TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Urgent Appeal for Catherine and Abit in Turkey! Help keep Abit out of jail...

Remember this movie? Midnight Express....

I have no idea what prisons or jails are like in Turkey today, but I know that they are not good places to be in any part of the world, and Turkey, especially, gives me the weakness in the knees. Well, today I have a cyber-friend, Catherine Salter Bayar, who wrote in a panic because her husband, Abit, might be thrown into debtor's jail for almost a year. I have no money to help her, but I do have this blog and I am hoping that many of you out there will rise to the occasion and help prevent this disaster.

Catherine and Abit own a store and coffee shop in Turkey. They have a shop on Etsy and I approached Catherine several months ago to write for Fiber Focus. She has become a regular contributor (see her other articles) and we were just talking about the next two she will be submitting. Little did we know we would have to put out this appeal!

We bonded immediately because of our passion for textiles, for the people who make them, and because we are both American white girls married to wonderful Muslim men who drive us crazy. (Not really crazy, but we can compare notes, right?) Catherine is writing a book on Turkish textiles and is a member of our Fiber Focus group. I asked Catherine to write a short description of what their needs are so I could post it here and here is what she wrote:

Help keep Abit out of Jail!!!

"The summer is nearly over, and it's been a pretty good one...until this past month of August. Always tough due to the heat (smart tourists do not visit now if they can help it!), our cash flow has dwindle to near $0. Anyone who has a small business knows that cash flow is crucial - no business stays afloat long without it. September and October have always been our best months for sales here, so we were hoping to ride it out.

But here in Turkey, there is an interesting twist when a cash flow crunch means a missed small business final loan payment of $5,200, due this past Monday, August 25th. We promptly received court papers today (delivered on a Sunday!). If not paid by this coming Thursday, my husband Abit will have to go to debtor's jail...for 340 days!

We knew there could be jail time involved, but had no idea they could keep him nearly a year, for Heaven's sake! Makes no sense whatsoever. At the same time, we have to renew our Cafe Mosaik's lease for the next 6 months this week at $5,000 or they will move us out of there.

We have travelers coming to see us from the US both here and in Istanbul in September. We plan to spend November through March in the US, visiting friends and selling a huge vintage collection of kilims and carpets a colleague has in California. But we need an immediate $10,000 to make it until then.

Can you help? Our Etsy shop is full of lots of wonderful Turkish textile treasures to buy. Or, make a donation to keep my hard-working, extended family of 15 supporting husband out of debtor's prison. Anyone wanting to partner with us in either shop or Cafe is welcome to inquire as well.

Thanks for all your help and best wishes - we appreciate them immensely!"

-Catherine Salter Bayar

I've been writing articles about all these different people and groups around the world who are facing all kinds of challenges in production, finding markets for their work, and in maintaining their social fabric intact. This is a personal instance, for me, where the people involved are my peers. Anyone who knows me will know why I feel so profoundly about their situation. For the past twenty years, I have also been under the constant burden of debt and financial stress. If I were in Turkey, I would have been thrown into debtor's prison a long time ago. Debt is an immense problem that many Americans are facing these days. People are losing their jobs, houses, and have no health insurance. (Sound like some political speeches we've heard lately?)

Well, the thing that gets me is that if Abit goes to jail, he becomes unproductive. How can he even hope to get caught up from there? I can understand being penalized by a fine or serving time doing community service, but what good is to anyone to be in jail or prison or confined in any way?

So, WHY do we put ourselves through all this stress? Why, why, oh, why? I think about it all the time. I think it is because we love what we do and we have that undying hope that someday all our hard work will support ourselves and the people we represent. The business of working with artisans is not only about the finished product. It is about preserving choices in our world that remain outside the net of mass consumerism and production. But, because we may be white or educated, possibly from a middle class background, we are perceived as people who are affluent and full of options. If you stick with it long enough and don't succeed, eventually those options do dry up.

