukhara, Samarkand, Khiva, and other cities of Uzbekistan testify to the professional mastery of mediaeval artists and architects, ornamental designers and calligraphers, engravers and ceramists.
In Uzbekistan, wall painting and sculptural carving as well as ornamental carving and painting have been practised since ancient and early medieval periods. The 9th and 10th centuries saw a period of particularly intensive development of ornamental, floral-vegetal polychromatic paintings and relief carving. The more elaborate use of ornamental forms and compositions formed the basis for principles approved by experts through the ages and are observed and adhered to even nowadays. Nakkoshi - Masters of ornamental painting usually practiced ghanch and wood architectural painting simultaneously. The most noted masters of wall painting were the Bukhara nakkoshi of the last century.
Production of papier mache and lacquer painting on papier mache thrived in Samarkand at the beginning of the 15th century, as testified by genuine ornamental papier mache medallions found miraculously preserved set into the interior of Gur- Emir and in the Bibi-Khanym mosque. Of special interest is the completely restored golden-blue dome in the interior of the main hall of Gur-Emir, composed of 998 papier mache elements, of which 112 are original and have since been the object of painstaking restoration. There are reasonable grounds for conjecture that it was Samarkand artists who introduced this skill to North India in the 15th century, where it has developed and is nowadays flourishing. Papier mache articles: pencil-boxes of various sizes, expensive book-covers, chess, caskets, boxes of different sorts, vases, and other small items, were decorated with miniature vegetative patterns. Inscriptions were often incorporated into the ornamentation on pencil- boxes. The paint was applied with thin brushes on a base made of gold or bronze powder, sheet gold and bronze on an apricot and cherry glue. The preparation of lacquers and colours for papier mache was a sophisticated and highly skilled process.
From the numerous genres of applied arts in Uzbekistan, the decorative ceramic stands out. The first samples found in the Republic by archaeologists date back to ancient times. Throughout the ages the unique expressiveness and restrained elegance of the best of Uzbek ceramics have revealed the genuine creative genius of the nation.
There are dishes, lyagans, spherical cups, pials, kyosas, vases, jugs, pots, and large and small khums, convenient for use and, at the same time, refined in form. For many centuries and even now, there has been a demand for pottery from across the broad mass of the population. The works are distinguished by skilled workmanship, beauty of form, enchanting ornamental forms, richly imaginative designs, and a deep sense of the harmony of colour. There are two kinds of decorative ceramics in Uzbekistan: baked terracotta and slip glaze ceramics. The last 100-150 years has seen clearly defined ceramic centres establish themselves in Uzbekistan: Gizhduvan, Shakhrisabsz, Samarkand, Tashkent, Rishtan, and Khorezm. Over the last few decades, the works of ceramists of Gurumsarai, Denau, and Chimbai in Kara-Kalpakstan have also gained in popularity.
The ceramics produced in these centres may be differentiated by their two colour groups: blue-white-green and green-brown- yellow. This is mostly due to technical reasons. In the Fergana valley and Khorezm, where the alkaline glaze ishkor is used, blue-white- green paintings are predominant, because yellow and red colours decompose under the ishkor glaze, whereas the blue and green colours give a set of fine bright and gentle tints. In the areas where lead glaze is used as in Samarkand, Bukhara, and Tashkent, all shades of yellow-red-brown gamma are very popular. The ceramic paintings in these districts are defined by their deep, glowing colour range, and at the same time their surprisingly delicate beauty.
A less prominent though important branch of metal-working in Uzbekistan is the art of knife-making. The knives are highly sharpened and kept in leather sheaths decorated with metallic plates, embroidery, applique, or painting. Such knives are called ghuldor pichok, meaning 'elegant, decorated knife'. The forms are various. The blades differ according to where they are made: narrow or wide, straight or curved, as do the hafts: singlepiece or composite, wooden or bone, encrusted or painted.
Of the ancient centres of artistic knife-making there remain prominent schools in Chust in the Fergana valley and Khiva in Khorezm.
Fabric design in Uzbekistan is an outstanding example of folk art. The past and present are wonderfully combined - the traditions of ancient folk art woven together with the knowledge and understanding of modern times. The art of decorative fabric acts as a kind of history book, reflecting its centuries-old development, and embodying the creative work of many thousands of talented masters and artists. In the second half of the 19th century, in many cities and settlements (Marghilan, Namangan, Bukhara, Andizhan, Samarkand, Kitab, Gizhduvan, Urghut, and Besharyk), miscellaneous plain and patterned hand-made cotton, silk, half-silk fabrics of simple and complex texture were developed.Gold Embroider They were used for clothes and house decoration.
Thick cotton and silk, nap velvet - bakhmal, moire repp - adras, bekasab, and banoras, the finest and lightest silk shawls kalgai, rustling and chatoyant shokhs - kanauses; uniquely picturesque, original in their contrast range and harmony of colour, satins, yakruya, and khan-atlases; Ferghana and Samarkand coverlets with their misty and gentle patterns were particularly famous. The ornamentation on these fabrics consisted primarily of stripes and patterns, noted for their indistinct, fuzzy outlines. This technique in Central Asia is called abrbandi, and the fabrics abr.