The Artists and Their Tools

On any loom, the yarn tied to the loom is called the "warp," and its degree of tightness controls the tightness or looseness of the flow of the yarn, also called the "weft," which is woven alternately over and under the warp strings. The warp is the skeleton, if you like, and the weft is the outward appearance, full of individuality and character. Weavers are artists, imparting ideas and identity through color, texture, design and technique.

There are numerous techniques for creating rugs, runners, tapestries, linens, blankets, etc. We will focus on the basic techniques of tapestries and kilims, both woven in the same fashion, to provide a foundation for the basic understanding of weaving.

Tapestry is an art form of hand weaving on a loom. The term "tapestry" is often incorrectly applied to embroidery or needlepoint, due to the needlework technique that imitates weaving. At its most basic, a design on a tapestry or kilim is woven by hand, under and above the warp strings by different colors, turning back at the end, or color boundary, of each design. Every row completed is pressed into place with a small tool that looks like a comb. Any vertical lines required by the design result in the vertical open spaces found on all kilims. On tapestries these spaces are typically stitched.

This style of weaving allows the artist a wonderful freedom to concentrate on individual elements of a design, filling up the warp in a way that might seem similar to drawing pictures on paper.

Weaving is an ages-old, time-honored tradition of the Egyptians. However, in the last 50 years with the growth of global markets, weaving has greatly improved the standard of living in many villages throughout Egypt. Young children play near their mother's loom as she is weaving and see their older siblings imitate their mother's weaving, as they also imitate her childcare and house care chores.

Everyone in the family benefits from the produce of the loom, with the income providing additional opportunities for a better level of living, even in rural villages. The cost of living is very high for the average family, and an average farming income barely covers the basic necessities.

In addition to financial benefits, weaving provides emotional sustenance, as well. For example, therapy for stress or boredom, happiness shared with others through the expression of delightful ideas, and the personal satisfaction that comes from the mastery of control over hundreds, even thousands of threads to produce a finished work of art.

The artists' abilities mature over time, as they master techniques and gain control of the process. The subjects of their weavings are found in their local surroundings. Animals, birds, people, buildings, and beautiful scenery all influence the creative energy of the weaver daily, and slowly, over time, the artists master the art of influencing us with their weaving. Their expressions of individuality, of originality and creativity are lyrical, fresh and appealing.

Their works sing to us of simple village life, disentangling us from our high level of modern stress. They make us smile for a multitude of reasons, because each viewer is as unique as the artist; because each work sings a unique song to every individual viewer.