Reed screens

The Kyrgyz braided the reed screens mainly from Cheegrass (reed) or chiy in Kyrgyz. It grows in abundance on the foothills of Kyrgyz mountains and sometimes even around the yurts – Kyrgyz dwellings, in the dust of nomadic paths and under the horse hoofs, so the Kyrgyz had all opportunities to test its durable and rough reeds before they start harvest it – cut, dry and use them as applied material for handicrafts. In the areas where reeds do not grow, it was replaced by cane.

Making reed screens as well as most of other handicrafts was the female prerogative. Plain screens called Ak-Chiy could make every woman, while the patterned or decorated ones were performed by professional masters.

In the past, when the Kyrgyz lived in yurts, the whole villages participate in storage of reed. In fact the reeds were not cut, but pull out of the ground with roots and then transported to the village by horse, camel or ox. On the place the master chop off the roots and the reeds then were left to dry for 7-15 days. Then the reeds were peeled off the upper ply and the work started…

For making screens the Kyrgyz as well as some other Asian nationalities used special tool which has no definite name and called variously in different regions of Kyrgyzstan. It consisted of two vertical poles and one horizontal fixed between them on comfortable for master height. The distance between horizontal poles was based on the expected size of future screen. Over horizontal pole threw the wool treads, ends of which wind round the stones – plummets. There could be up to 20-30 of such plummets placed on the distance of 10-15 sm. between each of them. Across overthrown threads put the reed and then the plummets throw over the pole to another side, braiding the reeds together. From time to time threads must be weaved again in order to make them more durable.

Before the beginning of work master took four reeds and interweave them with wool thread. Later, the reeds were laid by turns with thick and thin ends in divers sides in order to form smooth and durable reed screen.

Decorative reed screens were made by professional masters – chyrmakchy. For manufacture of such screens were chosen only smooth and thin reeds. It was impossible to predict future design as with felt carpets for instance. Therefore, the future design was kept in mind of Cheber – the master, who designed the outline of a pattern on the reeds with a needle. Firstly master took 8 reeds, put them on some fabric panel placed on smooth surface and then pricked the outline of a pattern with a needle. Then every reed was braided with wool of various colors. Braided one reed she checked the accuracy of pattern. Then finished she braided them together piercing each reed by needle and thread.

Then the reeds were ready they were braided on the same tool normally used then manufacturing plain mat. But in that case were working three-four women who braided reeds and a master who gave them next reed and checked the pattern. At the beginning and the end of reed screen the master left about 60 sm. of plain surface. It was made in order to protect the patterned surface from dust and deterioration while transporting to new places. Taking down yurta, the reed screen was rolled up and this 60 sm. long plain surface covered whole roll.

A good screen reed might have taken several months (usually in summer or winter) to make. In ancient time reed screens were made by order or with a purpose to change it. Obviously there were no fixed prices and masters were usually paid by livestock.

Eshik-Tysh – this kind of mat was put up around the fireplace offering wind stop protection or around drying wool, it was also laid on the ground underneath felt carpets, protecting them from moisture and mildew. Chiy mats are also were used as an original moulding press in manufacture of Shyrdaks and Tysh-Kiyiz – Kyrgyz felt carpets. But Eshik-Tysh is not so remarkable part of the interior as Ashkana-Chiy, or more over, as Chyrmagan kanat chiy, which surrounds the yurta, decorating and makes it habitable in winter time.

Ashkana Chiy – served as a screen, screening off the female part of the yurta where placed pots, pans and food. It was strengthen with a cord to Bakan – the pole and a wall – kerege, giving an ability to appreciate all the ornamental constructions and dyeing (conformably to material) arrangements of Kyrgyz pattern, in which the good hands at Chiy reached the special virtuosity.