February 17, 2013

Jennifer's Hamam - Silk - Part 2


In the late 19th century, a small community of French nationals lived in a village in Turkey’s southeast Mediterranean region, where they were skilled in the art of silk.


Meta, a weaver for Jennifer’s Hamam, is the great-grandson of a man who grew up in this village.


Dede Ahmet, Meta’s great-grandfather, learned how to reel and weave silk from his French neighbors in the village, experts in the traditional craft.


As World War I drew closer and alliances began to form, the French inhabitants of the village deemed it wise to leave Turkey. Dede Ahmet, who had proven to be a talented student, was gifted with a magnificent book made of copper pages: the processes for extracting silk from the cocoon were embossed in the copper.


Dede Ahmet was warned by the departing French to keep the book away from the Turkish government and other sources that might steal the secrets of silk. He was so concerned that the book and its secrets would fall into the wrong hands that, in the end, he committed the entire thing to memory and threw it into the fire, melting the beautiful copper pages.


Over the years Dede Ahmet passed his skills along to his children and the family earned their living raising silk worms, reeling and spinning by hand, dyeing and weaving the silk.


When Meta, was seven years old, he went into the backyard where his uncle was reeling silk and announced that he wanted to learn how to do this.  


In this area of the country, this is exactly the announcement awaited by master craftsmen in order to decide who to teach.  


The next years were not always easy. After Meta’s father and uncles died, he was the head of the family: it became more and more difficult to find buyers for the silk, and he and his wife sometimes had no money.



They persevered, even through winters where there was nothing to eat but root vegetables from the garden. On one occasion, Meta took bags of potatoes from the family’s meager provisions and traded the potatoes for pomegranates, to dye the silk he’d reeled that season – he had carried on weaving, despite difficult conditions.


By the time Jennifer met Meta, he was ready quit silk and move into cotton. Happily for the craft and the tradition, Meta was convinced to continue. He is the head of his family – and this is the last family in Turkey for textile silk to raise its own silk worms, reel and spin the silk by hand, and dye and weave the silk. Meta committed the process to memory years earlier, but is the first person in his family to record these traditions in writing for future generations. They are genuine silk experts but, sadly, the last of their breed.


Meta is extremely creative and his experience has given him great insight into what clients want in terms of design and color, though he also draws on his own influences.  He says that new designs usually come to him in his dreams; other than that, he does not offer other information about his inspiration.


Jennifer says she is very honored to be working with the family.  “I never knew anything about silk before meeting Meta; he’s taught me so much.   More than anything, I want to see this tradition taught to young people and carried on.”



Full article available here

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