For the nomadic peoples of Kyrgyzstan, sheep’s wool is a vital part of their daily lives, and felting is utilized in the creation of many aspects of their daily lives, and the ala-kiyiz method is one of the oldest methods for crafting Kyrgyz textiles. Farzana Sharshenbieva grew up in a family of artisans, her father specializing in traditional Kyrgyz saddle making. From a young age, Farzana learned how to work with leather, metal, and felt. As a practitioner of the ala-kiyiz method of carpetmaking, she tries to preserve the survival of an ancient technique that is in danger of disappearing entirely.
Using sheep’s wool, ala-kiyiz is made by layering and impressing different colors of wool onto a mat. Strands of differently-colored wool are layered together to form a pattern. When the pattern has been completed, the wool is covered in cloth, sprinkled with hot water, and then tightly rolled up and tied. The mat is then worked for several hours, being rolled by hand, kicked, and stepped on in order to meld the different strands together into one cohesive piece. Afterwards, Farzana uses this melded wool to form together with silk in order to craft her garments.
Farzana specializes in using these ancient techniques and utilizing traditional motifs in her work, with symbols and patterns representing health, prosperity, and good luck. Each textile is carefully crafted by hand and each garment carries with it the culture of the nomadic Kyrgyz people. By creating these clothes, Farzana hopes to spread the knowledge and heritage of the Kyrgyz people to the world at large and preserve the old methods of crafting which have struggled to survive in the face of industrialization. She says, “People who buy our products carry with them a part of our culture and the warmth of our hands, love, and blessings.”