Meet the Artisans of Kyrgyzstan
The Kyrgyz Republic (also known as Kyrgyzstan), in Central Asia bordered to the East by China, is a landlocked mountainous nation and the poorest of the former Soviet republics. Crafts in Kyrgyzstan were traditionally made for a family’s own use, not for economic activity, and the concept that women’s handicrafts could turn into an income-generating activity was new to Kyrgyz. But in the context of wide unemployment and economic pressure, the idea took root and developed. Hundreds of families joined handicraft cooperatives; by contributing just a few rugs each year for sale, a family will double their annual income. In modern times, tradition evolves at a modern pace. One of the strengths of Kyrgyzstan’s crafts market is that it goes beyond mere revival: makers also seek new creativity, new innovation, new ways of satisfying customers’ changing wants.
The Master's Handicrafts is led by Phil and Sharla Shaver, American citizens who are presently living in the country of Kyrgyzstan, to help indigenous people groups of Central Asia in developing markets for their handcrafts. By using fair trade principles, products are bought at wholesale prices and sold to retail distributors. Many of the crafters with whom it works with have very little or no other income, and through the purchase of their goods, they are given the chance to grow economically. Most of the women have learned the craft techniques from their mothers or grandmothers. They work together to create beautiful pieces of art while maintaining family relationships. Master's Handicrafts supports women who work from home. This reduces the overhead and allows the women to care for their families and do their work at the same time.
Gulya is mostly deaf and communicates through Russian sign language and also can read lips. In spite of some limitations, she is joyful and eager to try new things. She supports her elderly mother and is putting two young-adult daughters through school. Gulya makes the Good Shepherd figurine sets, the Holy Family figurine set, the K019 Traditional Yurt Nativity set, and the Curly Cue Lamb ornaments.
Tucked away in a frigid mountain village in the eastern part of the country, a group of women has found their niche by working with felt crafts. Each woman in the group has her own unique designs and styles, and they work hard to please their customers. A foreign woman living in the same village has become a consultant and friend to the crafters, advising on colors, form, and pricing. We are pleased to offer you crafts from this guild and trust you will enjoy their intricate quality.