Well, without writing a dissertation about this, if you would like to help Catherine and Abit, there are several things you can do:

  • Shop at their Etsy store.
  • Ask them what other inventory they have on hand they could sell you.
  • Catherine mentioned they are open to investors in their business. Take a look at their website and see if there is a possibility there for you.
  • Shop at my Etsy store. If you buy something now through September 5th, I'll give 15% of the sale to them. (Wish I could do more, but I have my suppliers that need to be paid, too...) Leave a note for the seller at the time of purchase or through Pay Pal at the time of payment saying "This purchase is for Catherine and Abit".
  • Finally, here is a donation button that goes to Catherine's Pay Pal account. Any amount will help!

    We finish with "Money Makes the World Go Around"


    Catherine reported this morning that $744 has been raised through this article in sales and donations! What a wonderful response! Yesterday's traffic to the site was the highest Fiber Focus has ever had which reinforces for me, how ready people are to help in whatever way they can. They still have to raise another $4K, so please spread the link to this article. We have another four days to work on this. Abit is seeing a lawyer today to see if he can get an extension. We'll report again later in the day. Many, many thanks to all of you who have been so generous with purchases, donations and spreading the word!

    Update, September 3rd

    An enormous THANK YOU to everyone who purchased from our Etsy site or gave a donation - we made $1,744 because of your generosity!!! And a huge debt of gratitude to Rachel at Fiber Focus for bringing this to your attention.
    Knowing that sum of money was on its way to our bank via PayPal plus giving them the cash we had on hand, Abit managed to talk the small business loan people plus the cafe landlord into holding off, but only until Friday.
    We do still have to come up with about $4,000 more by then. After jumping that hurdle, we have 10 days (actual, not business days) to pay the final $4,000 owed to both parties.
    So, we would appreciate you spreading the word to anyone else you may know. We are truly thankful for your support! All orders will be shipped this week - I apologize for being too 'wound up' to finish packing them up today.
    Another update Friday...

    (Note to all: You probably already knew this, but when I return to the States this fall, I will be getting a PayPal debit card so I could have withdrawn funds immediately, instead of being in nail-biting limbo for 3 days as I am now...)

Newest Update, September 5th

"As of today, we are halfway out of the woods, I'm glad to report! An exceptional soul in Istanbul, an American friend of a friend whom I'd only met once, was incensed about jail time for a debt. After living here and running a business for several years, she too had heard and experienced similar stories and did not want to see a woman in trouble. She offered to use her credit card to help us, in return for a very good wholesale deal on carpets that she will sell to others or back to us when we can. A little tricky to work out the logistics, since she is 350 miles north of us. Fortunately, she knows and trusts another carpet dealer here in Selcuk, and asked him to assist in reviewing our rugs. I was happy when she mentioned his name, because he happens to be Abit's cousin! It's truly a small world here sometimes...
We will be able to pay half the Cafe lease tomorrow, and enough of the small business debt for them to suspend the arrest. So Abit remains free, thanks to the support of many good people. We still have about $4,000 to make by Friday the 12th though, to complete paying these two debts in full."

From Rachel:

The reader response really has been wonderful! However, they still need help, so if you can keep this post going by forwarding it to your friends or posting about it in your blog, maybe we can help them a bit more. Help Abit a bit? I'm sure he's heard that before!

I'm going to return to my regular posts now, but will continue to update here as Catherine sends me news. Many, many thanks to all of you!


Saturday, August 30, 2008

Artists and Crafters Guide to Preparing for the Holiday Shopping Season: Handmade Sellers Getting Ready for a Rush of Buyers! It's about that time!

Shalana, the Funky Felter, offered to share this article with us here at Fiber Focus. It is also running in her blog, The Funky Felters News and Tips. Shalana is a seller on Etsy and a member of our Fiber Focus ning group where many of us are sellers on Etsy, eBay or through other venues. The photos in the article are her felt products, most of which are available in her Etsy store. Click on the image and it will take you to the listing. Thank you for sharing these great tips with us, Shalana!

