In July 2009, Jennifer had no idea the art of weaving was dying. She just wanted to put the famous Turkish towels into her newly acquired Arasta Bazaar shop.
It was shocking to discover that there was barely anything left of the art and those few weavers that were found after days of searching were close to bankruptcy. The realization that this art could become extinct is what began her obsession to save it.
"Working with these artisans has enriched my life beyond words. I knew nothing of textiles and they've given me the equivalent of a university education regarding weaving and textiles. I'm so thankful to know these people and to have the privilege to be working with them. The quality they create is beyond anything else in the market and we are proud to be the link between these artisans and the clients that support them."
When working with these talented artisans, one of the many challenges that Jennifer has faced over the years is their dislike of her camera and outside visitors. Shots like the ones seen here are taken when the weavers are on lunch break; others with the camera hidden under her jacket. There are many of the weavers that refused to have their faces photographed. She hopes that with time and education, they will slowly realize they have nothing to fear and that these photos and further information can actually help increase their business.
Most clients assume the weavers are all women; Jennifer is very careful to ensure that clients know that almost all the artisans Jennifer's Hamam works with are men.
Women in the past were the home weavers and more importantly the teachers of weaving. As a child you grew up next to mom learning all about looms, threads and weaving. A young woman would leave home to get married and carry on the tradition of weaving for the home and teaching the next generation. A young man would enter as an apprentice in commercial setting with other men.
Looms in the Turkish homes disappeared more than 30 years ago. It was at this point most women stopped weaving; the market for handwoven textiles began to decline as consumers chose the cheaper, lesser quality factory made items; and the teaching of weaving ceased to exist. The last few men that hung on to weaving are the artisans Jennifer met in 2009.
It is Jennifer's dream to see a school of weaving built that would focus on bringing women and our teachers back into the art. and actually save the art as oppose to just extending its inevitable death.