about us .
ak was originally designed as a gallery to showcase the rich, and diverse textile heritage of central Asia, in particular that of the mounted nomads of the Kyrgyz Republic. ak is a traditional Kyrgyz word of Turkic origin which translates literally as white or sacred or god. Historically the colour white was regarded as a protective totem and invoking the name of god was thought to provide a shield from ill fortune and the forces of the evil eye. Today its meaning has shifted somewhat and ak is commonly used as a prefix attached to everyday nouns in order to give them greater weight and significance. The galleries logo, the curled horns of the Marco Polo ram are the most characteristic and recognisable of central Asian motifs.
All ak products are designed in Melbourne and made by skilled artisans in the Kyrgyz Republic using with natural fibres such as yarn-dyed cotton and handmade and dyed wool felt. In the main, designs feature animals and themes specific to central Asia and utilise traditional motifs, symbols and stitching patterns. Our over riding aim is not reproduce what has gone before but to keep alive traditional methods and skills by ensuring they remain relevant and constantly evolving. Ak artisan quality products are intended to be stylish and witty with a crossgenerational appeal that is unaffected by the whims of the mass market modern classics with a strong sense of tradition.
Over the past three years, ak has grown far beyond its original concept - but we are still all about textiles. Textile tradition forms the context for everything we love, design, produce and teach. We continue to source and sell vintage and decorative textiles but also commission handmade wool felt in our own unique colours and produce a diverse range that includes artisan quality felt toys, dolls, quilts, home-wares, accessories, handwork kits and hand knitting and much more.
A business trip to the newly independent Kyrgyz Republic introduced me this beautiful and ancient country whose culture has been shaped by progressive waves of occupation and influence. It also provided the catalyst for opening a gallery devoted to vintage textiles and in turn led to widespread interest in a region long hidden from Western eyes. Maps and printed information were in constant and high demand. To enable customers to understand some of the culture of the area, I wrote a short story about a two children and their animal companions entitled ak ak the magic ram. However, it was the creation of a set of handmade felt finger puppets based on these characters that marked the beginning of the creative journey at the heart of this web site.
Across central Asia, people naturally enhanced their everyday lives with colourful and exuberant decorative textiles, clothing and domestic artefacts. Whether a painted saddle, an embroidered dowry cloth, a childs patchwork hat, or a small bag to carry sewing equipment, each item was created with the same skill and care. A womans handwork skills were integral to her identity and were passed down through the generations along with the families treasured dowry cloths.