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Friday, November 16, 2012

Stitch Like an Egyptian

"Stitch Like and Egyptian" Demo, AQS Grand Rapids MI show 2012
The internet is a wonderful thing...but sometimes it makes me whistful.  Almost a year ago, Jenny Bowker posted that she was curating an exhibition of fiber art from Egypt at the Festival of Quilts in the U.K.   Jenny has lived in the Near East and several Islamic countries for about 15 years as a result of her husband's position.  While in Cairo, she met Egyptian tent makers who made incredible appliqued work on canvas.

Like many, I've long been enamored of Eqyptian art and I would have loved to have gone to the show. I thought I would have to be content viewing it on the internet until I discovered this summer that Jenny had signed a contract with the American Quilter's Society and was going to have the exhibition at the show in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

What luck!  I went to see the show and it was mobbed.  If you have been following my blog, you know that I had one post which I pulled the photos down from when I realized that AQS not only wanted you to have permission from the artist, but also from AQS.  So....I dutifully sent an email to AQS.  and.....never heard back.  However, Jenny graciously said yes, and I decided that I would post this anyway....with the effort I usually take to properly attribute things.

"Stitch Like an Egyptian" was every bit as good as I thought it would be.  I actually had to wait for this picture to get some of the essence of the quilts in...most of the time it was difficult to take a long shot because there were so many people.

Some of the pieces are based on Arabic calligraphy  others like the one on the left here resemble tile work.  Others remind one of the wall of the ancient Egyptian tombs.  Men make these wonderful applique pieces which are often used on the walls of tents at funerals and for other occasions.  AQS alluded to this with the "tent" you see in the first photo.  Unfortunately, this is a dying art as the people are giving up their nomadic life and decorated tents as part of their culture.  Two of the tent makers , Tarek and Hossam came over and demonstrated...using large scissors and with hands that seem too big to make the fine stitches and work that they did.

Here you can see Hossam Mohamed working away at a piece inspired by lotus blossoms.  The woman in the background is Jenny.
The tent makers struggle to provide for their families. I am happy to report that although I was there on the first full day the show was open, many if not most of the pieces offered already had "sold" stickers on them.  I was even tempted to take one home...but I thought better of it as I wasn't sure how I would explain that one to my I had told him "Don't worry, I'm not going to be buying anything" as I left.

I did, however, buy the catalog that AQS produced...and I was even able to get my membership discount!  It is a wonderful book and well work the purchase price.  I didn't buy the DVD, but it includes the entire show as well as interviews with Jenny, Terek and Hossam.  You can guy it with the book, or separately.

The best part? I discovered that the exhibition will be at Quiltweek in Lancaster, PA, March 13-16, 2013 as well as at the Paducah show, April 24-27 in Paducah, KY.  So...if you are going to either show, make sure you allow enough time to take everything in.

And Jenny? I'm really thankful for the work you put in to make this possible.  It was a real treat to be able to see these wonderful pieces.

Once again, I am participating in Nina-Marie's "Off the Wall Fridays" fiber art blog if you want to see more fiberlicious blogs, just go here and link up!


Lisa said...

What a fun event. The tent/quilt pieces are so beautiful!

Nina Marie said...

The event looks amazing - but just as amazing is how small the world became with the advent of the internet.