Since ancient time Kyrgyz people have decorated
leather articles. Animal skins were used to make a variety of household articles
including leather clothing and footwear, kitchen containers (ko'okor, saba,
konochok, konok, chyny kup), horse harnesses, tail-straps, saddle-girths,
bridles, and saddle-clothes. All of these items were integral part of the everyday
life of a nomad.
Special craftsmen were employed in the processing
of leather and the production of leather goods. Simple things like dairy product
containers were made by women, while difficult works were made by men. Thus,
harnesses were made by special craftsmen called jugon usta.
Women were usually involved in cutting the leather
out, sewing it, and decorating it with patterns. Leather craft was passed from
generation to generation. Women who participated in leather craft were called
oimochu, onorchy, chiymechi. Man decorated harnesses, small trunks and
containers for pialas with metal plates and patterns.
Leather was manufactured and stamped through out
the year, but summer was considered to be the best season. During the winter
days they cut leather and laid a pattern on it, the whole family participated
in the process.
There were no any special tools for cutting leather;
so the kyrgyzes used any sharp knife to cut the leather and the tendon thread
to sew containers for kitchen use.
Numerous names and purposes exist for leather containers.
Leather vessels for Kymys called ko'okor, were thoroughly decorated with
bright colors. The most difficult vessel to make was a konok, or leather
basket with a spot used as a milk-pail. These were made from camel's leather
which is tough and strong, and thus, kept its required shape after it was processed.
To make the konok, they cut shaped pieces of leather with a knife and
then sewed the pieces together. Next, they closely fit the cut leather to wooden
frame made in the shape of the konok. They cut a round hole slightly
more than half way up the side of the vessel and inserted a curved spout. They
sewed the spout to the vessel. When the sewing was complete, they wet the leather
and decorated it with clay or earth. Finally the vessel was dried outdoors.
Chyny kup, the container for keeping and
transporting pialas, was made from different materials including chiy, walnut,
juniper, felt and leather. Chyny caps were made in cylindrical and semi-spherical
shapes with flat and rounded covers. Semi-spherical chyny kups were made
the following way: first, the cut four wedges from leather, then sewed them
together to make a cover and smoked it in a smoking-shed for a while. Then they
fit the cover to a frame made of wood or leather to fix the shape.
Leather trunks, jagdan, could be found in
the yurts of the wealthy people. Jagdan was considered to be decorative.
It stood on a wooden stand - takta, and was used to store blankets.
Saddles were also covered with leather fixed to
a wooden frame with tiny nails arranged in the pattern of a sheep's horn.
The horse harnesses, particularly terdik,
was a special object for Kyrgyz people. Craftsmen took extreme care and used
all the knowledge and skill to create the best possible terdiks.
Leather items were decorated using different technical
tools. Stamping was the most frequently used method. Imprinting the pattern
with stamping they could use either the tool with sharpen end or hot metal forms.
The patterns used on leather articles have many
similarities with those used on felt carpets, embroidered and metal works. Pattern
forms both borders and closed shapes, such us rosettes. Borders are comprised
of a wave of scroll and horn-like patterns arranged in different ways. At times
the border is arranged as line of almond-like shapes. Rosettes are sometimes
made more sophisticated by having a cross-line shape with bifurcating ends that
form double spirals and are branched with smaller scrolls, leaves and sprouts.
Some of these shapes resemble vegetation.
Most patterns come from ancient times. They were
carefully preserved by generations, as today's craftsmen inherited them from
their fathers and grandfathers.
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