The Kyrgyzes braided the reed screens mainly
from Cheegrass (reed) or chiy in Kyrgyz. It grows in abundance on the foothills
of Kyrgyz mountains and sometimes even around the yurts - Kyrgyz dwellings,
in the dust of nomadic paths and under the horse hoofs, so the Kyrgyzes had
all opportunities to test its durable and rough reeds before they start harvest
it - cut, dry and use them as applied material for handicrafts. In the areas
where reeds do not grow, it was replaced by cane.
Making reed screens as well as most of other handicrafts
was the female prerogative. Plain screens called Ak-Chiy could make every
women, while the patterned or decorated ones were performed by professional
In the past, when the Kyrgyzes lived in yurts, the
whole villages participate in storage of reed. In fact the reeds were not
cut, but pull out of the ground with roots and then transported to the village
by horse, camel or ox. On the place the master chop off the roots and the
reeds then were left to dry for 7-15 days. Then the reeds were peeled off
the upper ply and the work started
For making screens the Kyrgyzes as well as some
other Asian nationalities used special tool which has no definite name and
called variously in different regions of Kyrgyzstan. It consisted of two vertical
poles and one horizontal fixed between them on comfortable for master height.
The distance between horizontal poles was based on the expected size of future
screen. Over horizontal pole threw the wool treads, ends of which wind round
the stones - plummets. There could be up to 20-30 of such plummets placed
on the distance of 10-15 sm. between each of them. Across overthrown threads
put the reed and then the plummets throw over the pole to another side, braiding
the reeds together. From time to time threads must be weaved again in order
to make them more durable.
Before the beginning of work master took four reeds
and interweave them with wool thread. Later, the reeds were laid by turns
with thick and thin ends in divers sides in order to form smooth and durable
Decorative reed screens were made by professional
masters - chyrmakchy. For manufacture of such screens were chosen only smooth
and thin reeds. It was impossible to predict future design as with felt carpets
for instance. Therefore, the future design was kept in mind of Cheber - the
master, who designed the outline of a pattern on the reeds with a needle. Firstly
master took 8 reeds, put them on some fabric panel placed on smooth surface
and then pricked the outline of a pattern with a needle. Then every reed was
braided with wool of various colours. Braided one reed she checked the accuracy
of pattern. Then finished she braided them together piercing each reed by needle
Then the reeds were ready they were braided on the
same tool normally used then manufacturing plain mat. But in that case were
working three-four women who braided reeds and a master who gave them next reed
and checked the pattern. At the beginning and the end of reed screen the master
left about 60 sm. of plain surface. It was made in order to protect the patterned
surface from dust and deterioration while transporting to new places. Taking
down yurta, the reed screen was rolled up and this 60 sm. long plain surface
covered whole roll.
A good screen reed might have taken several months
(usually in summer or winter) to make. In ancient time reed screens were made
by order or with a purpose to change it. Obviously there were no fixed prices
and masters were usually paid by livestock.
Eshik-Tysh - this kind of mat was put up
around the fireplace offering wind stop protection or around drying wool, it
was also laid on the ground underneath felt carpets, protecting them from moisture
and mildew. Chiy mats are also were used as an original moulding press in manufacture
of Shyrdaks and Tysh-Kiyiz - Kyrgyz felt carpets. But Eshik-Tysh is not so remarkable
part of the interior as Ashkana-Chiy, or more over, as Chyrmagan kanat chiy,
which surrounds the yurta, decorating and makes it habitable in winter time.
Ashkana Chiy - served as a screen, screening
off the female part of the yurta where placed pots, pans and food. It was strengthen
with a cord to Bakan - the pole and a wall - kerege, giving an ability to appreciate
all the ornamental constructions and dyeing (conformably to material) arrangements
of Kyrgyz pattern, in which the good hands at Chiy reached the special virtuosity.
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