Kyrgyz Felt Art

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One of the most ancient arts of the Kyrgyz people was the felt one. An important component in the decoration of the yurt is shyrdak – ornamental felt carpet. The principles and distinctive features of the national pattern are declared in the main art of the Kyrgyz people – shyrdak. It is a carpet for a floor, is produced from densely rolled wool of a sheep shorn in autumn, which consists of the central field and a border. As a rule, shyrdak has the form of a rectangular, the long side of which is usually equaled to two short ones.  Carpet is distinguished with a bright decorative effect of color and the precise decision of ornamental compositions. 

Shyrdak is carried out in techniques of application, mosaic and seldom of embroidery. The felt is usually painted, then cut into pieces and put in pairs, combining two pieces contrast on color, then render a pattern, cut it, interchange the position and sew so that parts different in colors serve as the background and a pattern.  By this way, the full equality of background and pattern is achieved. Thus, the patterns are always precise and extremely decorative. 


ala kiyizIt is very widely distributed in folk art and everyday life another carpet from felt – ala kiyiz, made by the techniques of embedding, rolling a very friable colour pattern into a friable one-color background. Thanks to the technique of rolling up the pattern, masters can use both geometric and twisting contours. In this case, it is possible to convey traditional motifs with different, unexpected soundings and make the contours of the drawing appear more blurred. It is said that the techniques of making of ala kiyiz conventionally creates an opportunities of game, mobility of colour spots and shows an original rhythm of colours.

Mats made from chiy stalks and later braided with colored wool is an integral part of Kyrgyz art. Chiy represents a high rigid steppe grass, stalks of which are used in manufacturing of mates with or without patterns. A mat from chiy is put at a wind as a barrier near the stove or drying wool. It is laid under felt carpets, preserving them from dampness and damage. As an original compression mould it is used in manufacturing of shyrdaks and ala kiyizes. The mat from chiy surrounds the whole yurt upon kerege, warms and decorates it.

There are some types of ornament compositions of mats. There are octahedrons and other ornament applications of diagonal symmetry of colors- red, white, dark blue – which closely remind woven carpets. 

A device for manufacturing a mat from chiy represents a machine tool or a wooden design with two horizontal crossbeams. The complexity of process of manufacturing of mats from chiy stalks is that each small stalk must be woven individually with coloured wool and later incorporates to other stalks. All the elements of a pattern the skilled master keeps in his mind. Kyrgyz mats always differ by joyful color, saturation and decoration. Large shapes of patterns and a contrasting combination of colours is achieved by this. On style of an ornament, chiy mates are similar to patterned fabrics and nap carpets.

The art heritage of the south part of Kyrgyzstan includes national nap products. Geometric ornaments, combined with rhombs, octahedrons and other figures, characterize them. The prevailing colours are dark blue and red. As well as shyrdaks, figure of nap carpets is accompanied with edgings of different contrast colors, enriching a pattern. The technique of nap weaving was used to make bags for storing things, pouches, as well as subjects of horse’s harness. 

The development of Kyrgyz handicraft was driven by the practical needs of the household, the nomadic lifestyle, and spiritual and aesthetic demands. Since ancient times, the Kyrgyz have worn and used felt products. According to traditional beliefs, the felt products not only saved from cold and heat, but also protected from evil spirits and enemies. Today, society is developing and changing rapidly. Nevertheless, the Kyrgyz have retained the skills of felt art and continue to make authentic products.