"Oh, the weather outside is frightful, but the . . ." Wait a minute! Does it seem a little too early to be singing a Holiday song. Considering that the weather where I live is still frightfully hot, I'd say "YES!" - but if you're the owner of a small arts and crafts business, you know that it is prime time to start preparing for the Holiday selling season. If you haven't already been hurriedly creating new things and getting ready for those Holiday shoppers, then you should be. It is not too late though! Below you'll find a few of my personal tips on how to get ready for a (hopefully) big Holiday rush of shoppers.

Ready, Get Set, GO!

1. Spiffy up Your Etsy Shop and Other Online Venues
Make sure that your overall shop is looking its very best! If you need to, invest in a new banner and avatar for your Etsy shop. Check out my previous article post to find some free banners or buy one from an Etsy seller. You might even get festive and have a special Holiday banner and avatar. And, let your product photos speak for themselves and be at their absolute best because that is going to be your potential buyer's first impression. Also, be sure to have clearly defined shop policies and a nice, friendly profile. It is all those little details that add up to make your shop be as professional and welcoming as possible.

2. Stock Your Shop! And have more inventory on hand . . .
Because you just never know! Not only do you not know how many potential sales you might make, but you also don't know what kind of Holiday busyness will get in the way so that you don't have time to create new things. Stocking your shop and preparing item photos and descriptions early will make it easy to list new items when you're busy with other things this Fall/Winter. Now is the time to stock your online shop as well as stash some inventory away. Personally, I like to have 100+ items listed in my Etsy shop and some waiting in the wings to replace those that sell. It may seem like a lot to some, but the more items that you have, the more chances there are for you to be found in the pile of listings that are added each day on Etsy.

3. Organize Your Shipping and Packaging
This is perhaps what caught me by surprise last year, but this year, I'm going to be prepared! If you print your labels via PayPal and use Priority Mail boxes and envelopes provided by the US Post Office, that can make things a bit easier when it comes to mailing. Also, if you are a large volume seller (or a small one who doesn't like hassle), you might consider paying for a mail service like Endicia or Stamps, but I've heard mixed reviews about both of them so do a little research before you invest in such a service. Personally, I'm an old-fashioned girl when it comes to mailing. I like to print my own return address labels and write or print my shipping labels too. I also trek down to the local post office (yes, in person) and mail off my orders. Since I am so hands on about it all, I try to keep my packing/shipping area organized. I print several return labels at once to have on hand as well as keep my mailing envelopes and boxes in open face plastic bins for easy access. I also have my jewelry boxes, organza bags, and pretty gift wrapping supplies in similar easy access bins. I just finished ordering some mailers from my current favorite place to buy, Upaknship. You can also find good packaging supply deals on Ebay - yep, you heard me right - Ebay! And, don't forget to recycle! I always recycle whatever packing supplies that I can. It is an all-around good thing when you recycle! By the way, here's a great little article by The Worsted Witch on eco-friendly mailers so check it out for ideas.

4. Advertise, Market, and Publicize! Get the word out people!
Buy some online and print advertising on blogs/sites and in magazines that pertain to your target market. Also indie shopping guides are a great thing to take part in to boost your exposure. You can find good advertising space in all price ranges. Read more about all of this in my Online Advertising post. Also, tell your friends, family, and coworkers about your shop, and tell them to tell others! If you don't already, post in forums regularly as well as keep up with your social networking sites because there will be a lot more people trolling the internet for presents this Fall/Winter. There are many, many ways to promote so take advantage of every avenue that is available to you!

