Artist Profiles

Artist:

Khasan Umarov

Region:

South and Central Asia

Country:

Uzbekistan

Media/General:

Metalwork

Medium of Work:

Metalwork knives, daggers, and swords

Year(s) Attended:

Santa Fe: 2017, 2018

About:

Uzbek knife-maker Khasan Umarov was born into a family of craftsmen in the city of Kokand. He inherited this craft from his father. Today, Umarov runs a successful workshop where he is able to provide employment and training to ten artisans. Knife manufacturing in this area of Uzbekistan has been known since ancient times. Besides serving practical purposes, knives are believed to have different supernatural functions. For instance, it is a tradition to put a small knife under the pillow of a baby to save him/her from the evil eye.

Umarov begins by constructing the blade, which is mainly high-quality, durable stainless steel. Horn, wood, bone and metal plates such as steel, copper, brass, and silver are used to make the handles, which also often feature decoration of turquoise and glass. No matter what he uses, all materials are obtained locally in Kokand. Different types of steel are used depending on the intended usage of the blade. For example, hard steel is good for the edge of the knife, but not for the entire body of the blade, because it’s too firm; if a blade is too soft it will not cut well, but if it’s too hard, it can easily chip or break. By combining hard and soft steel, sharpness is improved and the knife becomes stronger.

Attaching the handle is the last stage. In order to prevent any water from entering the insertion point of the handle and causing rust, epoxy resin is applied and the blade is affixed. Says Umarov, “Being selective about each step of the process gives me the confidence to say that I create a knife that doesn’t break, doesn’t bend, and cuts well.”