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Handicrafts & Artifacts

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Showing 21 - 40 from 65 entries

> The Palestinian Scarf ... Fashion Statement or Symbol?
> Designing Palestinian Handicrafts
> Palestinian Design in the Context of Furniture...
> Armenian Pottery and the Karakashians
> Blue rough cotton woman's shirt with pointed sleeves.
> The Emergence of Trade in the City of Hebron
> Magic and Talismans
> Palestinian handicrafts
> Bethlehem handicrafts
> Traditional Palestinian dress
> The Storage Jar (Al-Khabiya)
> Tashakeel: A haven of handmade jewellery
> The Stone Tradition in Palestine
> Fashion under Adversity
> Taybeh Beer
> Embroidery and Beyond Cultural heritage provides a...
> Mother of Pearl A Traditional Palestinian Craft
> Palestinian invents queuing socks
> Nablous soap
> Tattoos
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Designing Palestinian Handicrafts
   
submitted by This Week In Palestine
31.10.2008

By Shirabe Yamada

Design genius and artist - it is a title that befits the women who made Palestine’s dresses in the old days. With their meticulous embroidering skills and extraordinary sense of colour and shape, the women used fabric as a canvas for their creativity.

Take, for example, a dress from the lost village of Beit Dajan in central Palestine. Cross-stitch in shades of red covers the front panel of the dress made with locally produced indigo-dyed cotton, while the sleeves and side panels are lined with orange and olive-coloured taffeta appliqués embellished with circular flower embroidery in silk threads. To top it off, the neckline, sleeves, and skirt are hemmed with various binding and trimming stitches. The rich combination of fabric, stitching styles, and colours is stunning.

The question faced by women’s embroidery groups today is how to design marketable modern-day products that show off Palestine’s renowned embroidery tradition. Handicraft products like cross-stitched red-and-black shawls and pillows are the most visible representations of today’s “Palestinian crafts.” However, the diversity and richness of design that characterised Palestinian craft heritage have been diminished, as the circumstances surrounding craft-making have changed drastically.

First, there is a general decrease of highly skilled embroiderers due in part to the spread of machine embroidery. Second, in the Palestinian handicraft sector, which is primarily made up of small income-generation groups, it is important that wage-earning opportunity be shared widely in the community, which may include embroiderers of varying skill levels. Therefore, for easier and faster production, present-day embroidery is done predominantly on the European canvas fabric (itameen in Arabic), which has tiny holes that form uniformly sized squares in order to assist stitch placement. Although it ensures an even outcome, the reliance on itameen has steered Palestinian embroidery to the cross-stitch. The rest of the stitching styles that made up a rich heritage - binding, couching, appliqué, and trimming - have been largely neglected, and few women remain who can still embroider with these techniques, which threaten to vanish with the passing of the older generation.

Third, the use of a wide array of regional textiles - Egyptian cotton, Iraqi wool, Syrian satin and silk, Greek linen - which flowed freely into historic Palestine, has ceased due to limited access. Palestine’s local textile industry was wiped out with the Nakba, and locally woven fabric, such as the Majdalawi from the south, is no longer produced commercially.

As patterns are mechanically copied and stitched on the grid canvas fabric to produce handicraft items for sale, the spontaneity, playfulness, and creativity of the designs from the old Palestine have been lost.

In addition, a scarcity of properly trained designers contributes to the lack of proper product development in the handicraft sector. Producing marketable, quality items takes professional knowledge and skills, such as pattern-making, knowledge of various materials, sewing and finishing techniques, costing, and quality control, all in addition to artistic talent and familiarity with the local heritage. Most craft income-generation projects do not have access to such professional resources.

However, some organisations have successfully developed attractive products, made by women whose skill can fill the surface of finely-woven fabric with tiny, even stitches without the aid of itameen. Products by Surif Women’s Cooperative (Hebron) and UNRWA Sulafa Embroidery Project (Gaza) are prime examples of this artisanship. And the beautiful and stylish products of Atfaluna Crafts (Gaza) are a result of creative use of fabrics, including the Majdalawi fabric woven by their own artisans, who have revitalised this historic textile.

