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 public that supports 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. All the shots below were either secretly taken with camera hidden under her jacket or taken when the heads of the various workshops were not around. There are many of the weavers that refused to have their faces photographed, so this is a very small selection of those working hard to make all the beautiful pestamels, thick-looped towels and other pieces you find at Jennifer's Hamam.
You will also note that there are not many women shown; this is because almost all the weavers left in Turkey 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. 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.