Tatreez & Tea is not going to be a traditional Palestinian embroidery book.
The work I completed this month emphasized this aspect of the project. I am contributing something new to the world of books and to the documentation of Palestinian folklore. I am not sure how to articulate it’s different-ness, but I can share what it is not.
Tatreez & Tea is not a book to educate the reader about the different regions of old Palestine, and the costumes that were worn therein.
Tatreez & Tea is not a history book, documenting the birth of tatreez in Palestine and the beauty of our costume throughout history.
Tatreez & Tea is not exclusively a photographical account of the tatreez created by my mother.
My book, Tatreez & Tea, is about so much more than that.
It contextualizes embroidery pieces not by old Palestinian villages, but by the stories of my mother’s life and the lives of those around her, including my sisters and I. We are all inextricably linked to the tatreez in a way you may not know how to imagine. We are connected in every way, and I try to convey that through stories, photographs, recipes, poetry and patterns.
Tatreez & Tea is more than just a book about embroidery. Its a book about the cultural traditions of Palestine within a specific segment of society — that of female artists. I document the previously undocumented culture of female artists in Palestine and in the Diaspora. My grandmother and mother passed on these traditions to me and my sisters, in Diaspora. And at this time, these traditions are still very much alive. Even among my niece and nephew — the next generation of bicultural/multicultural Palestinian kids growing up in Diaspora.
In my last post for February, I conducted a poll regarding what you thought should be included in the book. The poll revealed a great amount of information, thank you so much to those who participated. One very important conclusion I could pull from the poll results was that I am contributing something new, something unseen, unread, unprecedented. I am contributing something that a supporter of the book project, may not be able to imagine at this time. And that’s okay.
It’s a new contribution that I haven’t been able to articulate anywhere else but in the book manuscript itself. My voice must be strong, must be fearless, must be unequivocally me. Not just of my mother.
March was an AMAZING month. Besides the work on the book, I started a new job that will enable me to really invest in the rest of the project as needed, without having to rely on grant funding or fundraising.
FIRST AND FOREMOST, thank you to Andrea Leake who assisted in the photoshoot for the book while I was in Portland, Oregon at the beginning of the month. Andrea is a florist by trade, but within our community in the little town of Milwaukie, Oregon, we know her as a woman with a superb sense of detail and an exquisitely artistic eye for placement and positioning. Thanks to the grant funding we’ve received for the book project, I booked a full day, morning to evening, at a natural light studio in SE Portland where Andrea and I spent all day photographing the embroidery and the many special artifacts of my family mentioned in the book — including the key to our home in Safad, Palestine.
This photoshoot brought to light how truly unique and different this book will be. It was a bit scary at first, but now I feel very bold and unstoppable. We got all the photographs we needed in one day, elhumdulilah!
On the Portland trip, I also captured approximately 4-5 hours of additional interviews with my mother, including an interview over the phone with khaltu Ilham, one of my mothers first apprentices in Damascus, Syria. Khaltu Ilham is still in Damascus, and I felt so honored to be able to reach her to discuss her embroidery and the work she did with my mother so many years ago.
I am so excited about the stories I captured during these interviews. What a treat to you all! I was able to uncover some gems in the embroidery stories, offering some richness and additional context for you to fall in love with embroidery patterns that much more.
I also decided to add an embroidered vest design and three children’s dress designs to the book, on top of the 12 thematic designs already shared in detail through pattern, history, meaning and stories.
As many of you know, I will also be including tea recipes in the book, unique recipes shared within the women of my family who make tea as a ritual when they embroider. Tea, in the book and probably for the whole world, is a symbol of our culture and traditions. Tea symbolizes the eternal ritual of peace and comfort that Palestinian traditions bring. I’ve been able to collect around 10 tea recipes from my family, thanks to my mother, Khaltu Fadwa, Khaltu Ward, Khaltu Sena’, and Safa to weave throughout the book. Like little gifts in-between the big gifts, which are the embroidery patterns and stories. It has been a wonderful family effort gathering these recipes, and I have felt such a profound sense of support and closeness to my relatives in Jordan and Syria throughout this process.
Before I lose your attention, a couple more updates I’d like to share; I am nearing completion of my first draft and my editor, Safa, is beginning her work in reviewing the book now; I accepted the grant award for the book from the Brooklyn Arts Council in a ceremony at Borough Hall in Brooklyn on March 23 (picture below); and, I created an Instagram account to share photographs of the book project website (@tatreezandtea).
Here are a few BEHIND THE SCENES photographs of the photoshoot we did in Portland! Many of the photographs are taken by my husband (shout out!).