Have you ever visited a place and had the seed of an idea that you just couldn’t let go? Or found yourself falling in love with the people and traditions? Sandy Huckell from Aegean Loom fell in love with traditional Turkish towels, after visiting the country and seeing what was being created. Throughout her working career she was always looking for “something else”, but says it wasn’t until she found her towels that she knew this was it. “It happened by chance, we were in Istanbul and found this little shop. We purchased 3 towels and when we got home we kept getting compliments about our new towels” she says. “I kept this little thought in my mind for about 6 months and then I had to put my thoughts into actions. So I went back to Turkey and met with the wholesaler and Aegean Loom was born”.
Turkey has a rich, centuries old history of creating exceptional, luxurious towels for their bath houses. Master artisans were trained in traditional hand loomed weaving, the secrets passed on from generation to generation. Just 25 years ago, weaving villages around Turkey were full of many different kinds of old-style shuttled looms, with many found in family homes. However, as mass produced textiles started to ramp up, the price of Turkish woven towels was driven down. There was no way one individual hand-making a product could even dream of keeping up with large factory machines. Families and communities lost their livelihoods in weaving and as a result, unique weaving skills only a few craftsmen had mastered, disappeared forever.
It is so important that we retain these kinds of traditional crafts. Humans have been creating and making things with our hands since the beginning of time. More than just an object, the pieces that are created in this way, tell stories. They bring people closer together and they make you appreciate the object more. Think about when you bought something disposable or cheaply made. Did you care about that as much as when you purchase something directly from a maker at a local market? Knowing the stories of things matters.
Sandy says she loved everything about these towels – the way they are totally bespoke, the patterns and colours are never made again – similar but never exactly the same, and being organic cotton. All dyes are also organic, and every product is un-treated, non-coated and chemical free. “I wanted everyone to really understand the difference between a regular towel full of chemicals and my towels . They are long lasting, with excellent absorbency and plushness” she explains.
Aegean Loom creates organic cotton and linen textiles with a few bits and bobs thrown in -candles, cushions and curated pieces that have to be ethical and handmade. This includes beautiful paper vases which give back to the poor communities in Mumbai. The thread used in the towels is GOTS cerified organic, along with the dyes. The practices used are all sustainable and keep these family run workshops alive.
The business is just Sandy and her very supportive husband, although she says he has nothing to do with the business itself. Born and bred in Melbourne, Sandy moved around a bit over the years and has been living in Brisbane since 2001. “I love traveling and seeing other cultures. We always try ro get off the tourist trail and find the real country when we travel” she says.
After discovering these hand loomed towels Sandy made it her mission to bring Turkish craftsmanship back to Australia, so she could do her small part in showing the weavers that their talents are so valued in our society. “Today our weavers are able to support their families and live a great quality of life thanks in part to us and our customers” she says. “When was the last time you owned a product which was made slowly, painstakingly and lovingly by hand for up to 50 hours of a real person’s life?” asks Sandy.
When you think about why it is important to buy from traditional makers, take a moment to imagine for a second that while mass-produced factories can produce up to 30,000 Turkish towels a day, a traditional artisan will pour their lifetime of passion for the craft into just one towel. Your towel. Sandy says there is no doubt in her mind that when there is so much care, passion and attention put into every beautiful strand of cotton, something magical happens.
“When you touch it, you can feel the difference. It whispers a love soaked message in your ear — about where it came from, about the weaver who made it, about the journey of thousands of hours they spent painstakingly perfecting their craft, passed on from their father and his father before him. When the towel arrives on your doorstep or in your hands, it is like it has a soul of its own and it was destined to make your acquaintance and be a part of your life”.
How the Aegean Loom Towels are Made
The finest organic Turkish cotton is hand-picked in Turkey’s Gaziantep regions, picked and dyed. All of the cotton and dyes are certified by GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard).
Each towel is slowly woven by hand using old-style shuttle looms in villages in South & South East Turkey. An individual towel can take anywhere from a day to a whole week to make!
Women sit in groups and hand braid the intricate hand-tied fringing and tassels and the ends of the the towels producing a luxurious detail that is still sturdy enough for machine washing.
The towels are carefully packed and shipped from Sandy’s partners in Turkey to her HQ in Brisbane Australia and then sent to your door when you order!
The future of handmade is in OUR hands
Like many of you, Sandy believes that small acts, when multiplied by millions of people really can change the world! “Those of us who understand this believe we need to be conscious of where we spend our money because as a collective, the simple act of buying a product can open up or close a group of people’s livelihoods” Sandy reinforces. “There was a time when handmade, quality and organic were not choices, they just were. A time when craftsmanship and the work of a true artisan was appreciated. We stand for bringing back the traditional belief in quality. If you believe in that too, join us!”.
Sandy’s tips for being more sustainable at home
I think sustainability is very important but it is not without its problems. I recycle, I take my own bags to the supermarket (when I remember) and I compost. I feel utterly hopeless when I see images of fish and wildlife dying in our oceans because of plastics.
There is way too much importance on non-material sources of happiness.
Some tips include:
- Choose eco friendly fabrics such as organic cottons, linens and hemp
- Make things last
- Put a No junk mail sticker on the letter box
- Recycle and Re-use
When it comes to her towels, Sandy says the feedback has always been wonderful – people love the towels and say the quality is second to none. I have just bought my first 2 towels and can attest that they are divine and in fact, I think there are far more uses to them than just being towels. Head here to find out more and follow the links to buy your beautiful sustainable and fair trade Turkish Towels