Sunbula, a Jerusalem-based fair trade organisation, has been running design-oriented product-development courses with Hamada Atallah, a Jerusalem-born fashion designer. More than 120 new items were designed and produced by eight craft organisations that received training by Atallah over the last two years. The courses aim to bring the diversity and beauty of traditional Palestinian design to today’s handicraft products. The courses also aim to equip the women with practical skills and knowledge for producing more marketable and profitable items in order to help supplement family income.

Revisiting elements of old Palestinian designs was the key factor in successfully diversifying the product line. During the training, the women studied the range and richness of Palestine’s embroidery and textile heritage, and were encouraged to let their imaginations run and creativity flow. Through the creative process - with discussions, exchange of ideas, trial and error - the women were trained to experiment with colour combinations and to be daring with their use of fabric.

The result was a collection of gorgeous products made with silk, satin, wool, velvet, linen, and various types of cotton, featuring a variety of traditional embroidery patterns and stitching techniques that are absent in common handicraft items. Returning to tradition, in fact, gave these products a fresh and new look. And the popularity of these products has brought about a tangible, immediate economic impact on the women and their families in refugee camps and rural villages.

Palestine’s handicraft sector has a great potential to leap forward, and the key to success is design. This is particularly true given the relatively high cost of material and labour compared to that of neighbouring countries.

In order to make design flourish at every woman’s needle point, the traditional heritage needs to become more accessible and available, as at present most valuable antique pieces are in museums and private collections overseas. Picture books on historical Palestinian garments are mostly in foreign languages and are expensive, putting them beyond the reach of the majority of artisans. In addition, urgent efforts must be made to document various embroidery and weaving techniques that are on the verge of perishing and to train another generation to inherit the knowledge.

Finally, nourishing the talent of young local designers is crucial for the development of the handicraft sector. When more women embroiderers are aided by home-grown professionals who have the technical knowhow and passion for their heritage, it will help Palestinian craftsmanship reach its full potential.

Shirabe Yamada is with Sunbula and can be reached at shirabe@sunbula.org.

Sunbula is a Palestinian fair trade organisation dedicated to supporting the economic self-help efforts of women, refugees, and people with disabilities. All products mentioned in this article are available at Sunbula’s Craft Shop in Jerusalem (Monday - Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Tel.: (02) 672-1707), or at the Sunbula Online Craft Market: www.sunbula.org. Design genius and artist - it is a title that befits the women who made Palestine’s dresses in the old days. With their meticulous embroidering skills and extraordinary sense of colour and shape, the women used fabric as a canvas for their creativity.

Take, for example, a dress from the lost village of Beit Dajan in central Palestine. Cross-stitch in shades of red covers the front panel of the dress made with locally produced indigo-dyed cotton, while the sleeves and side panels are lined with orange and olive-coloured taffeta appliqués embellished with circular flower embroidery in silk threads. To top it off, the neckline, sleeves, and skirt are hemmed with various binding and trimming stitches. The rich combination of fabric, stitching styles, and colours is stunning.

The question faced by women’s embroidery groups today is how to design marketable modern-day products that show off Palestine’s renowned embroidery tradition. Handicraft products like cross-stitched red-and-black shawls and pillows are the most visible representations of today’s “Palestinian crafts.” However, the diversity and richness of design that characterised Palestinian craft heritage have been diminished, as the circumstances surrounding craft-making have changed drastically.

First, there is a general decrease of highly skilled embroiderers due in part to the spread of machine embroidery. Second, in the Palestinian handicraft sector, which is primarily made up of small income-generation groups, it is important that wage-earning opportunity be shared widely in the community, which may include embroiderers of varying skill levels. Therefore, for easier and faster production, present-day embroidery is done predominantly on the European canvas fabric (itameen in Arabic), which has tiny holes that form uniformly sized squares in order to assist stitch placement. Although it ensures an even outcome, the reliance on itameen has steered Palestinian embroidery to the cross-stitch. The rest of the stitching styles that made up a rich heritage - binding, couching, appliqué, and trimming - have been largely neglected, and few women remain who can still embroider with these techniques, which threaten to vanish with the passing of the older generation.

