Aisha Basuoni cannot leave her home in Gaza where she oversees a group of talented embroiderers. But she hears of Ibu and writes me to ask if we will consider designing with them so they might find a market outside of Palestine. That was two years - and a long, challenging road - ago.
On her behalf, a professor/friend brings me piles of their embroidery to see, so that what I suspected is indeed true: the work is exceptional. The fabric it covers, is not.
Like most Palestinian women, Aisha learned embroidery from her mother and her aunt. Once, lush hand-woven wools and linens were covered with symbols of marriage, family, mourning, place - like the woman at left in Ramallah in the 1930s, or below, in Bethlehem, in the 1890s.
At the Ibu studio, we reach out to friends in Morocco, asking if they could send their beautiful wool to Palestine, but political conflicts forbid it.
One of our team pounds the garment district pavement in New York, finds a sumptuous fabric, sends it to another intermediary at the UN Relief Agency in Jerusalem who promises to carry the fabric to Aisha, but, in the end, puts it on a truck going that way - a truck which loses the package. Really. For weeks. This is a year down the road.
There are still months of sampling ahead, threads to be selected, revised, patterns to be attempted, changed; until finally now, at last, we have a beautiful hand-embroidered black wool wrap to offer you, with the soul of women in every stitch.
(A dramatic one-of-a-kind version of our simpler Ibu wrap allowing the Gaza embroiderers to employ their full range and skill)
But for me it is much more than a stunning wrap we have here. It is a testament to the work of many hands determined to see around obstacles that even world leaders cannot.
It is a story of women without freedom or comfort or resources of any kind remembering the peace and beauty of their past, and passing it on to their children who have never known that peace or beauty, but can feel it in the stitches of their mother's hands.
It is a very simple piece, in the end, but took a complicated path to reach it. Most good things do. It's really about what happens along the way that counts.
with great joy in offering this one simple thing ~
Susan Hull Walker