Kadyrkul Sharshembieva, Aliya Sharshembieva, and Raushan Sharshembieva
Medium of Work:
Santa Fe: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018
Deliciously soft, versatile, and abundantly available in the sheep-laden Kyrgyzstan countryside, wool—and more specifically, felt—has been a staple of Kyrgyz people for centuries. Outside of the Kyrgyzstani capital of Bishkek, at the base of the Tien Shan mountain range, the Seven Sisters artist collective is situated.
The company name “Seven Sisters” is accurate: originally started by Farzana Sharshembieva, the organization eventually grew to include all six of her sisters. The sisters are sixth generation artists. Both parents – father was a master saddle maker, mother an embroiderer – taught art at the college level, and other relatives included jewelers and furriers.
Initially taught ala-kiyis, or the age-old Kyrgyz artform of layering felt, by one of their aunts, today, the sisters band together to push its boundaries. The sisters have developed a recognizably unique style over the past decade or so, with swirling, abstracted felt designs layered onto silk. It’s a union of two materials with seemingly different properties: the delicacy of sheer silk, together with the thicker texture of felt. The combination produces richly textured, beautifully lightweight scarves and garments.