Archive for April 11, 2009

“Kazakh Art: Traditions and Modern Trends”


A presentation was done by Uriya Jurik at our latest AIWC meeting about two professional Kazakh artists, one using felt Gulzhanat Kabizhanova and the other oil canvas, Yerbol Kharmirov.

Gulzhanat Kabizhanova – is a decorative artist, a respected art teacher, and a member of the Kazakhstan Artists’s Union. Lately, Gulzhanat is inspired by the ancient culture of felt. She improvises with different felt techniques and artistic ideas to express her own conception of the world.

History and process of felt works as an artform

Felt manufacturing has a long history in Kazakhstan. Since ancient times, Kazakh people have led the life of nomadic herdsmen that required portable dwellings – felt yurts. Felt is the oldest form of fabric known to humankind. It predates weaving and knitting. Felting uses a wide variety of ancient techniques, such as the sewing together of cutout patterns (mosaic), the in-filling of colored patterns (appliqué), and fancy thread stitching. While some types of felt are very soft and transparent, some are tough enough to form construction materials.

Felt can be of any color, and made into any shape or size. That’s why Kazakhs still use felt creating beautiful and useful domestic items. Felt is made mostly of sheep wool that has wonderful physical properties. It’s ecological, light-fluffy, feels nice to touch, keeps warmth and breathes. From the artistic point of view wool is very pliable for art experimentation as it has positive energy, having a rich variety of natural colors, wool can also be easily colored. Traditional felting is always handmade. It’s a hard and complicated process that requires special love of the material, skills and knowledge.

Nowadays locals and foreign visitors’ keen interest of felt products is explained by their desire to have something handmade and unique. Some of these are traditional items, such as the classic yurts, rugs, slippers and hats. But there are not many professional artists of the kind whose felt items are real artworks.

First, an artist creates the idea of the future artwork, and then the required type of wool is cleaned, washed with soap and water, and twiddled. After the clean wool is colored, the basic design is first created out of fluffy wool and then the hardest process of felting starts that includes hand pressing using hot water, creating needed shapes, drying and the last step is trimming with stitching, appliqués, laces and other decoration. An artist can design a felt work to meet any customer specification based on theme, color or interior.


Instructions for taking care of felt works

Gulzhanat’s felt artworks are made of natural, very clean, high quality sheep wool and cured with natural anti-moth treatments, so if you follow some simple recommendations they can always be safe.

1. Store felt in dry and light conditions (like a wall or any open surface);

2. Shake off dust and expose it to the sun periodically for a short time;

3. Wet or dry cleaning is not recommended.


(to be continued about Yerbol Khamirov)

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