Five artists share their five stories and advice about how they master rich tradition in their pursuit to bring the crafts industry in Azerbaijan to life, with a modern touch.
Fuzuli Alizade, a mosaic jeweller
Traditions play an extremely important role in human life. Sometimes, traditions conveyed from generation to generation not just influence current circumstances but determine people’s future. My father was a jeweller and suggested that I should follow his steps. This is how I came to the art of jewellery.
Jewellery has been my passion for the last ten years. I started with stone fixing, then switched to the mosaic-making techniques. Subtlety, concepts and ideas expressed in the Azerbaijani mosaic always fascinated me. My skills and love for this art helped me to create complex workpieces dedicated to the Azerbaijani culture such as the Mugham Trio, which displays tar, kaman and gaval - traditional music instruments, against the Oil Rocks landscape. At present, I am working on a project to create a mosaic that will depict historical monuments in the Nagorno-Karabalh region.
My goal is to perpetuate them, pass on the memories to future generations, and get the world to learn about the historical monuments of Azerbaijan.
In future, I want to represent Azerbaijan at exhibitions abroad and introduce my mosaic workpieces to an international audience, gaining international reputation as a professional. Any art development means constant improvement and evolution, customised approach, and most importantly the involvement of new talents and professionals. I advise young people who want to work in the art of jewellery to master their skills, be patient and believe in success.
Aynur Salamzade, a wood products designer
My profession is wood products' design and manufacturing. In my opinion, continuous learning and development are essential to become a true professional. I go through a whole cycle, including the processing of wood materials, product design, embroidery and delivery. The product design process also includes silver and pearl decorations.
Icheri Sheher (the Old City) Centre for Traditional Arts has been an important inspiration for me in my professional choice. After receiving Bachelor's and then Master's degree from the Academy of Arts, I learned about the admission of students to this centre. After attending a number of seminars, I was invited for their three-year education program. I went through training workshops in wood, batik, jewellery and ceramics and I chose the specialty of woodworking and manufacturing last year.
I currently teach geometry and wood design and manufacturing at the SABAH training courses. I recently worked on the political and economic map of Azerbaijan. Within the project, I create the images of Azerbaijani regions using the forms of historical architectural monuments and colour the elements in shades specific to each region. I also have some advice for young people who want to be a wood artist, or a craftsman in general - they should make sure they have passion and enthusiasm for their work.
Love and passion is a must if one wants to succeed. It will take you three-to-five years of training, lots of effort and thinking to become successful.
Ruslan Huseynov, textile imprinting expert
Textile imprinting had been one of the most widespread techniques from the Safavid period up until the end of the 19th, or the beginning of the 20th century. This art included textiles manufacturing by applying a coloured dye on a specially-made canvas fabric with wood forms. In Azerbaijan, textile imprinting was widespread in Nakhichevan, Baku, Shamakhi and used in the manufacturing of the household items as well as clothing. This type of fabric was mainly used in the lining of clothes as well as of curtains, tablecloths and pillows. In the beginning of 20th century, unfortunately, the technique has all but ceased to exist.
The FR Collection brand that I founded has a collection of over 4,000 museum-level traditional Azerbaijani dresses from the 18th-20th centuries. The lining of most of these clothes is a pattern of textiles made with the imprinting technique. When we studied the imprinting technique as part of our brand research, we explored the ways to use it in modern life and fashion. We then launched manufacturing of coats, bags, block notes, shoes using this technique. We currently work on a new Nasimi collection that is scheduled for release next year. The clothes included in the collection will be made with fabric imprinting technique. We also prepare a new shoe collection.
I have to admit that this manufacturing technique is really difficult. We had to steam the pieces of fabric so that they would not lose colour in everyday use and washing. In the future, we plan to open a workshop in Baku for manufacturing of imprinted textiles as well as mass production of household and clothing items.
I recommend you to take this path if you've studied the ancient Azerbaijani ornaments, textile manufacturing techniques, history - and decided that you want to dedicate your life to this art.
Aghasadig Suleymanov, carpet-weaving trainer
Azerbaijani carpet weaving has been one the greatest contributions to our nation for centuries. Technically, the art of carpet weaving is divided into two parts – high-pile and low-pile carpets. First low-pile carpets were weaved and widely used in everyday life. High-pile carpets emerged in the iron age. The first carpet museum in Azerbaijan was initiated in 1967 by Latif Karimov, carpet artist and State Prize Laureate.
Latif Karimov's activity, creativity and the three-volume book Azerbaijani Carpets is a great revolution in the history of Azerbaijani carpet-weaving and was an important factor that encouraged me to choose my profession.
I mastered my knowledge and skills in the art of carpet-weaving at classes taught by talented masters and folk artists that worked at the department of artistic carpet weaving of the Decorative Applied Arts faculty of the Azerbaijan State Academy of Arts. I currently work on various training projects on high-pile and low-pile carpets at the ASMART Creative Hub and pass my expertise to the next generation of carpet artists. I want to continue my education, constantly learn and teach as well. I recommend young artists who want to be carpet artists to acquire scientific knowledge, study history of carpet weaving, ancient techniques used in Azerbaijan and keep working hard.
Sabiha Khankishiyeva, ceramic artist and founder of Sabikhan brand
The age-long art of ceramics is now available to the broader audience of art lovers. Our products include dishes, tea sets and vases which are mostly made in the national, traditional and modern style and with an exclusive design. I have been worked in the art of ceramics for 13 years. Before that, I received a bachelor's and master's degree in ceramics at the Academy of Arts. Then I spent three years at the Prince's School of Traditional Arts. After completing my education and working in this profession for some time, I founded the Sabikhan brand. We treat each customer individually and create an exclusive design to suit their taste.
We currently work on expanding our new collection and product range. At the same time, we bring together ceramic artists and art lovers in the centre. Our goal is to further develop the art of ceramics in Azerbaijan.
My advice to young people who want to become ceramic artists is to master design skills and have strong faith in themselves. They need to be sure that if they want to continue, they will achieve their goals. The art of ceramics is very deep and complex.
Patience and constant learning and development are imperative to succeed, as there is always a long way to go.