5. Pursue off-line selling too! Craft fairs and local events!
I must admit that I'm so much more comfortable sitting in my pj's and selling online from the luxuries of my own home, but it does pay to get out and do some fairs, festivals, and events. Often times, I have seen sellers make more at one show than they would make in a month or more selling online - especially during Holiday shopping season. It is not too late to seek out local venues in your area. Try checking these sites to see what's going on in your area: Indie Craft Fair Guide, Festival Network, Indie Craft Shows, Craft Lister, and Luna Craft. And, even if you aren't planning on selling at a local event, visit a few to buy your own Holiday gifts and support local area artists and crafters.

Finally, I just want to remind you to continue to create and do things as usual - don't get lost in all the hubbub of the Holiday selling season. After all, hopefully you have a shop and sell your creations because you love what you make first, then the sales and money that come along with it.

Original article by Shalana, the funky felter. Please take a minute to visit her blog and Etsy shop. Shalana is a fiber artist specializing in traditional feltmaking who also writes about her endeavors as an independent craft business owner.


Friday, August 29, 2008

Queen Rania and the Jordan River Foundation

Several years ago I had the privilege of attending a USAID conference in Chicago that focused on handicrafts, women and economic development initiatives around the world. A large room showcased different projects with samples of their work and representatives of the groups. Smaller rooms were used for topical seminars. The experience was fascinating and energizing: to see women from so many different places, many dressed in traditional outfits, bringing color and texture into the gathering, all of them engaged in so many wonderful enterprises. The highlight of the conference was an address by keynote speaker, Queen Rania of Jordan.

Yes, she is a queen. A beautiful one. The woman is drop-dead gorgeous! She could easily use her beauty as an unapproachable guise to keep her away from the masses, leading the life of an earthly goddess. Instead, she is down here with the rest of us, more often than not, in simple garbs, one of the people.

When Queen Rania begins to speak, the issue of her beauty fades into the background. The woman is also brilliant. She earned a degree in Business Administration at the University of Cairo and has put that education to use in her role as Queen. She sees her job as a partnership with her husband, King Abdullah II, to lead Jordan into prosperity, modernity, and justice. This interview on ABC News is a good example of the way she engages the people around her to achieve her goals:

ABC News Interview with Queen Rania

Queen Rania sees her role as Queen as a job. She speaks openly about how difficult she finds it to balance her home life with four children, with her "job" and her duties as Queen. Her children are her priority. She reads to them at night, plays with them, and instills in them those values that drive the rest of her life.

Queen Rania with King Abdullah II and their children.

Queen Rania attended the conference in Chicago to speak about her project that she had started to address some of the fundamental needs the people of Jordan have concerning advocacy for children and women's rights along with economic development in rural areas. She established the Jordan River Foundation in 1995 as a non-profit, non-governmental organization that addresses those needs in concrete ways.

The Foundation's profile:

Our Mission
The Jordan River Foundation's mission is to promote, in partnership with stakeholders, the development of a dynamic Jordanian society by initiating and supporting sustainable social, economic and cultural programs that empower communities and individuals based on their needs and priorities.

Our Dedication
At the outset, the Foundation initiated socio-economic projects for women to provide employment opportunities that enhanced their livelihood while developing their knowledge and skills in handicraft production and entrepreneurship. These projects benefited thousands of individuals, directly and indirectly, and continue to generate income for vulnerable communities and families.

As the Foundation matured, and the context of development evolved in Jordan, the Foundation expanded its approach to one of sustainable community investments, integrating and serving community development needs.
Today, the Foundation is recognized nationally, regionally and internationally as an agent for positive change and as a leading Jordanian institution contributing to the social and economic well-being of citizens. Our activities have become models for emulation receiving accolades by our beneficiaries who are often held up as "success stories".

A large part of their programming is dedicated to serving the needs of underprivileged children and women. They have invested in schools, art programs, legal advice for women and many other programs. This video gives an overview of the foundation:

Queen Rania's Tribute to the Jordan River Foundation

The Jordan River Foundation also has two handicraft initiatives, the Radi Al Rayan Project, which works with women who make mats, furniture and other decorative objects out of banana leaves and cattail reeds, and the Bani Hamida Women's Weaving Project which works with Bedouin women. The samples shown at the conference were stunningly well crafted and easily incorporated into contemporary design. Some samples from their catalog:

The Foundation's approach makes the connection between the production of traditional handicrafts like weaving with local farming and agricultural needs. Although women primarily benefit from the handicrafts initiatives, men also are included through all the work the Foundation does to better their crop yields and market expansion.

