The women LOVE creating their works of art, changing styles, & then seeing their work packaged & prepared. One of our embroiderers says she sleeps better at night after a day of embroidering. Another woman feels a purpose & a plan for her days since starting the project. One of the woman’s sons comes home & totals up his mother’s earnings, excited at what she can buy with the money while simultaneously practicing math skills! It has been a joy seeing these women grow & find a certain fulfillment in their work.
We have about 15 women working with us, but here are a few introductions.
Salime is our first good seamstress. In DX a woman’s value is determined by her providing sons. When Salime was married at a young age & provided only daughters, her husband was not pleased. When the third daughter was born her husband left to find work, and another wife. Left with the three girls that she adores, but no money & no covering, her house & life became neglected in chaos. Soon after this Flowers of DX was desperate to find a tailor & found Salime’s incredible seamstress skills. Now she is earning money on her own to support her three girls, but also her life runs smoother with more purpose & joy when she has sewing to do. She is even more motivated to do laudry & cleaning when her hands are busy at her sewing machine.
Sudi had wanted to go to school, but had to stay at home to help her mother with housework. Illiterate and uneducated, she was married off, customary in Dong Xiang, at a young age. After having two children, her husband suffered a head injury in an accident. Now severely impaired, he has no recognition of either Sudi or their children and is often violent when he sees them. She lives with her parents but goes annually to visit her in-laws to fulfill family duties. She hesitates to divorce but feels hopeless in where her future lies. Sudi’s embroidery is a “punch and pull” style & gives a three dimensional design to her flowers. She then embroiders the edges with a backing.
Seguo and her two daughters live with her sister in their own house. Each husband was incarcerated and sentenced for life. Seguo is especially not wanted since no boy has been born by her. (only boys are considered worthy as offspring). Seguo loves to embroider as it gives her a purpose and plan to support herself and her children. Show her any pattern and she will carefully create it into a beautiful work of art with care and diligence. She is a beautiful young woman who is sweet with always a kind word. Seguo’s embroidery is a “punch and pull” style & gives a three dimensional design to her flowers.
Rabiye is a wonderful woman with a hard working & sweet attitude. She helps with the cooking for weddings & always does her best at all the embroidery we give her. Illiterate, raising her children by herself yet with no husband at home, she appreciates all the work she can get. Rabiye’s embroidery is the traditional style used in embroidery in DX.
BaiGeiYe – She is amazing. Standing well under 5 feet tall, this woman is capable, resilient, smart, the caretaker & the heart of her family. While we are at the house visiting, the older children and sisters-in-law frequently come in and share some event or get advice on a situation. She listens intently and answers them, all while hosting guests (which she INSISTS on feeding EVERY time), continuing to knit, and scolding one of the 6 young and wild nieces and nephews who all live in the house together. She is also totally illiterate and has her two children write all correspondence for her, but this does not slow her down at all.
When I first met BaiGeiYe, she told me her husband was dead. But as trust grew, she opened up that he was actually in jail for acting as a drug mule, and is not expected out for a very long time. The death of a family’s provider is tragic, but for him to be jailed for 20+ years is worse in some ways for the family. BaiGeiYe has no support from her in-laws and is trying to support a large family on a meager income. When we met, she was selling fruit from a cart on the side of the road. Winter was coming and she asked if there was any way she could work for us so she would not have to stand in the cold all day. We were more than willing. Having 4 younger brothers in good health and mind, I asked her mother why they were not better off than they are. These brothers should be supporting the entire family! I’ve was told that they are too lazy and don’t work like they should, so they can’t make enough money.
She knits, crochets, sews and embroiders. She can look at any item & reproduce it, if not improve on it. She has been a great help in business and a great treasure relationally. She leads her family well, and her children and parents praise her for her hard work.
Habe lives in an adobe farm house, burns a coal stove, & smolders corn husks under their platform bed to keep family members warm in cold weather. Illiterate, she sees the great advantage of her kids getting an education. A poor Chinese speaker, she needs all communication translated into DongXiang language. Having a seemingly happy life, it came crashing down when her husband was incarcerated for carrying drugs in his truck. Her embroidery gives her a chance to support her kids & keep her mind off worrying. Habe’s embroidery is a “punch & pull” style & gives a three dimensional design to her flowers. A relative then assembles the table runner with an old fashion, foot-operated sewing machine.
Mrs. Ma & her husband became successful & had 4 children together. But life changed. She was left with her husband away from home, seldom contact with him, & raising the children by herself. With a sick mother-in-law she must take care of & her last two children in school, MaSaoZi greatly appriciates the work we offer. She always has a quick wit & a bargaining spirit, ready to get a little extra money out of us for her embroidery work. Making a joke & laughing at herself & us is a a guarentee each time we meet. MaSaoZi’s embroidery is made in the DongXiang’s tradition method of shoe insoles, taking layers of material, pasting them together & baking them between bricks on the coal stove, then embroidering this thick layered material. We now use a type of foam to ensure a more smooth & finished looking product.
Ma Ersima‘s embroidery is made in the DongXiang’s tradition method of shoe insoles, taking layers of material, pasting them together & baking them between bricks on the coal stove, then embroidering this thick layered material. We now use a type of foam to ensure a more smooth & finished looking product.
Hejizhe lives out in the driest part of DongXiang where there is little rainfall & only potatoes grow. She walks up the mountain to come out of the valley where she lives, takes a bus into the main town, & comes to find us to sell her ornaments. Making a living out in a dry, desolate land is not easy but embroidery gives her a bit of extra income & freedom to buy items she would not usually get. Hejizhe’s embroidery is made in the DongXiang’s tradition method of shoe insoles, taking layers of material, pasting them together & baking them between bricks on the coal stove, then embroidering this thick layered material. We now use a type of foam to ensure a more smooth & finished looking product.
Kuli is a sweet, soft spoken young woman with never a harsh word. She is the fourth of six children and recognizes some Chinese characters, though having had only two years of education. Married and with one son, she lives with her mother-in-law and sisters-in-law. Her husband is gone most of the year working in far South China, rarely returning or sending money. Kuli’s own father is in prison on a police corruption charge. Her table runners are hand embroidered with white roses from ribbon that resemble her pure personality.