Yildez took me deep into the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul where her friends offer antique treasures—suzanis, kilims, embroidery (be still my heart)—but what is this? She throws some handsome stripes around her shoulders and from them dangle carnival-bright hoops and loops of… lace? But lace I've never seen before, colorful and bobbly and fun. I felt like a cat curiously pawing these discs which I now know are called oya—a Turkish word for Ottoman lace.
The antique shawl I coveted came in over $1000; I didn't bring it home.
But I did ask Yildez, who works with Anatolian artisans across Turkey, if she knew women who still practiced this unique tradition. She did.
That was six years ago. We've carried oya shawls made by women in rural areas of Turkey in the years since. But recently it occurred to us that these festive circles would make light earring dangles, utterly unique. I love color around the face and you often tell us you don't like heavy—so we returned to the group to try out super-light, happy, whirling worlds of lace earrings.
It turns out that Oya is a language among women. Used on scarves and linens and lingerie—it reads to other women about matters of the heart. Daffodils dangle for hopeless love, roses for brides but wild roses for women whose husbands have gone to war, purple hyacinths for broken hearts, and peppers for a hot spicy life at home, wild flowers for the very old. A symbolic language—a secret language—interlacing women.
Of course, eventually machines figured out how to do the technique, but the hand-drawn oya are considered more alive—and if you watch this little video of the energy going into each one, you will see why. After all, those fingers are talking, and fast.
What joy to be a small part of preserving this language of women—and you, too—as you consider gifting or wearing these breezy concoctions whispering a love note for the women who carry this language in their bones. Here's to the makers of merry… oi, oi, oya!
All the Best,