Horsehair has been crafted by various nomadic people: Kyrgyz, Kalmyk, Mongols, Kazakhs and Buryat, Yakut.
Hand-woven things made out of horsehair have been used by Buryats since ancient times. In everyday life, Buryats used taar- small rugs made out of goat fur and horsehair. Typically a taar was not large; it was rectangular and used for practical as well as decorative purposes. The design of taar was rather simple, mainly geometrical: a combination of parallel, wavy lines, squares, circles.
Horsehair is a rather coarse and demanding material, and patience and experience are required in order to use it. Buryat didn't use dyes for horsehair or wool. But skilful craftswomen were able to make their works colorful by using only two or three color combinations: black, white and brown.
Taar in old days were hand-woven by the method that is known as "mogeshilkha"- that is by "braids" or zigzags. Horse hair was used for the production of various things, among them calf-collars, reins, fetters for horses and even fishing nets. All those things were very simple and practical and very strong.
Taar rugs were woven tightly manner, thus, they were very durable. Mainly hair from the mane, and not the tail, was used, since mane hair has more elasticity and is more beautiful.
With the industrial development and improvement of machinery, traditionally produced utilities out of horsehair were forced out of everyday life. Fortunately, not all knowledge of the treatment of horsehair, which is needed in order to prepare it for use in hand woven products, was lost.
Nowadays Buryat craftspeople utilize the old methods while looking for new design and themes which reflect our time. Horsehair, which looks very simple and unpretentious, is very hard to treat and work with, but it provides rich opportunities.
Horsehair tapestry today is mainly used as art pieces.
In using new designs, weavers employ new methods of weaving, since "braids" (zigzags) are not adequate to implement the new motifs. Thus, new techniques of weaving appeared.
Since the old days, there are no major differences in the current process of treatment of horsehair. The preparation of horsehair starts with its cleaning and washing, drying, sorting by color, fluffing, spun, watering and again drying. And this is just the first stage. The next is preparation of a sketch of the design in full size. This sketch is attached to a wooden loom and, after that, the warp is prepared.
There are a few really skilful weavers in Buryatia. Among them are S. Rinchinova, T. Dashieva, R. Dorzhieva, and Baiarma Dambieva. They employ the traditional method; they select horsehair of natural shades, spun it and use wooden shuttle "nykhuur".
A cooperation of two great Buryat artists - of a painter Albina Tsybikova and a tapestry maker Baiarma Dambieva marked a really important period in the development of Buryat horsehair tapestry. Sketches of A. Tsybikova for Creation and Flute Tune inspired creation of really masterful works of art.
Translated by Irina Dyatlovskaya