Travels in the Altai Mountains

Lisa and Loren had the pleasure of participating in another international leather sharing project. From March 12 - 31, 2013, they were in the Altai mountains of southern Siberia, Russia. The Skyhorses were invited by two non-profit agencies working together: AAP (Altai Assistance Project) and FSDA ( Foundation for Sustainable Development of Altai). Both are funded by USAID/ Eurasia Foundation and entail a series of exchanges named the Totem Necklace Project.


Lisa and Loren worked in a small village known for its artisans. Kupchegen is in the remote Altai Republic, not far from the borders of Kazikstan, Mongolia and China. Initially there were to be 12 -15 artisan, but over 50 people showed up—some from the neighboring Republic of Tuva, a 2 day trip. The Skyhorse's donated 40 pounds of essential leather working tools not available in that region.

The project's goals were 3-fold:

1. To aid the semi-nomadic people of the Altai with new tools and skills to build on their ancient, traditional skills.

2. To help the people make more efficient use of their livestock, lessening the impact of overgrazing on their land.

3. As a cultural exchange. In mid April 2013, Seremei, the master saddle maker of the Kupchegen area, completed his training with Lisa and Loren in their Durango, Colorado workshop. He returned home to train others in the region.

The Skyhorseʼs love of service travel and their skills with native people make them wonderful ambassadors for the United States.

Seremei in the Skyhorse workshop, Durango, Colorado....braiding saddle

Seremei in the Skyhorse workshop, Durango, Colorado....braiding saddle

Lisa  showing Seremei how to transfer a design to the front of a saddle.

Lisa  showing Seremei how to transfer a design to the front of a saddle.

Seremei and Chagat (with camera) watching Lisa stamp a saddle.

Seremei and Chagat (with camera) watching Lisa stamp a saddle.

NEW NEWS ABOUT THE ALTAI:

THE KUPGHEGAN ART CENTER IS FINISHED!

 Here is what our emissary in the Altai has to say: " Many thanks for your help! Actually it was your workshop that accumulated that idea to create the Altai Arts Center! And here you are! The Center come true! Many people think so that you both moved that idea. It was no coincidence but you appeared in time and right place among right people!" Chagat Almashev

 

New shop space with tools donated by Skyhorse

New shop space with tools donated by Skyhorse

Master saddle maker, Seremei (second from left), and region governor in new workshop.

Master saddle maker, Seremei (second from left), and region governor in new workshop.

Being greeted at the pass on the way to Kupchegan.

Two Altai saddlemakers working with their new tools.

Lisa is gifted some traditional Altai leather work.

felting woolen the new workshop

felting woolen the new workshop

Russian officials give their approval.

Russian officials give their approval.

After the Skyhorse Master Classes

After the Skyhorse Master Classes

Lisa and Loren  returned  in July 2015 to work directly with the master saddle makers and the villagers of Kupchegan. Together we built a combination Western/Altai saddle....most likely the first collaborative event of its kind!

Kupchegan Artisans with the ALTAI western saddle.