These two photos are from a visit Joy May Hilden
made to the Bani Hamida's Weaving Project.
She has a fascinating
website on the Beduin.

Queen Rania had "real" jobs before she married the King. She worked for both Apple and Citibank and brought these experiences with her to the throne. She is media savvy and has a series of videos on YouTube where she addresses questions on Islam, the Middle East, relations with Israel, the rights of women and so on. She meets these tough questions with grace, humor, gentleness, and a true desire to connect and educate. In watching how she interacts with Arab men, it is obvious that she has acquired a position of equality and respect. Her beauty, her choice to remain unveiled, and her gender seem unimportant in view of all that she has contributed to Jordan's development.

There is a lesson here for all of us. Queen Rania lives the dictate, "To whom much is given, much is required." But, she does it with joy, enthusiasm and great hope. One person can make a difference and she believes in the domino effect that if you give to someone who is in your neighborhood, then that giving will catch on and spread. May her life continue to be a source of inspiration for you and for me! Thank you, Queen Rania!


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Watatu: Kanga, Kitenge and Proverbs from Tanzania

Kanga and Kitenge
– a living part of the East African culture
The Kanga (also spelled khanga) is an about 1 meter wide and 1,5 meter long piece of textile, which is used mainly in Kenya and Tanzania as garment, for carrying babies etc. In Uganda it is called Leso. The Kanga is of cotton and is printed using the silkscreen technique with a frame (pindo in Swahili) and a theme (mji) inside it. There is also often a slogan or proverb (ujumbe or jina) printed on the textile. The Kanga is easy to fold, tie and wind. It is often bought in pairs, and then cut to two pieces – one to wrap around you as a skirt and the other piece around your shoulders.


The ujumbe or jina here says “I wish you all the best”.

The Kitenge (vitenge in plural) is another kind of textile, but of a thicker quality, and it has usually an edging only a long side or not at all. It is printed using rotary spinning machines. Even kitenge is sold in lengths sufficient to cover ones body. Specific patterns are designed for national holidays, jubilees etc. While similar textiles as the kitenge can be found all around Africa, the kanga is specific for East Africa and it has a fascinating history.


Women of Zanzibar created the Kanga
In the middle of the 19th century there was an abundance of imported goods in the bazaars in Zanzibar. Textiles were imported from India, the Far East and Europe. The Portuguese contributed with printed textiles to be used as shawls. They came in 0.50 meters wide rolls with square patterns. Normally you would cut off one square and sell it, but some women bought six squares instead, cut it in two pieces and sew them together to get new patterns.

The story goes that the new patterns were called “Kanga” as they reminded of the plumage of the speckled guinea fowl. In Swahili, the word kanga means precisely that: guinea fowl. However, in the book “Kanga – the cloth that speaks” - available at Watatu - the writer Sharifa Zawawi, who is Professor Emeritus of Classical Languages, has a completely different theory on the origin of the word, which we will not reveal here.

”I am also a kanga”

”A wife is a fruit to take well care of”
In the beginning of the 20th century the trader Kaderdina Hajee Essak in Mombasa, often called Abdullah, got the idea of printing texts on the textiles, preferably proverbs from the rich Swahili cultural heritage. His textiles, which carried the trademark "K.H.E.-Mali ya Abdullah", quickly created a new fashion, which lasts up till today.

The texts are in Swahili, which is spoken in East Africa and Central Africa. It is the official language in Kenya and Tanzania (a union of Zanzibar and Tanganyika). The words on the kangas can often - if not just being printed for a jubilee or being political or religious slogans - have a double meaning. With a kanga you can indirectly say what you want to your neighbour, rival or others. The texts can be seen as document of historical and political events as well as prevailing values in the Swahili society and how they have changed during times.

