Hi, my name is Leora Raikin, and my company is African Folklore Embroidery. I am so excited to be a new blogger on the ATG website. I have just returned from four weeks in South Africa,(incredible!). In this blog I will be sharing with you a little about my experieince there, my connection to South Africa and what I do here in Los Angeles, CA.
I grew up in Cape Town, South Africa. my parents and grandmother of 95 stil live there today. My mother sewed our clothes, my grandmother was a milliner and my father made all our toys with his own hands out of wood. My grandfather had more hobbies than I could list. We were encouraged to create and take pride in work created with our hands. Like most African traditions that are passed from one mother to daugther and father to son (in future blog posts I will be sharing some of the art forms of the various tribes passed down through the generations) I was taught African Folklore Embroidery by my mother. Since I have a son, I have passed this art form on to him. When my son was nearly four years old and I was recovering from both the phyiscal and emotional impact of intensive infertilty treatment and several miscarriages, my mom came to visit me from South Africa. She told me I needed to start doing something with my hands, she placed an African Folklore Embroidey design in my hand and for the next hour she and I sat side by side stitching. It felt so relaxing, I could not remember the last time I had felt this at peace and creative at the same time. I started taking the African Folklore Embroidery design with me whereever I went, folding it up in my purse and taking it out to stitch, when I was waiting, watching my son play soccer or on a train or plane ride.
Wherever I was, complete strangers would come up to me and ask me to show them what I was doing and ask where they could buy a kit with the designs. I loved every time I interacted with someone who wanted to learn African Folklore Embroidery. It allowed me an opportunity to talk about the country of my birth. I found the interest in South Africa refreshing and inspiring. Soon friends would invite other friends to their house for me to show them the designs and teach them how to do African Folklore Embroidery. One friend told another, then quilting and embroidery guilds started asking me to come and lecture and give workshops and my hobby and pasion had grown into a small business. Since all the designs and threads come from South Africa, I feel in some very small way what we are doing is helping create jobs, employment and self esteem for women in Africa, South africa is a beautiful country, but one of extreme contradictions. There are elements of first-world industry in the midst of third-world poverty. The unemployment rate is at a crisis level of 30% and AIDS is an everyday reality for many of the poeple of South Africa.
Since most people will not have the opportunity to visit South Africa - the airticket is exhorbitant and the twenty-six hour flight very long - I wanted to share with people the wonder and beauty of South Africa. So I am proud of annouce the release of my new book, Safari through African Folklore Embroidery. Essentially, this 88-page color book with over 500 color pictures, takes the reader on a visual safari of South Africa, educating about the wildlife, the art forms of the various tribes , the people and the land, through a needle art medium called African Folklore Embroidery. Each of the designs illustrates some element of life in South Africa. Many of the designs are inspired by the Ndebele tribe, who are famous for thier bead work and beaded dolls. In the pictture you will see me standing with some of the life-size dolls made by the women of the Ndbele tribe. Each doll is unique and symbolic of a different life stage (more about that in another post)
Future blogs will include a step-by-step instruction of how to complete an African Folklore Embroidery design, the basic rules and of course some fun embelishment techniques! I'll also share stories of my time on Safari in the Umfalozi game reserve, where an elephant almost sat on our car, my time staying at a nature reserve where a monkey stole my toast from the breakfast table, my visit to the AIDS charity that I support, KIDZPositive and much more. I look forward to getitng to know you and hearing your comments. I find there is something very special about people who do and create with their hands! Of course if you have any questions about about South Africa, I will be happy to answer them!