Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Textile Society of America 2014 Biennial Symposium Proceedings: New Directions: Examining the Past, Creating the Future, Los Angeles, California, September 10–14, 2014,


Copyright 2014 by the author(s).


We are in a place of flux in the textile world, finding our way between shifting philosophies and new technologies. Uzbek warp ikats, or Abr is a traditional textile succeeding in its own culture and becoming a viable cultural import. Abr has a complex and ancient history, and it is important that we learn from it, for the wisdom it can give us in our own textile traditions and for its own beauty. This paper will discuss the changing cultural purpose, production methods and appearance of Uzbek ikats over time, as well as using historic models to question our modern, Western views of traditional textiles and society. Abr is a central part of Uzbek cultural history and deserves to be appreciated for its ancient history and incredible beauty. Its beginning is lost in fairy tales, but we know it was traded on the Silk Road for hundreds if not thousands of years. We have photographs of these ikats worn under Russian colonial rule, and they have managed to survive Soviet collectivization and industrialization. Since independence they have faced appropriation into western design and the changing fashions of a modernizing society but have maintained their integrity and indeed are thriving with a new generation of young designers. The interactions between purpose and product also highlight important questions. Uzbek textiles will serve as a case study of an ‘ethnic’ textile which has survived and thrived without western aid. This, and the widespread use of ikat patterns in western design in the last ten years raise issues of cultural appropriation and superiority. My research will consist of interviews in Uzbekistan, traditional gleaning from western books, papers and lectures and the knowledge absorbed through living in the Uzbek culture.