March 6, 2014

A Patriarch's Wish Fulfilled

One of the families that create some of the flat-woven pieces sold by Jennifer’s Hamam is an interesting one.  They come from a long line of very famous weavers. The oldest son – and head of the family – has always been interested in working on unusual creative projects and on one of Jennifer's trips to visit during a normal discussion about what project they would be working on next,  a call came in. The family patriarch was arriving.


At 75 years old and retired for more than 20 years, their father was still renowned as one of Turkey’s most famous weavers.   As he entered the workshop, the crew of people in the workshop, stood at attention as if an emperor had entered. The respect in the air could be cut with a knife.


When this weaver retired, the sons took over the business and the eldest son - who Jennifer  normally works with - was bound and determined to modernize his father's workshop.  He saved money and bought small factory machines to do their looped towels.  The pestamel side of the workshop though, had not been updated. During Jennifer's first meeting with the eldest son, he boasted about plans to update the pestamel side of the workshop as well.  Jennifer insisted that if he did this, they would not be able to work together.  This statement shocked him, but also forced him to reconsider keeping the looms he had.   Today he still has those looms for flat-woven pestamel and Jennifer's Hamam keeping 'click-clacking' away with beautiful designs.


Over the last 4 years of working together they now formed a standard 'joke' greeting; "Ah, you've come to buy looped towels today?"  the son asks Jennifer.  Jennifer always answers "Oh! you must have smashed your small factory machines and bought looms."   They both laugh and then continue their discussions about hand-woven pestamel.


Though shrunken by age and one side of his back hunched, the patriarch was still a lively man.  The youngest son, led his father over to the middle of the workshop where they had cleared an area and set two chairs.  He sat down and to Jennifer's utter surprise, the weaving legend, who she had heard much about, but never had the privilege to meet prior to this moment, called her over to sit in the chair next to him.  


He was incredibly polite and extremely gracious.  He chain-smoked and drank cup after cup of hot tea throughout the conversation which at first centered on family, as is the culture in Turkey, and then turned to weaving.  Jennifer told him that she believed the only way to save the art of weaving was to create things that could not be recreated on the factory machines and to use threads that were of the best quality possible.


The older man turned to his eldest son and said, “SEE!  This is what I’m always telling you!   You must throw away those modern monstrosities and go back to the old ways!”  


He started sending some of the other younger family members in the workshop out on errands.  “My son, go get this!  Go get that!”  


Several amazing pieces were delivered and, one by one, he started to talk about them.  Jennifer was completely entranced: the pieces were so amazing - unlike anything she had ever seen before.  The newest of the three pieces was 45 years old; the oldest piece was around 55 years.  


The piece that really caught her attention was two layers woven together and with multiple colors across one weaving line. The father launched into an explanation of the looms on which these pieces had been woven and, in the middle of this, said casually that he would take Jennifer to see them one day.  She was astonished that the looms still existed and was so shocked, she rudely interrupted him and asked just to check that she understood correctly "you still have the looms that are capable of this?"


“Yes, yes! The boys put them in storage, but I wouldn’t let them sell them.”  he answered.   Quite literally, Jennifer's head was swimming with ideas.  The next hour was devoted to the possibility of bringing these looms back to life.


Under strict orders by his father, by January 2012, the eldest son had obtained a new space for the express purpose of working on these looms and getting them up and running again.  The fact that they had been in storage for 30 years, made them a repair man's nightmare.  


All the same, Jennifer was thrilled with the news.  While the father was no longer capable of weaving, he was definitely involved in pushing his sons to resurrect the old looms.  A few months later, the looms were missing just a few essential parts before they could regain full functionality. The patriarch was excited about the repairing and for the first time in 20 years, was going to the workshop regularly to oversea the work of the repairman.  Every time Jennifer would visit, he would tell her, "Don't you worry Miss Jennifer, these looms are going to be running in no time; I will personally see to it and ensure that my sons don't stop this work."  Time passed: the oldest son supported the project but more as a filial duty than out of his own conviction.


And then terrible news in the summer of 2012: the father had died.  The family was completely devastated and so was Jennifer. There was an enormous turnout at the funeral for this well-respected craftsman.  Jennifer made a special trip out to the village to also pay her respects.  It was truly heart-breaking and the sons were completely devastated.

 

For the next few months, no work was done; depression was looming over everyone and they couldn't seem to find the motivation to work at all. The family continued to mourn as fall and even winter hit.  Jennifer visited several times; the younger sons were at work looking very solemn, but the eldest son had not shown his face in months.  She was at a loss as how to move forward due to the fact that  even during her visits, the younger sons could not convince him show up to the meetings.  


Finally, on a visit in late in the following January, Jennifer spent a week in the village and pushed the younger sons to take her to their older brother.   The meeting was essential because he was the only one that could make the decisions for the future of the families business and his father's looms.  They talked for hours about his father and how important this work.   Tears running down his face, he apologized for his laziness over the last months; he said that his sorrow had taken over and then he announced to her his vow that he would spend every waking moment ensuring these 2 looms worked again in tribute and honour of his father's career as a weaver.  Jennifer left from that trip with a full heart, moved by his words and his new found dedication for the past ways.  


The eldest son kept his word and went beyond by turning all of the factory machine work over to his younger brothers and focusing only on the loomed items.


At the beginning of March, 2013, a package was delivered to Jennifer’s Hamam in Istanbul. It was the first piece off the now-working old loom.

The son said:  "My father was correct:  we never should have put away the looms.  I will not work with my brothers on those machines anymore."

Jennifer's Hamam commends the son and his father.  It's weavers like this who will remind the world true beauty of textiles and the meaning they can have in our lives.

Full article available here

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