Wood carving has existed in Central Asia from since
time immemorial. Articles made of wood are widely used by Kyrgyz people in everyday
life till present time. There is a stylistic connection between wooden works
and other kinds of craftsmanship, particularly with items made of felt and leather.
Carved and painted wooden articles, patterned felt works and mats, embroidery
and Kyrgyz crafts perfectly fit the interior of the yurt - the nomads dwelling.
They form the central part of the shelter while at the same time, form amazing
pieces of art that manifest the pleasing and aesthetic taste of the people who
Woodcraft was connected to the needs of Kyrgyz
nomadic life. They used wood to make the frame of the yurt, and its door and
jambs. They also made wooden household items and decorated them with carving
The frame of the yurt wasn't carved, but its lattice
called "kerege", and the bottom poles of the dome called "uuk",
were carved and painted with a blue or red color. Sometimes the doors of the
yurt and dismantling entrance doorframe comprised of two sides were also carved
The following household articles and kitchen utensils
were also carved and decoratively painted: juk stands were they put felt
carpets and linen; small trunks for flat bread called ukok; poled pegs
for clothes and harnesses called ala bakan; saddle pommels called aiyurmach;
containers of pialas called chyny kup; stirrers for kumys called pishkek;
soup ladles called chomuch; and wooden candle stands called chyrak paya
(which now have not been used for many years).
Wooden articles were made by male woodcraftsmen
called Djigach Usta. Wood carving technique was very simple. Different
species of trees were chosen by firmness and elasticity: birch, poplar, willow,
juniper and walnut. These trees were easy and soft enough to carve with well-sharpened
The following tools were used for carving: a small
adze - kerki, was used for working up boards and hollowing wood when making
large patterns; a cutter similar to a chisel; a wooden hammer; and a special
knife with a curved edge.
After trimming the wood, a craftsman would rub
it with a row sheep's liver and soot. Then he would draw a pattern with chalk
and carve it with a knife. The pattern was then painted with a red color made
of red clay.
It is said Djigach Usta tried to work without
any drawing or stencils. The patterns were passes from generation to generation.
Having learned the patterns in childhood craftsmen reproduced them by memory
adding or varying details as they wished. However, some craftsmen used stencils
made of horse leather. Natural materials were predominantly used for painting,
particularly chalk and a clay of different colors. These materials gave the
wooden works a softer and warmer look.
The pattern of wooden articles is marked by laconic
clearness and simplicity it is based on precise and rhythmical repetition or
interchange of separate or adjoining motifs, which are never interlaced or laid
on each other. The carving is made based on the principle of looking-glass symmetry
and the succession of some elements of the pattern. The main pattern is a classical
The carved pattern of wooden bread containers called
ukok, is very similar to pattern of felt carpets and overhead bags called
ayak kup. The carved pattern of ukok is very rich, and includes
an interchange of double horn-like scrolls called kochkor muyuz, with
winding rosette in the centre. The rosette served as a charm to protect from
bad luck. The monumental and relief carving technique and the equilibrium and
laconic brevity of its components increase the similarities between wooden and
felt works and make the similarities visible.
Ukok is located in the women part of the
yurt, behind a pattern screen called Ashkana chiy. In the kitchen one
can see a rich collection of wooden articles made by Kyrgyz craftsmen including
wooden dishes, plates and other kitchen utensils of all possible shapes and
Craftsmen aspire to display the richness of simple
materials like wood by processing it in a different ways. Numerous examples
exist among the articles of everyday nomadic life.
As a medium, wood had its advantages. Craftsmen
were able to reveal both its functional and aesthetic merits while using archaic
and simple shapes.
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