The Sumba pillow is one of my favorite pillows. The incredible orange and black ikat from the island of Sumba, Indonesia, is one of the first fabrics I purchased in early 1990’s. It speaks to the culture of the Sumbanese and pairs well with the vintage mudcloth from Mali which also is a story-telling textile. The patchwork embroidery from Pakistan, in its rich gold colors, makes this a beautiful one-of-a-kind pillow for any room.
25” x 15” (63.5 cm x 38 cm)
Front - cotton
Back – linen, in black
Down feather pillow insert
Fabric origins: Indonesia, Mali, Pakistan
These three very unique fabrics make this a very strikingly beautiful lumbar pillow. On the left is fabric from the island of Sumba, Indonesia, where the Sumbanese are masters of ikat design, dyeing and weaving. Their imagery is taken from the island’s belief system, natural surroundings and daily like. The horse motif is commonly used as it is the customary mount of the Sumbanese men. The traditional red and brownish purple colors have been used for centuries. The dye is made from the outer bark of the roots of the morinda tree otherwise known as Indian Mulberry or Noni. It is a labor intensive process to achieve these colors. I was introduced to the incredible ikat technique during my first trip to Indonesia in 1992 which to this day still remains one of my favorite textiles. Unfortunately, I did not travel to Sumba but was able to acquire several pieces of fabric. For embellishment, I added four coconut rings.
The black and white bold uneven checker fabric is vintage mud cloth from Mali, West Africa. I have long been fascinated with mud cloth. Each piece is unique and has a story to tell. Mud cloth is also called “bogolanfini” and consists of three words: bogo, lan, and fini. Bogo means “earth” or “mud”, lan means “with”, and fini means “cloth”. Each symbol pained in the cloth has special meaning and can tell the story of a village, a person’s occupation, social status, or proverbs. Some symbols remain a mystery. In this piece, the checker design means “fruitfulness”: good rains, good crops or new child. The arrow design is called “Wosoko” was named after the back of a farmers sickles blade.
Traditionally, men weave narrow cotton stripes of fabric that are pieced together to form a larger rectangular cloth. Women dye the cloth by first soaking the fabric in ground leaves, creating a yellowish color. It is then dried and covered with a fermented mud to achieve patterns in black, brown and white. These first two steps can be repeated many times to achieve desired patterns and colors.
The embroidered patchwork in mustard and yellows outlined with groups of black thread was made by in Pakistan. The embroiderers are women are from the remote areas of the province of Sindh. Pieces of recycled fabric are embroidered, embellished and hand stitched. Mirror work, or shisha, is added for that extra sparkle and held in place with crochet stitches. When not trending the fields or harvesting crops, the women embroider in a group, sitting together side by side on the floor. Embroidery is a mark of pride for the Sindhi culture. Whoever makes the better embroidery is respected for her craftsmanship. No wedding is complete in Sindh where these embroideries are not given in the form of dowry to the bride. My friend, Fahad, sends me the embroidery. His fair trade organization, Dominion Traders, has been a long time partner of Serrv. Unfortunately, I had to cancel several work trips to Pakistan due to US State Department travel advisories. Someday I will meet these women and Fahad!