The Poetry of Shadow and Light

The Poetry of Shadow and Light

Zhanyl Sharshenbieva took a tradition learned from her grandmother—felting heavy wool rugs for life in a yurt—and innovated with designs on silk, creating translucency, opening windows of light. I visited Zhanyl in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, watching the process of moistening raw wool and massaging it, fiber by fiber, into the silk; casting into cloth totems and spiritual signifiers passed down to her in the snowy mountains of her birth. It was somewhat magical to watch cloth being born not from spinning or weaving or knitting—but from the poetry of hands caressing fleece.

The challenge of artisanal work is always how to scale. How to take something one-of-a-kind—with the creator's hands all over it—and make the quantity needed for a sustainable livelihood without losing the unique human quality which made it precious in the first place. 

So it was a joy, last week, to see the venerable international textile company, Schumacher, announce its offering of silk-felted curtain panels, designed by Ibu, crafted by Zhanyl, and soon to be loved by many all over the world who crave a window of light.

Zhanyl Sharshenbieva felting curtain panels

Zhanyl Sharshenbieva felting curtain panels for the Ibu collaboration with Schumacher. 

When I ask any artisan partner in any part of the world what they need most, the answer is always the same. More work. I take this need seriously, personally, really, and turn over in my mind every possible way to create more work for their skills, more income for their families, more innovation for their heritage crafts. One way is to collaborate with imaginative corporate businesses who value the magic of the hand-made even as they can turn up the volume. 

The inspired Creative Director at Schumacher, Dara Caponigro, understands the fine line of scaling a product while keeping the intimacy of the hand alive in it. Over four years, a conversation has grown until, at last, this month, Ibu curtain panels have found their place among beloved Schumacher fabrics.  

I am thrilled to share this news with you. Thrilled with this win for our artisan partners. Thrilled that the announcement below reached interior designers around the world this week. This is not just scaling work. This is scaling confidence. Respect. Optimism. The delicate presence of light. 

Ibu collaboration with Schumacher

All the best,

Zhanyl and her co-workers have not rested. In addition to the curtain panels, they have been completing a new one-shoulder dress pattern for Ibu (a runway favorite), plus a classic version of the same, and a glamorous coat to accompany it—all in the colors of earth and sea.