We caught up with designer Cristi Ambroson of Tessera to learn more about her incredible collection of ikats and suzanis that she handpicks in Uzbekistan from local markets and artisans’ homes.
What inspired you to start Tessera?
Tessera’s inspiration comes from a long-standing Ambroson holiday tradition. My parents and I take turns giving the others the travel books for the location of our next visit the following year. It is always the last gift opened and usually a surprise. The rest of the family may think they know where we will go, but usually there is a twist. Once we have all arrived at our destination, mom, dad and I regularly meander very far “off the beaten path.” But no matter how much we have wandered, we have learned that many truths are universal: we all laugh, cry and love our children dearly.
The photographs of the places we visit and children we meet are my most treasured souvenirs - along with the objects and artifacts that we have collected over the years. Over the past few years, I began seeking an endeavor that would bring these passions together. Tessera was conceived.
Can you tell us about the history behind the suzanis and ikats that you have collected from Uzbekistan?
Hundreds of years ago, the Uzbeki women created embroidered textiles in different shapes and patterns as decorative items and as protective covers for their possessions. Weddings were the seeds of amazing accessories. Traditional nomadic wedding ceremonies included a patchwork ceremonial cloth and head ornaments for the bride’s camel. The bride carried her dowry pieces in a plain colored cloth embroidered with a triangular pattern on two opposite corners. The pattern, symbolic of the evil eye, offered protection.
The dowry pieces were called the “Suzani”, a Persian or Farsi word for “needle”. They were an integral part of a woman’s artistic expression for hundred’s of years. Tradition stated that once a girl was born, her mother would start embroidering the Suzani for her; as the daughter grew older, she would join in the process. Considered treasured possessions, the Suzani were only used for special occasions, and depending on the wealth of the family, a dowry included about ten Suzani. An average Suzani is said to take two to two and a half years to complete.
The word “ikat” means “to bind” and it has come to describe both a very ancient weaving technique and the vibrant fabrics that are created through this special craft. These exquisite textiles were once used in ceremonial dress, to decorate the entrances of homes, and to symbolize wealth and prestige. Today, they are considered a form of art.
What is your favorite thing about visiting Uzbekistan?
I love meeting and seeing all the people and children. I also enjoy the hunt of finding new treasures.
Check out our collection of Tessera’s handcrafted ikat pillows here, inspired by the antique ikats that Cristi discovered in Uzbekistan.