Learning A Vanishing Art

The Egyptian Tentmakers were once again a huge hit at Road 2017.

Not only were guests able to watch the tentmakers in action on the exhibit hall floor,

some guests were also able to learn and practice their vanishing art in several classes taught by Jenny Bowker and assisted by the tentmakers, Hosam Hanafy and Tarek Abdelhay.

Jenny explained to the students that in Egypt, it is mostly middle class men who have learned and replicate this ancient method of appliqueing. They gather in small groups in work rooms as a social activity. One man will work on one piece until it is completed. They don’t get paid until the piece is sold.

Because of cultural norms, it is difficult for women to learn this trade. Women and men are forbidden to congregate together in public so women cannot work in the shops alongside the men to learn and practice the appliqueing. And since men are the primary instructors, the only way for women to learn these skills, is if they have a husband, father, or brother teach them.

Women’s contributions are less public but their skills are just as much needed and appreciated. Women gather in groups in homes to sew. One such group of 10 women are hired by Hosam to help fill his orders. Hosam gives the women a monthly allowance to help them get by in providing for their families until their quilts are sold. Selling one quilt will feed these women and their families for up to 5 months.  That is why supporting these women is so important.

Maria Canela was one of the students in Jenny’s Tentmaker Applique classes. Maria is from Cuernavaca, Moielos, Mexico – a city about one hour from Mexico City. She came with four friends from Mexico to attend Road 2017 and take classes. Maria has been quilting for 15 years and participates in a weekly quilting group. She signed up for the class because she loves to sew and loves history. “The history of Egypt amazes me,” remarked Maria. She enjoyed not only learning this method of applique but also hearing Jenny, Tarek and Hosam share the history and current status of the tentmakers.

After the three days of classes, the tentmakers moved to the exhibit hall floor where they demonstrated their skills during the show, thanks to a sponsorship by Pollard’s Sew Creative, . In addition, guests were able to purchase some of their quilts.  Part of the money Hosam and Tarek received went back to Egypt to assist the women quilters there.

Road to California was pleased at the response of support by guests for the tentmakers and were honored to present such a unique opportunity to the worldwide community of quilters.