Tatar Decorative Art and Ethnic Ornaments
The Tatars were very proficient in jewelry, textile, embroidery and leather crafting from a very early stage. All these decorative and applied arts have the same common elements: They all carry traces of the graceful, delicate and intricate combination of floral, vegetative, zoomorphic and geometrical motifs and ornaments of the Islamic art of the Turkic people.
The ornaments are very rigorous and various in all decorative arts but artists who work with leather mosaic always employ different strategies in applying the ethnic ornaments because of the specific properties of the medium. Leather mosaic has always been sought after for the exceptional combination of expressiveness and simplicity of the ornaments. The ornaments in leather mosaic are simple yet powerful, precise and symbolic. Tatar leather mosaic designs have a complex structure consisting of several patterns of different colors, which are framed by colorful silk contours produced by a unique technique found only in Tatar leatherwork.
Motifs and ornaments
Variations of motifs resembling different flowers and parts of plants can be easily found in all Tatar leatherwork. Multiple shapes, forms, silhouettes of buds, stems, petals, rosettes and tulips determine the surface of the mosaic.The most used are flower-like shapes that are more expressive by nature and have simple outlines. Floral bouquets are widely used for boot ornamentations. Horn-shaped motifs and cloud–like motifs are the most popular and the most ancient ones. They are used not only because of their elasticity of the forms with semicircular contours, but also because they reflect a symbolic connection of flora and fauna. The recent motifs borrowed from embroidery and jewelry, which expand the symbolic understanding of the world, are young sprouts, leaves, and flower-sun motifs. The flower–sun motif is usually created with a combination of up to 5 leather colors and symbolizes a joyful life and wheel of fortune. The very popular motif of heart-like shapes is considered the latest addition to the ornamental designs used in leather mosaic. Most leatherwork either has simple heart-like shapes or a more complex version with three-leaf palmettes inside of the hearts.Geometrical shapes and forms, like polygons and octagons, are common to all Islamic abstract rectilinear art, and are well-represented in Kazan leather mosaic. Lines, waves, spirals, zigzags, six or eight point stars – all of these and more interlace and create intricate, arabesque designs.
Creating designs for boots or other 3-dimensional surfaces and for pillows or other flat surfaces requires different approaches from the artist. The ornamental patterns primarily used for boots are not simply transferred to the flat surface of pillows and bags. The structure needs to be reconfigured: on flat surfaces the composition is centered and symmetrical with even distribution of the patterns.