Cross-Cultural Felt Making in Kyrgyzstan


What makes an American designer want to travel to Kyrgyzstan? Where? I hear you ask? Is that where Borat comes from? No, but it's right next door. This mountainous Central Asian country is surrounded by Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and China. We're going to expose our ignorance and admit that we don't know very much about Kyrgyzstan, other than it was once part of the Soviet Union, but gained independence in 1991. However, we are about to learn more and this is why we love the Bridging Cultures Through Design project run by the intrepid designer Mimi Robinson.

Through creating cross-cultural design projects, such as last year's trip to Guatemala with a group of RISD students, Robinson is able to open our eyes to the richness of cultural creativity around the world. "Within all artisan communities there exists a universal language of creativity," she says. "Characteristics of the nomadic culture embrace the fundamental elements of creativity and the principles that guide me as a designer. Qualities that include a respect for the natural world, a true and deep understanding of the environment, community and an ability to adapt and be receptive to new ideas." On this trip to Kyrgyzstan, a collaboration with the Central Asian Crafts Support Association and the U.S. Embassy in the Kyrgyz Republic, Mimi Robinson will lead a group of Kyrgyz designers, design students in Bishkek and craftspeople from the surrounding areas in a series of design workshops. They will focus on the ancient Kyrgyz tradition of felt making which is related to the 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. Watch this space to find out more about Mimi's experience in central asia, the people she meets and the creative culture of Kyrgyzstan. :: Bridging Cultures Through Design