Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium, (2004).


Presented at “Appropriation • Acculturation • Transformation,” Textile Society of America 9th Biennial Symposium, Oakland, California, October 7-9, 2004. Copyright 2004 Textile Society of America.


Textile patterns and motifs are powerful cultural markers conveying much more than mere geographic origin. Businesses and even governments have harnessed the meanings conveyed through the visual construct of textile patterns by adapting and interpreting them into products. This resulting, distinctive "otherness" has been used to express geo- and sociopolitical interests, ethnic identity and unity.

This paper investigates a curious example of textile pattern appropriation and explores its geopolitical and cultural meanings within a particularly volatile time and place. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Central Asian embroidered textiles and silk ikats began appearing in markets. Along with these textiles cropped up an occasional porcelain plate glazed with patterns mimicking Central Asian ikat textiles. The glazes are sprayed through stencils cut to mimic ikats' irregular outlines. Color schemes echo those commonly seen in ikat chapan from present-day Uzbekistan. Most have curious back stamps that simultaneously reveal, yet conceal their origins and date of manufacture.

Who manufactured these plates and when? For whom were they intended and what did they mean to their users, who obviously treasured them? These ikat patterned plates, an art of everyday life, mirror the sociopolitical zeitgeist from about 1901 to 1914 and reflect increased Russian geopolitical interests connected to oil and war. The Russian-made ikat patterned plates echo commercial and political attempts to unify the empire's far-flung people and diverse cultures. However, such attempts actually contributed to awakening nationalism - an awakening in part achieved through the visual power and culture of ikat.