Third, the use of a wide array of regional textiles - Egyptian cotton, Iraqi wool, Syrian satin and silk, Greek linen - which flowed freely into historic Palestine, has ceased due to limited access. Palestine’s local textile industry was wiped out with the Nakba, and locally woven fabric, such as the Majdalawi from the south, is no longer produced commercially.

As patterns are mechanically copied and stitched on the grid canvas fabric to produce handicraft items for sale, the spontaneity, playfulness, and creativity of the designs from the old Palestine have been lost.

In addition, a scarcity of properly trained designers contributes to the lack of proper product development in the handicraft sector. Producing marketable, quality items takes professional knowledge and skills, such as pattern-making, knowledge of various materials, sewing and finishing techniques, costing, and quality control, all in addition to artistic talent and familiarity with the local heritage. Most craft income-generation projects do not have access to such professional resources.

However, some organisations have successfully developed attractive products, made by women whose skill can fill the surface of finely-woven fabric with tiny, even stitches without the aid of itameen. Products by Surif Women’s Cooperative (Hebron) and UNRWA Sulafa Embroidery Project (Gaza) are prime examples of this artisanship. And the beautiful and stylish products of Atfaluna Crafts (Gaza) are a result of creative use of fabrics, including the Majdalawi fabric woven by their own artisans, who have revitalised this historic textile.

Sunbula, a Jerusalem-based fair trade organisation, has been running design-oriented product-development courses with Hamada Atallah, a Jerusalem-born fashion designer. More than 120 new items were designed and produced by eight craft organisations that received training by Atallah over the last two years. The courses aim to bring the diversity and beauty of traditional Palestinian design to today’s handicraft products. The courses also aim to equip the women with practical skills and knowledge for producing more marketable and profitable items in order to help supplement family income.

Revisiting elements of old Palestinian designs was the key factor in successfully diversifying the product line. During the training, the women studied the range and richness of Palestine’s embroidery and textile heritage, and were encouraged to let their imaginations run and creativity flow. Through the creative process - with discussions, exchange of ideas, trial and error - the women were trained to experiment with colour combinations and to be daring with their use of fabric.

The result was a collection of gorgeous products made with silk, satin, wool, velvet, linen, and various types of cotton, featuring a variety of traditional embroidery patterns and stitching techniques that are absent in common handicraft items. Returning to tradition, in fact, gave these products a fresh and new look. And the popularity of these products has brought about a tangible, immediate economic impact on the women and their families in refugee camps and rural villages.

Palestine’s handicraft sector has a great potential to leap forward, and the key to success is design. This is particularly true given the relatively high cost of material and labour compared to that of neighbouring countries.

In order to make design flourish at every woman’s needle point, the traditional heritage needs to become more accessible and available, as at present most valuable antique pieces are in museums and private collections overseas. Picture books on historical Palestinian garments are mostly in foreign languages and are expensive, putting them beyond the reach of the majority of artisans. In addition, urgent efforts must be made to document various embroidery and weaving techniques that are on the verge of perishing and to train another generation to inherit the knowledge.

Finally, nourishing the talent of young local designers is crucial for the development of the handicraft sector. When more women embroiderers are aided by home-grown professionals who have the technical knowhow and passion for their heritage, it will help Palestinian craftsmanship reach its full potential.

Shirabe Yamada is with Sunbula and can be reached at shirabe@sunbula.org.

Sunbula is a Palestinian fair trade organisation dedicated to supporting the economic self-help efforts of women, refugees, and people with disabilities. All products mentioned in this article are available at Sunbula’s Craft Shop in Jerusalem (Monday - Saturday, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Tel.: (02) 672-1707), or at the Sunbula Online Craft Market: www.sunbula.org.

This Week in Palestine
November 2008

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