The Monkey Shine pillow is a whimsical one-of-a-kind pillow featuring climbing monkeys, playful baby and mom elephants and, if you look close, there are deer under trees in the lower section. While working in India, curious monkeys were always in sight. The pillow was made from handwoven ikat fabrics from Indonesia and Guatemala and embroidery from India.
19” x 19” (48.2 cm x 48.2 cm)
Front - cotton
Back - linen, in black
Down feather insert
Fabric origins: Indonesia, India, Guatemala
This whimsical pillow does make me smile. The elephant and peacock embroidery were made by the ladies at St. Mary's Mahila Shikshan Kendra, located in Ahmedabad, India. St. Mary’s has a very special placed in my heart. It was started in an impoverished part of Ahmedabad by a handful of Dominican nuns from Spain in 1970 with a mission to help the socially marginalized women in the area. They have a birthing hospital, training center and embroidery workshop all of which gives over 300 women a source of income. The women work in their homes while caring for their extended family. They are Hindu, Christian and Muslim women, all working together in peace. I have been working with St. Mary’s since 2001. They have been a long time partner of Serrv. Their embroidery is distinct and expertly done, using the traditional stitches of Gujarat such as chain, darning and herringbone. Mirror work is always incorporated into their embroideries. Many years ago, the mirrors were used to create sparkle as protection from evil spirits and evil eyes but now it is for decoration. Mirror work is known as “shisha” which is the stitch used to attach the mirror to the fabric.
This pillow makes me smile because each time I have been at St. Mary’s, working on product development, there were always monkeys sitting in the open window, on the ledges and hanging in the trees. So, when I decided to use the elephant embroidery in a pillow, I couldn’t help but combine it with the monkey ikat from Indonesia used on the left. This ikat shows the expert skill of the artist as he creates the form of the monkeys linked together by their tails by wrapping the warp threads to make a resist for when the warp is put in an indigo dye bath. I accented their eyes by adding black beads. This handwoven ikat is made by Syakilla Collection, a producer member of Pekerti, the first fair trade organization located in Jakarta, Indonesia. My first visit to Pekerti was in 1992. That trip was my introduction to the traditional beautiful ikat and batik fabrics of Indonesia.
The third fabric is a colorful “jaspe”or ikat from Guatemala and is part of the textiles I collected during the time I lived in Guatemala between 1994 and 2001. The central Highlands are where most of the jaspe fabric is produced. I was fortunate to work with many weaving groups who always amazed me by their incredible talent especially in creating the complicated jaspe patterns. Most jaspe is woven on floor looms. Be sure to notice the deer standing under trees in the brown stripes as well as the people in the black and red stripes.