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Kazakh Patterns on American Stained Glass

January 31 2013, 12:22

Terrie Patterson and her husband KevinTerrie Patterson and her husband KevinI met Terrie Patterson a few years ago in Dostyk village. She invited me to her house because we had things in common - our artistic hobbies. When I entered her house the first thing that caught my eyes was a small yurt -Kazakh felt house and a white cat was peacefully sleeping inside it.

The size of that yurt was just right size for the cat’s house. The cat kept sleeping while I was studying the skillfully made house with great attention. To my utmost surprise it had everything that a normal big yurt would have. It was fully decorated in a traditional manner: “syrmak” rugs were hanging on “kerege” walls and “kiiz” carpets were laid on the floor. From the “shanyrak” ceiling there were hanging “shashak bau”- the decorative tassels. Inside the yurt there were even the pieces of furniture: chest boxes with neatly folded mattresses on top of them. And, of course, the master of the house- the cat- was idyllically sleeping in “tor”- the most respected place in the yurt. What an impressive sight!
 
I asked Terrie where she got such a detailed yurt. She said that she did it herself. Absolutely amazed I continued my tour around the house and, all of a sudden, I saw something that once impressed me deeply and I still have beautiful memories of those wonderful creations that I saw inside Notre-Dame de Paris. Yes, that was stained glass artwork! 
 
They were hanging on both sides of the kitchen windows -so bright and colorful. Stained glass art creations enhanced her home’s atmosphere. 
But there was one specific difference – on Terrie’s stained glass creations there were Kazakh ornamental designs.   
 
I asked Terrie why she chose to make Kazakh patterns in glass or it was just one time fancy and she answered: “I am so amazed that these ornamental patterns that were so foreign to me just three years ago, are so rich and rewarding today. I do Kazakh designs in glass while listening to all incredible Kazakh music.  It provides a great deal of inspiration!”
She had in her house a little studio where she had all necessary tools for making stained glass artwork. I noticed that some of the tools were home-made. The tools for stained glass art are very expensive and Terrie makes them herself- no need to waste money if you can  do it yourself!
 
Terrie in her studioTerrie in her studioAnd then there was the most interesting part. Terrie demonstrated to me how to work with stained glass. I was admiring her work and Terrie kept telling me with enthusiasm about stained glass techniques and generously shared her experience. She also told me the significance of all Kazakh patterns, showing patterns in the books and telling me the stories that were behind them, like the one where the dog is hunting the deer, etc. Her favorite motive was ram’s horns – curled horns that are used in many variations: single ram horn, double horns or cross-like ones. Terrie used the most popular colours of Kazakhs in her patterns – red, blue and green. She pays a lot of attention to colours and is interested in their significance too. She  says that different nations perceive colours differently and their interpretation also differs.
 
Kazakh symbols and patterns are divided into ones that give hope for happy life or believed to bring wealth to the family, as well as those that protect from evil spirits.
Ram’s horns and water motives are considered to be life-asserting and symbolize abundance and fertility, continued Terrie. And evil spirit in the form of a black spider sometimes is decorated in the middle of the artwork for protection of the house owners from evil and sickness. 
My eyes are used to Kazakh patterns from the early childhood, but to be able to read them and interpret their meanings was beyond me. Actually it is not a common knowledge any more. We enjoy the beautiful view of the ornamental decorations, but to find the person who can interpret their meanings is a rarity even among the Kazakhs. So, it was amazing to meet an American woman in Atyrau who could professionally tell you about the national patterns and their significances. 
 
Very often in my life I meet my country-fellows who mastered foreign languages and excelled in the knowledge of foreign cultures, those who are keen to know more about, so called, advanced foreign cultures, yet they know very little or nothing about their own culture. And here – quite the reverse. An American woman who was capable to see the beauty and deep meanings of our ornamental culture and excelled so, that she could challenge any local art expert!
 
Kazakh patterns are quite intricate and it is not always easy to reproduce them on any surface: felt, fabric or clay. But to reproduce them on glass, seems absolutely impossible because of the capriciousness of the source material. Glass likes straight lines, and here - so many curls and twirls!    Terri said that she was battling with glass a bit before she brought art glass to bear with Kazak ornaments.  She is not a professional artist, just an amateur, but I think that Terrie’s stained glass creations could be an honour to any art museum!
 
Terrie said that she grew up in a big  American family and her parents had 6 children of their own. But after her uncle and aunt died – their another 6 children joined Terrie’s family. So, she was one of 12 children! In her family it was traditional to make handicrafts. Children were involved in various forms of folk arts and Terrie kept her fondness for arts from her childhood. 
She has a beaming smile. Plus to her talent, she is also a charismatic person. Her personality and her hobby, kind of, coincide. Both are radiant! 
I wish Terrie great success in her art work and in life and I am sure that wherever she travels-work or leasure related, she radiates so much positive energy and brings beauty into our lives!   
 
By Zeena Urynbassarova
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