Aside from exploring the history, culture and gastronomic delights of a foreign country, tourists also like to materialize their impressions and memories in objects. Tbilisi, and especially its old part, is home to a plethora of souvenir boutiques and, upon crossing the thresholds of these spaces a remarkable sight will meet your eyes- a large collection of handmade dolls, ceramic items, versatile jewelry, Georgian traditional blue table-cloths, cloisonné enamel accessories, thick felt (Teka) works and other items gracefully tempting you from shelves. Of these objects Georgian cloisonné enamel and thick felt works are most widespread and characteristic features of the Georgian culture.
Cloisonné enamel art dates back to ancient times in Georgia and the earliest surviving examples are no less than 1200 years old. This unique technology was forgotten for decades, but over the past years has been revived again and many artists are now involved in the field. Cloisonné is a labor-intensive and complicated technique and the method has not been changed for twelve centuries. In order to view ancient cloisonné enamel masterpieces, you should visit the State Museum of Art in Tbilisi and the Gold Fund, which has on display more than 200 items. There are also some cloisonné enamel galleries and boutique shops of modern cloisonné enamel works, where you can check out high-quality and refined icons, rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, crosses, miniatures and so on. While in most souvenir boutiques cloisonné enamel is available at reasonable prices, the quality is not so high, as they are created in a simpler manner and are more oriented on mass-production.
Is textile an art? It is an often-debated question. Some think it is just a hobby for housewives, while for others textile is a real art form and a way of expression. Traditions of Georgian ‘Teka’ – fine-fleece thick felt – is something deeply rooted in Georgian history and cultural traditions. Historically, thick felt, a warm and soft fabric and a blend of vivid or pastel colors, was produced in Tusheti, Kakheti, Khevi and Javakheti regions. Today, many people are involved in this field and there is a wide choice of ‘Teka’ carpets, scarves, cloaks, slippers and other items – beautiful and practical accessories for chilly winter days. But there is one point, today only few artists produce this textile according to the original methods. So, while choosing a thick felt item, try to consult with a professional to be sure this ‘piece’ of Georgia was made according to its true traditions.