The Mji and Jina (see above) are what characterizes the kanga and its popularity. The popularity of the Mji, that occupies the most important area of the kanga, save for its colours and the art, may be overshadowed by the context of the jina. The jina is usually printed in uppercase letters in colours that match the central motif and most likely on white background to improve its readability. Kangas without text are called kanga bubu – a dumb kanga.

The ujumbe or jina here says, “A wife is a fruit to take well care of”.

In the beginning the pattern at the kangas was printed by hand using wooden stamps. Nowadays it is an industrial item, where the textile industry in Tanzania has to compete with cheaper copies (but of less good quality) of kangas from India and China, where even the text in Swahili is copied.

In sorrow and happiness
In Tanzania the kanga is used for all events in life. When a girl is going to be married, she is covered with kangas. She is also given kangas as gifts. Also when people go to celebrate the birth of a child, the women put a kanga around the waist, and when someone has passed, and people go to pay their respects, the women put a kanga around the waist.

Also notice here the dress at the bottom is made of a kanga!

There is a special design of a kanga called kisutu. It has a beautiful pattern with a lot of details and you can get it in red and black or blue. The red and black one is called kisutu cha arusi and in Zanzibar the bride is wrapped in it at the wedding day. At the permanent kanga exhibition at the National Museum of Zanzibar, they tell you that this specific ”wedding kanga” has a bloody story linked to it. It is said that a woman killed her husband with a knife, because he didn’t give her this kanga.

Kisutu cha arusi

A kanga or kitenge for you
The kanga and the kitenge are wonderful products, you can really use them for everything. Our online shop has a wonderful selection of kanga and kitenge, other African textiles, baby carriers, African fashion, coffee, and much more! And, if you sew, kanga and kitenge work great in quilts or made into your own clothing, bags, curtains, or table cloths.

We are three old friends, Watatu (=three in Swahili), one from Sweden and two from Tanzania who are trying to promote the use of kanga and kitenge also outside East Africa. Do come visit our site!

Written by

Karin Zetterqvist
Watatu Textil

”Textil i Afrika” by Erik Cardfelt, Karin Olsson
“Kanga – The Cloth That Speaks” by Sharifa Zawawi
Article “The Kanga” in Bang Magazine, July/August 2007

See Karin's article on Bark Cloth in Uganda.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Maze in the Amazon: The Shipibo-Conibo Path in Textiles

I first learned about the Shipibo through their beautiful ceramics. Fine black lines create mazes of pattern on white backgrounds, framed by the red tierra cotta clay. As I was exposed to more of their work, I saw that those designs were also abundant in their textiles, as facial tattoos and as wall art on the outside of their houses.

A Different Approach carries Shipibo pottery wholesale.
They are a fair trade organization that support many pottery
efforts in Central and South America.

Many authors refer to the Shipibo in conjunction with another indigenous group, the Conibo, as one people, the Shipibo-Conibo, as the two have merged through intermarriage. They live along the Amazon River and its tributaries in small villages, although many cities like Iquitos and Lima now have Shipibo communities as well. Estimates number the population at 35,000 people in 300 villages. As with most indigenous groups around the world, the Shipibo-Conibo face the old story of displacement due to logging (Cultural Survival has an article about mahogany culling in the region), climate change, and assimilation into the mainstream popular culture. Yet, they have been able to find a better balance than many other groups through their profound knowledge of medicinal herbs, shamanism, and production of handicrafts and textiles.

Several permaculture efforts have networked with them in an effort to help them produce better foods locally, decreasing their dependency on trade. Ecoversity describes some of the challenges they have experienced in reaching remote communities while other less isolated groups have enjoyed significant gains through participating in events such as the Santa Fe International Art Market.

