As I mentioned previously, the villages in Palestine have specific embroidery designs and stitches associated with them. The embroidery process is not simply sewing on fabric. A grid (drawn on paper marked with little “x’s” for each of the stitches is transferred to a white net-like fabric. The embroidery occurs on the net fabric. After the design is completed, the white threads are removed (see the example of Hanan’s triangular embroidery located beneath her painting of Jerusalem). [Click on images to enlarge]:
For the painting Seven Women’s House Keys, shapes are cut out of the embroidered yolks of women’s dresses and appliquéd (sewn) onto the canvas:
The last elements applied to the canvas are the sewn-on glass and brass beads. Creating a frame around the entire composition are the names of the Palestinian refugee camps, which are written in Arabic and beaded:
We still have months of work to do, sewing and beading. Yet, it is slowly (but surely) coming together! …What do you think?
The primary artist with whom I’m working on the 7 Women’s House Keys salon artwork is Hanan Al-Khalidi. Hanan is an elementary school art teacher in Zarca. She is married and has three lovely daughters in their early twenties. I hired one of Hanan’s daughters, Amira (“Princess,” in Arabic) as my secretary. I recently changed Amira’s title from secretary to Embroidery Salon and Art Exhibition Manager. Without Amira, communication would be at a standstill. As I mentioned previously, Amira was awarded a bachelor’s degree in linguistics and is fluent in Arabic, English, Korean and Japanese. She is also a highly proficient organizer.
Without Hanan the embroidery art salon would have fizzled into nothing…
My intent with the art salon was to pay the professional women embroiderers an amount that more than compensated them for their work. I severed ties with the original person I hired to help organize the art salon after being informed that he was taking a commission (of over half) out of the amount the women were being paid.
During the two art salon sessions I held in my apartment, prior to learning about the “commissions,” one of the attendees, Majedah Abd Al-Kader, and I became friends. The work Majedah did on the canvas exemplified her exceptional design and embroidery skills. Majedah owns her own shop, Grand Mother’s Dress, and has been embroidering professionally for eighteen years.
Hanan, Amira and Majedah have visited often to work on the canvas. Majedah’s sister will be working on the canvas and Hanan retained the embroidery services of two women teachers at her school. I am the seventh woman working on the Seven Women’s House Keys canvas. Thanks to Hanan and Majedah, the canvas will be completed by the scheduled exhibition date, December 18. [click on any image to enlarge or read descriptions]:
Amira, Hanan and Majedah
working on the canvas
Hanan and Majedah working
Hanan and Majedah working on the canvas
Hanan and Majedah
Two people who have been very supportive of all of my efforts are Raheem (photographer Abed Al Raheem Al Arjan, see earlier post entitled: “Getting down to art business”) and artist Mohammad Abu Zraiq (see earlier post entitled: “Tribal Identities”).
Tonight my internet connection wasn’t working so I went to a restaurant I haven’t been to before, falsely assuming I would be able to access the internet.
After ordering a cup of coffee, and placing my laptop in front of me, a waiter informed me that I couldn’t connect to the internet. Halfway through my cup of coffee the waiter asked for my laptop, took it into another room, and returned saying, “You have internet.” The restaurant is a combination hookah lounge and eatery. The walls were covered with large sections of mosaic tiles glazed with intricate Arabic designs and elongated sections of calligraphy. The wood sconces around the doorways and windows had limestone reliefs painted with elaborate Arabic patterns. Seated at my table I felt like I was a figural element of a pattern in a three dimensional version of one of my tapestry paintings. All of the tables and couches were occupied with women and men smoking hookah. The hookah looked inviting, but I decided to pass and leave hookah smoking to the “professionals.”
After answering emails from the other side of the earth, I left to walk home. While passing through the Paris Circle I saw Ibraheem from the flower shop, with a batch of dry cleaned clothing slung over his shoulder. Tonight Ibraheem was carrying dry cleaning again. We said hello and he invited me into his shop to have coffee. I sat down in a chair near his desk, declined the coffee and (unbeknownst to him) had no intention of leaving until I found out if it is normal in Jordan for a man to get his clothes dry cleaned every other day.
Ibraheem’s English is limited, and my Arabic is even more limited. My Arabic consists of pointing at objects while making facial expressions and asking “Why? or “What?” In response to my repeated gesturing towards his dry cleaning Ibraheem turned on his computer and showed me his Facebook page. This was the beginning of getting to know Ibraheem, as well as understanding the origin of the colloquialism, “You can’t tell a book by it’s cover.”
This is Ibraheem Wardeh: A professional, astoundingly unique, florist and highly accomplished DJ. No wonder he needs perfectly pressed and dry cleaned attire. Many nights after closing the shop he’s off to do a gig, such as DJ-ing on the performance stage at the Old Citadel, or being interviewed by one of Jordan’s primetime television stations. And Wardeh means flower in Arabic, how perfect!
Aside from his accomplishments as a DJ, his floral arrangements are not confined to flowers. His arrangements are what I would refer to as “floral performance experiences.” They engulf the participants at events in Spielberg-esque Rococo scenarios. He creates entire stage settings using furniture, lights, water, candles and unique luxurious drapery back drops. His clients range from the “everyman” to dignitaries. The following are some photos of his floral “arrangements:”
After concluding that we are both “funon’s” (artists), Ibraheem introduced me to the owner of Ahmad Saloon, a barber shop a few shops away. After much hand gesturing and pulling of my hair, the owner, Yousef, agreed to trim my hair tomorrow. I want my hair to be all the same length on the top of my head and a duck tail in the back, like Elvis Presley. Who better than a great barber could do this?