A sure-what?

Reviving the Art of Shyrdak Rug-Making

Lizzie Watson with several of her Kyrgyz pieces.


Page + CO collection
pageandcompanycollection.com

Story By
Zachary Barnett
Photos By
Riley Frances + Sasha Motivala

In many ways, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Page Guerrant Watson embodies the spirit of Jackson Hole. After foregoing law school for a winter of snowboarding in 2005, she became a rafting guide, then a firefighter, paramedic and a member of Teton County Search and Rescue. In addition to all of this, two years ago she founded an import business, Page & Company Collection, with her mother, Ann Page Watson, who lives in North Carolina. The following is how Lizzie became both an importer of incredible shyrdak (pronounced “sure DAK”) rugs from Kyrgyzstan, as well as the driving force of a documentary.

This blue-on-beige shyrdak, true to form in reflecting the natural world, mimics the horns of the argali, a mountain goat native to Kyrgyzstan.

What made you decide to import shyrdaks?

LW My mom and I went to the Highpoint Furniture Market, in North Carolina, seeking products that would do well here in Jackson. As fate had it, we were drawn to this amazing Kyrgyz mother-daughter team and their stunning shyrdak rugs. It was a bonding moment. These women have single-handedly revived this ancient art. When they began, they could find only six women in 100 who had the skills to properly make a shyrdak. But now, through their training and commitment, they support 35 full-time women artisans, who have become financially independent in their low-income, mountainous communities. UNESCO now includes the art of making Kyrgyz traditional felt carpets in its list of “Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safekeeping.”

Kyrgyzstan artisan Merrim lays out the design of an upcoming rug. All shyrdaks are handmade with patterns inspired by the forces of nature.

Can you describe the shyrdaks?

LW These rugs must be seen in person. They’re the highest-quality felted merino wool from Kyrgyzstan sheep, dyed and cut into vivid patterns, then stitched over a more robust base layer for warmth and durability. Traditionally, shyrdaks were considered valuable heirlooms, passed down from one generation to the next. They were used as dowries and gifts commemorating special life events, and treasured for both their decorative and functional qualities: warm in winter and cool in summer, odor-resistant, hypoallergenic and antimicrobial.

Where can I buy a shyrdak?

LW I’ve always got 10 to 20 rugs in Jackson, and you’re welcome to contact me for an appointment or for a local showing in your own home. Our clients can custom order sizes and colors, and select from numerous patterns representing the forces of nature, prosperity, abundance and growth. Every rug sale supports a woman artisan and brings a beautiful piece of artwork into your home.

The patterns at the center of this blue-on-white shyrdak feature the forces of positive energy emanating outward, east, west, north and south as protection for the home.

And what about your documentary?

LW In the fall of 2018, I returned to Kyrgyzstan with a cinematographer to document this amazing movement. Traditionally a nomadic culture, the Kyrgyz people today are semi-nomadic and live in an area so much like Wyoming it’s uncanny. I feel like I’m home whenever I’m there. I strongly believe this is a story worth telling, so I invite you to go to our website to view the documentary.