Artistic felting (felt-making)

Artistic felting (felt-making)

Felt technology and its use in everyday life for the Kazakhs is a pronounced national brand, dating back to the Bronze Age. Felt was practically the main “material” used in the yurt. Its practical properties – lightweight, soft, breathable and at the same time moisture proof, and heat insulating, as well as abundance of raw materials predetermined its widespread use.


According to some artisans, felting and even rug making in the traditional environment was seen as a common activity that every woman had to master. Before the advent of factory dyes, craftswomen used only natural dyes, which were extracted from various plants, to dye wool.


The process of making felt was a long and time-consuming process, which was accompanied by magical rituals. According to tradition, felting began with the utterance of a bata by the oldest participant, which was said during a tea party before starting the work of making the felt, for which a team of neighbours and girlfriends of the hostess were gathered. The presence of men or their participation in making felt was considered undesirable. According to some masters, the Kazakhs used to have a special ritual song – tekemet basu.


In the case of small felt making, the plates were rolled by hand while sitting on the ground. A medium-sized piece of felt was usually rolled by several women who sat in a row or made synchronized movements with their feet. Large size felt was tied with ropes and tied to a horse to drag the product.


Unfortunately, there are now only a handful of skilled craftsmen who are familiar with the traditional technology of felting.


Among them: Kulyan Zhangutty, Aues Sagynayeva, Akkumis Kospayeva, Tamara Kapkyzy, Kamash Toleubaeva, Kalekesh Zhusipova, Zhansara Bolegenova and many others.


At the moment in Central Asia and Kazakhstan, felt is one of the most sought-after artistic materials with almost limitless possibilities. It is used to create a wide variety of products in a modern format: panels, clothes, shoes, toys, souvenirs and various accessories and jewellery. The focus of this study, however, is on traditional technology, which needs to be carefully preserved, popularised and passed on to the young.


In 2022, the city of Taraz deservedly had the honour of becoming one of the first cities in Kazakhstan to be included in the World Craft City List. There are 78 officially registered artisans in the city, most of whom are involved in the production of felt goods.


The creative possibilities of felt are also attracting male masters. An example is the work of ethno-designer and artist Kuanysh Urkinbaev. The artist founded his own workshop, “Tekemet-ART”. Today, the workshop produces a wide range of
felt products, which has consistently received awards and certificates confirming the high quality and uniqueness of its products.


The boundless potential of felting was demonstrated at the recently held international festival ” Kиiз.Felt.Keçe.Войлок”. The festival was organised by the Artisans Union of Kazakhstan. This large-scale event brought together all professionals, researchers and the general public. As part of the festival, there was an exhibition of felt works with the poetic title “The Art of Kiyz Basu”, with the installation “Seasons” by one of the world’s best felt artists, Janice Arnold from the United States as the focal point.
Without concentrating on all types of felts, it should be noted that among traditional felt products tekemet and syrmaq stand out. These two types of carpets have different manufacturing techniques. In one case, if a pattern/design is embedded into a primary fabric, and in the second – they are stitched together, where the joint line is trimmed with a brightly colored flagellum. As a rule, the patterns of tekemets are large-scale, while in syrmaq they are clear and graphic. There are traditional patterns of ornamental motifs in the composition of these carpets.


Kulyan Zhangutty is a renowned master of felt-making. She is skilled in traditional and modern methods of making felt goods. She is a member of the Union of Artisans of the Republic of Kazakhstan and an active participant in national and international exhibitions. She has students, and her art is very popular.
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Tamara Kapkyzy is a well-known craftswoman who is skilled in almost all types of traditional women’s crafts. She is a repeat winner of the “Sheber” handicrafts competition and an honorary member of the Republic of Kazakhstan Craftsmen’s Union. Her products have been awarded the UNESCO Seal of Excellence.
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Aues Sagynayeva is a nationally known craftswoman, skilled in traditional felting and weaving techniques. She is an active participant in all kinds of exhibitions, competitions and cultural events. She has many pupils and generously shares her experience.
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Zhansara Bolegenova is a hereditary master of traditional textiles and her main task is to preserve traditional techniques and pass them on to future generations. She actively participates in international and republican competitions.
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Aizhan Bekkulova is a well-known felt craftswoman and ethnic designer, chairman of the Union of Craftsmen of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Member of the National Committee for the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage under the National Commission of the Republic of Kazakhstan for UNESCO and ISESCO. Her collections are distinguished by exquisite taste and deep philosophical content. However, the craftswoman owns traditional technologies for the artistic processing of textiles and expert knowledge in the field of cultural heritage in general.

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Akshagul Karymsakova is one of Kazakhstan’s unique artisans, who won the republican competition “National Cultural Brand” nomination at the national
competition “Sheber” for her unique rug “Adai ruhynyñ tekemeti”.
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