Friday, September 14, 2007


Exploration of the time-honored felt making traditions in Kyrgyzstan
in collaboration with the Central Asian Crafts Support Association

International design consultant and founder of Bridging Cultures Through Design (BCTD), Mimi Robinson travels to the Kyrgyz Republic collaborate with a group of Kyrgyz designers, design students in Bishkek and craftspeople from the surrounding areas in a series of design workshops. This initiative, Contemporary Traditions, is a cross-cultural collaboration with the Central Asian Crafts Support Association and the U.S. Embassy in the Kyrgyz Republic and will be held September 22nd – 28th. It is funded by ECA/Cultural Programs Division of the Department of State as part of its Cultural Envoys Program.

Felt making, the oldest form of fabric known to mankind, pre-dating weaving and knitting, is a time-honored tradition in Kyrgyzstan that is closely connected to the land and culture. The inspiration for this creative exploration will focus on th
e cosmology and functionality of the yurt, a portable, felt-covered tent that symbolizes and celebrates the proud nomadic tradition, central in the creation of the modern nation of Kyrgyzstan.

Inspired by local skills and craft traditions, this collaboration will result in the creation of a new collection of contemporary products merging traditional techniques with modern perspectives. These new designs will reflect the culture and environment of Kyrgyzstan.

The Kyrgyz Republic is a country in Central Asia. Landlocked and mountainous, it borders Kazakhstan to the north, Uzbekista
n to the west, Tajikistan to the southwest and the People’s Republic of China to the southeast.

During the last 10 -15 years, the role of craftsmanship has increased considerably in the economic and cultural life of Kyrgyzstan and Central Asia. This can be attributed to the growth of people’s interest in their own culture and history, revitalization of traditions due to increased national awareness, development of private entrepreneurship, and wide possibilities in international exchanges.

A primary objective for the project will be to engage a dialogue on topics such as nomadic traditions
, sustainable design and traditional craft techniques. As well, during the workshops artisans will examine issues related to marketing, essential to the promotion and production of handmade products. Sessions will also provide an opportunity for the artisans to generate final designs exploring contemporary products that reflect the culture and environment of Kyrgyzstan.

Bridging Cultures Through Design Established in 2006, Bridging Cultures Through Design (BCTD), develops international programs and collaborations to engage creative exchanges amongst artists, designers and artisan communities. BCTD promotes, celebrates and supports artistic traditions and cultural awareness, while using socially responsible business practices and a respect for the natural environment. Guided by the principles of design and the values of creativity in the creation of the handmade, BCTD seeks to provide sustainable design solutions.

Central Asian Crafts Support Association As a membership based non governmental organization (NGO), the Central Asian Crafts Support Association (CACSA) serves as an umbrella for its over 50 members craft development centers and NGOs from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan by providing communication links, marketing support, product development training, sales opportunities, and other needed services.

Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA)
Bureau of the Department of State The Cultural Programs Division of ECA is dedicated to the creation and implementation of cultural projects as a key component of the public diplomacy efforts of the US government. The Cultural Envoys program sends American artists for short-term residencies to share expertise, conduct workshops and master classes, and perform other activities that foster mutual understanding between the US and other countries, develop lasting relationships with foreign artists and communities and demonstrate respect for other cultures.