Thank You, Zhanyl!

Thank You, Zhanyl!

One of my daughters is arriving with her family this weekend for a two-week visit, and I’m feeling the pressure of being “behind” on shopping and decorating (and, of course, cleaning my house). But I want to take a little time out to focus on gratitude, almost as a metaphorical vaccine against the flood of commercial and social media messages around shopping, decorating, and all the other physical manifestations of the season.

Today, I want to focus on my gratitude to Zhanyl Sharshembieva of the Kyrgyz artisan group Seven Sisters. Zhanyl is daughter number 5 in the family of artists, and the only one who does both felting and silversmithing. She’s also the only one who speaks extensive English, which is how I got to know her first.

LEFT: The artists of Seven Sisters. Zhanyl is at the upper right. Farzana (back row, second from left) has since opened her own business, but the sisters continue to come together to support each other. RIGHT: Zhanyl Sharshembieva, displaying some of her silver jewelry at IFAM 2019.

Dear Zhanyl,

This holiday season it may seem hypocritical to “celebrate” anything. War, poverty, gender inequality and climate change seem to be accelerating everywhere. There are billions of people around the world who physically cannot enjoy a happy holiday season.

But I truly believe that our partnership over the years is a bright light that IS making a difference, even though it may seem tiny right now.  I wanted to highlight some of the specific aspects of our relationship that make me so grateful, personally. These are also some of the reasons that I can continue to remain hopeful for the future despite the dark clouds hovering over the world these days.

  1. Thank you, Zhanyl, for welcoming me, as a total stranger, into your booth at the Santa Fe International Folk Art in July 2015. And for welcoming me back to visit at future shows . .

    LEFT: Rikki & Zhanyl, IFAM 2015; RIGHT: Rikki & Zhanyl, Post-IFAM 2017

  2. Thank you, Zhanyl, for answering my endless questions during that first 2015 IFAM experience and throughout the years since. Your answers helped me begin to learn about your beautiful Kyrgyz culture and understand the history and meaning behind your art.  I have delighted in being able to share these gorgeous photos you sent me from the Nomad Games in 2016.

  3. Thank you, Zhanyl, for sharing your personal and family stories and photos with me over the years. All these stories and photos have helped me better appreciate our cultural differences, and reinforced that we have so much more in common than the things that might divide us. And thank you for allowing me to share some of these stories and photos with the HoonArts community, which I believe have opened eyes and hearts along the way. Some of my favorite stories:

    (a) The Sharshembieva family yurt (Click to read the related blog post entitled “Explore Our Yurt and Mourn the Grief of Lost Travel.”)

    Zhanyl’s grandmother’s family yurt, still used in family celebrations.

    Enjoying Navruz in the Sharshembieva family village–inside a yurt!

    Modern Yurts in Village Navruz Celebration

    (b) New Year’s Celebrations in Kyrgyzstan (including the American turkey experiment)

  4. Thank you for being patient with me as I have gradually learned about your felting and silversmithing arts over the years.

    LEFT: Making the pre-felt layer; RIGHT: Cutting the felt patterns

    LEFT: Laying out the felt patterns on the silk; RIGHT: Covering and “soaping” the felt on    silk before rolling

    Cutting the Completed Felted Silk for Garments

    So many beautiful patterns and colors!

  5. Thank you, Zhanyl, for always being willing to experiment with me, on new colors and new products.

    Our first custom product from Seven Sisters!

  6. Thank you, Zhanyl, for the mutual trust that we’ve built over the years. You know you can trust me to send payment, and I know that you’ll send me the beautiful products I’ve ordered!  As a former lawyer who used to spend all day drafting contracts to handle breakdowns in the relationship, it means a lot to me that I can count on that trust and don’t have to worry about contracts!

  7. Thank you, Zhanyl, for being willing to partner with HoonArts to offer in-person master felting and eco-printing classes for our HoonArts community and make public presentations.



    Zhanyl with a guest (and shopping fan) at a public presentation in Albuquerque (2019)

  8. Thank you, Zhanyl, for allowing me to film one of your in-person master classes and offer the video as a digital product on our website.

  9. Thank you, Zhanyl, for coming to visit me and my family, and sharing your knowledge, stories, and yummy cooking treats with us. Your visits have been a source of joy and connection for me and for my family.

    LEFT: Zhanyl at Sandia Peak (Albuquerque), July 2019; RIGHT: Farzana, her daughter & Zhanyl at our home-Nov. 2019

    Boorsok-Traditional Kyrgyz Fried Bread that Farzana & Zhanyl Made for My Family—a Yummy Treat that Reminded Us of Sopaipillas (but not as airy)

  10. Thank you, Zhanyl, for feeling comfortable enough to say “No” to doing live, online Zoom experiences with HoonArts customers. Your trust in our relationship is really important to me, because I NEVER want you to feel that you need to be anything other than truthful with me.

  11. Thank you, Zhanyl, for being willing to connect with HoonArts customers over the years who have contacted me about meeting you in person while they are traveling.

  12. Thank you, Zhanyl, for welcoming our HoonArts tour members to your studio in Bishkek last fall, and presenting (with the help of your sisters Farzana and Gulya) a master felting class that was a highlight of the tour for the participants. And it was also my own first effort at felting, after all these years. Thank goodness Farzana and you were there to help me fix my mistakes!

  13. Thank you, Zhanyl, for continuing to work with HoonArts even when orders get sparse and life in Bishkek gets challenging.

  14. Thank you, Zhanyl, for continuing to create your beautiful art and tell your wonderful stories of Kyrgyz history and culture that help people in the West better understand your amazing corner of the world through the lens of art.

  15. Thank you, Zhanyl, for being who you are—my friend, my partner, my Kyrgyz daughter!

1 comment

  • Candy Hearne

    What an amazing beautiful tribute to Zhanyl!
    And I second it !!!
    Thank you for ordering from them too!
    Glad you have hung in getting your business up and running!!!
    I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday!

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