Felt
Kyrgyzstan

I used my Sabbatical Award grant from The Art Institute of Portland to study felt making in Kyrgystan where I wisited Altyn-Kol Women’s Felt Cooperative, and Art Group Tumar in Bishkek.  Sourced Karakol wool in local bazaars, and observed traditional feltmakers at work making shirdaks and kolpoks.  In the middle of Central Asia, Kyrgystan is located at the epicenter of historic feltmaking, with a tradition going back 1000s of years.  Their specially bred Karakol sheep produce long, luxuriant fiber perfect for feltmaking.  Famous for their felt houses called yurts, the Kyrgyz use its roof as a motif for their national flag.   It represents the coming together of disparate groups, woven together to make a strong dwelling.  Yurts are still in use in rural Kyrgyz areas, and their interiors are covered with colorful shirdak felt rugs.  They provide a practical and beautiful structure for nomadic living in a harsh, high-altitude climate.