Mairam Omurzakova is a master Shyrdak maker, teacher, and a leader in cultural life of Kyrgyzstan. Ms. Omurzakova is a founding member of the Altyn Kol Women's Cooperative, the first women's cooperative in Kyrgyzstan after the fall of the Soviet Union. The cooperative now includes more than 800 members, shepherd women who produce traditional handmade rugs and other handicraft. The wool felt, hand-stitched rugs, called shyrdak, are a signature folk art of Kyrgyzstan.
From Ms. Omurzakova, " Making shyrdaks is simply part of our culture. To me, the rugs had spiritual and functional (not financial) value. Making rugs is therapeutic. It’s our way of life. That it was worth money…that was an idea that required me to change my fundamental view of the world."