One summer, seven or eight years ago, I was troweling through the remains of the Folk Art Market in Santa Fe late on a hot Sunday afternoon after all sane people had gotten their fill and gone home. A fey colorful thing was lifting in the breeze and glittering - I fell for its charms and discovered Oya. Turkish Lace.
I’m not a lace kind of person, but these pieces were such fun and not at all like my grandmother’s white doilies, and so I bought the remaining scarves, kept my favorite, and quickly sold the rest.
Over the years, each time I wrapped my neck in this soft cotton with the perfect hand-finished borders and let the oya spill down like a waterfall of fancy, I wondered about the women who had made it andwhat had happened to them, I wanted to find them and commission basketfuls of these fun pieces. I knew you would want one.
So it is that last summer, at the same market, while perusing a different Turkish table of goods, I remembered my scarf and wistfully inquired. One must sniff, after all, in pursuit of good things. My friend Claire straightened up, that look of recognition in her eye. Yes, she said, I believe the artisan contact for those women is right here. Getting coffee. Hold tight.
That’s how I made contact with Yildez who returned to the artisans from whom I first found my now well-loved scarf and got their needles clacking again...for Ibu. In the studio, Jamie and I played with the limited colors for hours, drew multiple scenarios, received samples, made changes, tweaks, and finally have received a batch that sings.
Oya’s a common woman’s name in Turkey, but also the word meaning lace - a kind of needlework going back to the 8th century in Anatolia, spreading lace-making from there to the urban, aristocratic women of the Ottoman palace and to the rest of Europe.
It turns out that Oya is a language among women. Used on scarves and headdresses, linens and lingerie - it reads to other women about matters of the heart. Daffodils dangle for hopeless love, roses for brides but wild roses for women whose husbands have gone to war, purple hyacinths for broken hearts, and peppers for a hot spicy life at home, wild flowers for the very old returning to the dust. A symbolic language - a secret language - interlacing women.
Of course, eventually machines figured out how to do the technique, but the hand-drawn oya are considered more alive - and if you watch this little video of the energy going into each one, you will see why. After all, those fingers are talking, and fast.
What joy to be a small part of preserving this language of women - and you, too - as you consider gifting or wearing a flower that sparkles in the sun, and lifts to the breeze, and says, I hope, to anyone, anywhere - love is in the air.
All the best,
Susan Hull Walker
Ibu Oya scarves, 100% cotton,
bordered on all sides in a fine hand tatting and embellished with flowers of love.