by Elian Elias Aboudi
Growing up my first encounter with Tatreez (embroidery and cross stitch) was from my own grandmother’s Thobe (Palestinian national dress) which she and many others of the older generation wore proudly. Each of these Thobes reflected each part of Palestine and you could distinguish which part by the designs, patterns, motifs and fabric used. Women spent hours, days, and months proudly sewing their own thobes. Although my mother’s generation were modern women and wore regular clothes they still proudly owned hand stitched thobes to wear on many of the special occasions they attended, and every bride had at least one thobe in her wardrobe to wear.
My mother, aunts and many of the neighbor women spent many times doing tatreez together, sharing patterns and designs to decorate their homes with table cloths, pillows, wall hangings, mirror frames, bags, and anything else they can embroider.
Growing up surrounded by all this culture, tradition and beautiful artwork I had my first experience with tatreez and art.
Although I went to business school I know I was an artist at heart and I preferred painting over sitting behind a desk.
I am very grateful to the many opportunities that I encountered that have enhanced my knowledge and experience with different mediums and methods of showcasing my artistic abilities.
When my daughters were still in school I was part of the Fine Arts Booster Club. Through this club I was able to learn and work with other like minded highly educated women to create many different art projects that included the whole school community and many other external organizations.
My home is my gallery; my walls and surfaces are covered with all my artwork. I started to create art pieces since I was very young. I painted on canvases, vases, clay pots, mirrors, walls, windows and anything I got my hands onto. I crossed stitched my first pieces of tatreez over 30 years ago from leftover fabric and threads my mother gave me to practice on and it is now hanging proudly in my home.
In 2010 and after my eldest daughter Dana was a senior, the seniors’ moms and I worked together to create a senior’s memory book to be a keepsake of all their memories from birth till their graduation ceremony. I have helped with the graphic design of this book and have done the seniors’ memory book for the classes of 2012, 2014, and finally the class of 2016.
In 2011 and after the graduation of my eldest daughter Dana I went back to painting and have since then joined the FABC and that is when I worked on many art projects such as the Be mural at school, an Arabesque mosaic bench, a children’s play, a musical, a quilt, an international knitting project called Building Bridges, and we hosted a Palestinian seminar that talked and showcased many proudly owned tatreez pieces and thobes and hosted influencer women to talk about their experiences and work with tatreez, media and art.
In early 2019 and right before I moved to Canada I hand stitched cross body bag straps which my friend Rula Kafity from Rulala for me on leather. I bought fabric and threads to design and produce tatreez straps to sell in Canada but when Covid hit I took the large piece of fabric and hand stitched it into a large work of art that told my story and is now proudly displayed in my home.
The designs I used for these pieces were inspired from the books I brought with me to Canada, the internet and from the many pieces I have displayed in my home. I have used these patterns, motifs and designs to create my own artwork tatreez piece which is unique to me and told my story.
I have to give great thanks to all the people in my life and those I have crossed paths with and that have influenced and inspired me to create my own identity in my artwork and I also want to humbly thank all those who have found my artwork worth sharing and worth displaying in their own homes.
(Transcript and captions will be available soon. We are very small company and thank you for your patience!)
Can’t get enough of Elian? See our other conversation about her tatreez practice on Instagram.