Photo by Howard G. Charing
See his pdf article, Communion with the Infinite, for more information
on the textiles and their spiritual significance.

Shipibo-Conibo textiles are closely connected to their religious context. The World Culture Encyclopedia has a page description of Shipibo belief. Boiled down to one paragraph, they believe that spirits or gods live up in the sky which can be accessed by the "vegetalista" or herbalist (shaman). Western medicine is fine for treating diseases of the flesh, but the vegetalista will know how to cure the spiritual maladies. Shipibo cosmology translates itself into art through the vision of being part of a larger whole. Dan James Pantone, Ph.D., has an excellent article which explains some of this dynamic. I thought this insight was especially interesting:

"The art form of the Shipibos is little understood by the outside world. To the artists, is not something that they are taught, rather they are inspired to create their distinctive patterns. The women, rather than the men in the village, are the artists. Commonly the women will work together to produce a single piece. Each of the women seems to be moved by the same artistic spirit and one woman can interrupt her work and then assign another woman in the village to complete a particular piece. When the artwork is finished, the resulting piece will look like it was made by a single artist. This really is communal art at its finest."

Photo by Lorna Li

It reminds me a bit of quilting bees, yet if you watch how these textiles are made, it's a little more abstract in design than most quilting patterns. The textiles also call up Aborigine work to me. Instead of dots marking a pathway, lines move you through the piece.

Vintage 1960's Shipibo Textile, by Patina Green

There are two main forms of the textiles, both very different in their final impact. The simple white and black textiles are painted with vegetable dyes, resulting in stark geometric contrasts. The second uses embroidery. Although the patterns are also geometric, the use of color introduces the potential for walking on the wild side of the maze. Designs may explode with clashing oranges and blues, while others may bring calm and a sense of peace with greens and purples.

"This is the "Wayvana" pattern:
the wavy lines mimicking each other are people eating together
underneath a tree (the little square in the middle)." Willem Malten

Sabine Rittner, of Heidelberg, Germany, spent several months with the Shipibo in 2005. Coming from a music therapy background, she researched how the vegetalista or shaman approached healing in their context. She quotes:

`Every human being possesses a body pattern that is formed by his energy flow and is not visible to the average villager but to the shaman. When the competent and experienced shaman uses the plant in question, then he gets insights into a patient's energy field and flow of life force, energetic disturbances and blockades. Shipibo shamans say that the ayahuasqua drink helps them to see through a patient's body, like x-rays. However, they see neither skeleton nor organs but rather the disturbances and blockades in energetic balance. The exact site of the illness may be located in this way. The ayahuasqua plant permits shamans also to contact the spirit world. Above all the so-called `masters of powerful trees' support a shaman in his therapeutic work. These patterns resemble the style of the patterns we admire on earthen vessels and textiles. But according to the shamans' descriptions they are much finer and more complex. If a person falls ill in the course of his life this becomes visible in an imbalance, a distortion, an unclearness or agitation of his body pattern. Ayahuasca helps a shaman to see the pattern and evaluate it. He tries to reconstruct the pattern through songs transmitted to him in his ayahuasca induced state by the masters of the trees. For the Shipibo these songs are sacred and healing, they are also called `pattern medicine'. When a shaman sings his therapeutic song, then rhythm and intensity of the song show their effects in a patient's body pattern. While the shaman's healing song leaves the breath of his mouth in a linear and rhythmic flow, it forms a fine pattern that becomes embedded in the patient's body and causes harmony in the energy balance and the mind.' (From: Gebhard-Sayer/Illius, 1991).

She concludes her fascinating article with a note on what she learned:

"Everything I tried to present in this paper is the result of momentary impressions. Despite written versions of the Shipibo language, theirs is an oral culture living in the flow of `improvisation', that is, being recreated all the time. There is the continuity of a common history, a tradition passed on in tales, myths, shapes, colours and music. But this is the art of creation that lives anew every day, every moment, with each listener. The stories told in ethnological books are, strictly speaking, only true in the moment of telling, not for the next day, not for the next ayahuasquero, not for the next village. It was a lesson and a challenge for me to discuss with the Shipibo this kind of `permanent impermanence' that has more contradictions than consistencies.

