Shirdak Silk Road Textile Gallery was founded by Marianne Tuerlings to showcase the richness, artistic beauty and extraordinary quality of the traditional felt and silk textiles of Central Asia’s nomadic tribes. Marianne recognised that these nomadic felts and Silk Road textiles greatly enhance western fashion and interior design. The result is a wonderful collection of felt rugs, felt slippers, wall hangings, woollen hats, cushions, little felt ornaments and more.
The nomadic felt tradition
Felt is deeply rooted in the culture of the nomadic tribes of Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and other Central Asian countries. Felt is widely used in everyday life. Nomads live in Yurts (which means ’felt house’ in Kazakh), decorated with colourful felt carpets and Shyrdak rugs. Wall hangings are used as doors. They wear felt clothing which they make themselves. As they constantly move between summer and winter pastures, felt cloth is used to pack up the family belongings.
Felt making is the domain of the tribal women. Using skills handed down through generations, the felted wool is made by hand, using only natural materials. The wool is provided by sheep that accompany the nomads. Colours and patterns are created by using natural dyes. The felt is personalised and decorated using highly skilled and elaborate embroidery techniques.
Marianne with a Kyrgyz couple, outside their Yurt, Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia
Shirdak - the concept
It all began with the quest for the perfect Shyrdak rug, bringing Marianne into contact with an enthusiastic group of Kyrgyz women - artisan felt makers from nomadic Kyrgyzstan tribes. The women are organised in artisan felt making co-operatives. Together with Marianne, they explored ways of reaching out to new markets in the Western World and the Shirdak Silk Road Gallery in Amsterdam was born.
Marianne Tuerlings buys directly from the Kyrgyzstan women and every product is sold on a fair trade basis. There is no middle man, ensuring the funds go directly to the craftswomen. In this way, ancient arts & craft traditions are preserved and the Kyrgyz women can earn a decent living from using their skills and are able to comfortably provide for their families.
Back in the Netherlands, Marianne gives lectures and talks on the textiles and the culture of the nomadic tribes of Kyrgyzstan. She also regularly hosts exhibitions and guest lectures at her Shirdak Gallery in Amsterdam.
In recognition of her work with the Kyrgyz people and her passion for promoting the nomadic Kyrgyz culture in Europe, Marianne has been appointed the Honorary Consul of the Republic of Kyrgyzstan.
You can buy Shirdak fair trade products here on our online shop or if you are in Amsterdam, you can visit the Shirdak Silk Road Gallery, Prinsengracht 192, 1015 RE Amsterdam.