Handmade On The Silk Road

Confirmed for BBC Four on 4 May at 7.30pm to 8pm

Ep 1/3

Wednesday 4 May



Handmade On The Silk Road is a three-part series about traditional crafts along the ancient trade route of the Silk Road. Each film follows a day in the working life of a weaver, woodcarver and potter in China, Uzbekistan and Iran.

Beautifully filmed portraits of master craftsmen at work, the series captures in exquisite detail techniques handed down over generations. And from the bickering husband and wife silk weavers in China to the Iranian potter still teasing his son about who makes the best pots, the films are also delightful and warm observational documentaries.

The first episode, The Weaver, is set in North West China, where the Uyghur community has been making Atlas silk for thousands of years. Mattursun Islam (pictured) and his family are continuing the tradition, using a combination of handmade techniques and mechanised looms, including a wooden loom which Mattursun built himself aged 17.

In a small workshop with a team of up to 12 workers, Mattursun produces the silk in over 200 different designs - and from creating the patterns to colouring, dyeing and weaving the thread, the film follows each stage in absorbing detail.

We also get an engaging glimpse into the challenges of running the family business. With rival companies often copying his designs, Mattursan Islam is proud of his reputation. But he and his wife also enjoy a good-natured rivalry over who is really in charge…