My intention was not to idealize the Shipibo culture. Notwithstanding our postmodern longing for the `original' and `authentic', the life of the Shipibo is full of existential problems, with unbelievable material poverty and tremendous social wealth. I am deeply grateful to them for accepting me as a guest and permitting me insights into their everyday lives and spiritual healing traditions."

On that note, perhaps we should all give up some thanks for our own roles as guests on this earth and for our impermanent contributions to the maze we each walk in.

Here are some Shipibo products available on Amazon and Novica:


Sunday, August 24, 2008

New Textile Stamps In! 10% Discount Offer on Direct Purchases

Every few months I get a big bag of new textile stamps. I buy them sight unseen and just got my newest order. Usually there is a whole range of sizes, but this time, most were in the medium range, around 5" or 13 cm square. I've been offering first dibs to my regular customers through my website, but now that I have this blog, I'll make the offer public.

I photograph the stamps front and back and write the number and price on the back. The discount saves me labor and cost by not having to spend time or money on the listing. Dimensions are not given. Those of you who are familiar with the stamps will know that very small ones are about 1" in diameter and go for $5 and the biggest ones are up to 14" wide and go for $25 or $30.

This is how it works: Go to my website and look at the thumbnails. I just loaded 60 new blocks at the top of that page. I will list another 60 or so in a couple of weeks when I have the rest photographed. E-mail me back with the numbers you are interested in. Because there is no shopping cart, all hell kind of breaks loose in the beginning. I go through the requests as they come in, notify of availability, buyer confirms what she or he wants, then I send a paypal invoice. So, although an image might be sold it might still be there. I try to clean them out as quickly as possible, but it gets kind of crazy.

Returns: You can return any stamp you don't want for a refund on its price. I do not refund shipping.

Shipping: I use the USPS flat rate envelopes and boxes, which really save a lot of money for these heavy blocks! I can usually fit two or three of the medium ones in a $5 envelope and can fit quite a few in a $9 box. Shipping overseas can be pretty expensive, but usually does not go over $40. Fortunately for those of you who are shopping in Euros and Pounds, you are getting an extra deal with dollar being so low... (sob, sob...)

Further Discounts:
Purchases in the United States over $100 get free shipping. I will cover the first $20 in overseas orders that are over $100. You can combine other purchases from my stores on eBay or Etsy to reach that $100 (and you don't have to stick to just the stamps), but you do have to go through their check out processes. If you go through them (I have a bunch of stamps listed in both stores) and are charged shipping fees even though your purchase total is over $100, I will refund your fees when I print the shipping label on Pay Pal.

Textile stamps are new to you? Don't know what to do with them? Well, they are wonderful objects in their own right, but also great tools for fabric, paper and clay artists. The stamps can be inked as a regular stamp (with dye or acrylic paint) or they can be pressed into clay or paper pulp. Read my past articles to learn more about them and to see images of how they have been used. The Zucchi Collection is also a wonderful site with historical information on English textile stamps. Here are a couple of books that might also be inspirational:

I have several of them around my house as objects. My fantasy is to tile a whole wall with them!

These stamps are old (20-30 yrs or more) and have been used in workshops in Central Asia. Some are used as borders, others are focal pieces. All of them show signs of wear, have nicks or imperfections. These can be repaired with wood filler, but most of the artists I know like using them as they are, achieving a distressed effect. The stamps are carved out of pear wood, have been smoked and dyed with black ink. Be sure to clean them well with soapy water and a scrub brush before using them on your fabric or paper!

Are you using textile stamps in your work? Leave us a link in the comments below so we can see what you are doing with them! And, now.... let the madness begin!


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