Friday, July 26, 2019

Textiles from the Caucasus - Georgian Fabrics

It was early Tuesday morning in Tbilisi; the day we had carved out to do some shopping before it got too hot. One of my fellow travelers was adamant about hitting the market for locals to source some fabric for her wedding gown business and atelier. This corner of the city was definitely not on the radar of most who come here to tour the area. Gyorgi, our trusty driver and local guide for our week in the Caucasus suggested the place. It was a dusty open lot with some ramshackle buildings where one might find authentic Georgian textiles (or just about anything). I'm pretty sure he didn't know much about lace, and the word or concept didn't really translate to this part of the world.
The place was enormous, and we made a beeline to a remote corner in the back of the expansive lot to the fabric section. The first stop wasn't exactly what we had in mind. But across the way, the bazaar-like maze of stalls selling fabric in all shades was precisely what we dreamt of finding.
The Americans were here.....we were loud and excited. A sotto voce buzz started to travel through the line of shop owners. The more we looked, the more we wanted. Was it us who was on display or was it the fabric we were hunting? Older shopkeepers wrangled up their sleepy grandsons away from their cell phones to try to help understand our foreign chatter and make the sale. The designs were colorful and unique. And it was all so inexpensive! As we walked, creative projects were multiplying in our heads just so we could walk away with shopping bags full of these incredible brocades.
Our fellow traveler disappeared with Gyorgi in order to fulfill her mission. She returned with bags of stunning lace curtain fabric that would make any bride swoon. She was inspired to cut out the patterns or use the 8+ foot fabric for lengthy and dramatic trains, veils, or other ethnic head coverings we saw in our travels through the ancient byways and depicted in the Georgian folk museums and restaurants.
In the end, we all came away with something. Some more than others. (Guilty!) And oh, the pillows we could create once we returned home, an authentic souvenir that would last and be part of daily life. Of course, our dear driver insisted on carrying everything for us, and the back of our minivan was once again loaded down with the day's treasures. Yesterday, it just happened to be cases of Georgian wine.