Khiva Silk Workshops
The inspiration for our first ever majolica carpet came from the tomb of Said Allaudin. The design on this tomb, one of the oldest and most holy in Khiva, was so similar to the Timurid border designs, that we decided to turn it into a carpet, with pleasing results.
Since then, we have taken tile designs from cooling Aywans in the Khan's palaces and from the portals of madrassahs and the richly ornamented walls of the Khan's harem. Interestingly, the tiles adorning the harem walls have been designed to resemble hanging carpets and most tile designs consist of an inner field design and a thick, ornamented border, much like a carpet.
Unlike mosaics, the majolica tiles of Khiva are nailed into the walls. Due to the large amount of tiles needed to cover many of the aywans, they were often produced in different kilns. Looking closer, it can be observed that each tile contains an Arab numeral so that they could be easily assembled tile by tile. The designs are known as 'islimi' or arabesque, and consist of swirling fronds and stalks, dotted with buds, leaves and flowers. The designs were to cool the eye and bring to mind eternity. Most of our designs in this collection have come from tiled aywans, which were simple air-cooling systems. An aywan consists of three walls and a high ceiling with one side facing north to catch the cooling northern breezes and circulate them. One or two carved pillars usually propped up the open side, and traditional Khivan houses all had simple, unadorned aywans where the family would live in summer.
The term 'majolica' comes from the island of Majorca where ceramics and tiles bearing the combination of white, deep blue and turquoise were first made. This cooling combination of colours became extremely popular in the scorching heat of North African summers and soon the colour combination had spread eastwards across the Islamic world to Persia and then later, to Khiva.