There she was, Drande with her smile and blue eyes, the questions I could never understand, and her sharp sense of humour, next to Teresa, the mother, her strong fingers always in the wool, knotting, weaving, the traditional catholic scarf covering her head.
Then Leta, the daughter, who had leaped more than two generations ahead, responsible of the women community center of the area.
Sometimes Ana was there too, Leta’s friend and colleague working for the local Ngo dealing with gender orientated social issues.
No man in sight.
Our meetings always ended in a good laugh, drawings scribbled on a loose piece of paper between two piles of coloured wool. A Turkish coffee, and an innocent hand shake.
I would later find my driver smoking and smiling leaning on his BMW in front of Kafe Vivaldi.
This time it was different. The husband was home. We had to talk lead times for the American order.
I was offered a customary raki with the coffee. I couldn’t understand the details of the long story I was told, sitting on the couch in the kitchen.
It was about a man from Turkey who had been going around taking all the wool from the villages.
I tried to picture the man with a wicked smile and escaping carrying bags and bags of the wool that we needed for the American order.
Casually asking if the problem had been solved, Ana spoke of an alternative solution.
Negotiations were going on with a village in Serbia where a producer was to bring a load full of wool of top quality.
I finished the coffee. Ana grabbed the cup with her usual energy and checked the remaining content on the bottom. « It will be okay, she said » putting it back on the table.
With such solid evidence I emailed America to reassure everyone.
On Easter Monday, I am told the Serb never turned up.
The text message was short but precise : « cannot deliver on time ».
Albania, another one of those moments. One never gets used to it. I simply emailed America again dreading the consequences.
On this last trip Aida, from our office in Tirana, is with me. It is dark and late, an unusual time to pay a call to someone.
We push the gate open and notice the peculiar warm light from the house. Every room is full of piles of orange and red wool, cushions in each corner, four looms under the plum tree, ten ladies of all ages working actively.
And four holes in the ground. The foundations of the future workshop.
Leta comes and greets us. She is tired, anxious. Everybody has been working hard, little sleep. Her husband is there, for moral support. No one wants to be in the way. Cold soup and salad, no time to cook till the order is ready.
« I think we are going to make it for Tuesday », she tells me.
She also shows me the prototypes of the new bags, also developed with Nathalie Lété.
I remembered again why I kept on working with this amazing country. The people are just to good to be true. No life without passion. You got to give them that.
And they love Nathalie’s designs.
These cushions are changing things in the community. Families get together to achieve a common goal, put aside differences, men accept that their wives don’t serve dinner because their work is more important to the household than rules.
The foundations of the new studio are the proof that they believe things can change.
And Po Paris is glad to be part of it.
As we write we know the cushions are on their way to be delivered. Nathalie Leté’s cushions will be on sale in Anthropologie in the United States and the United Kingdom starting from June 2012.
Please enquire for any other retail stores carrying this item in Europe and Australia (yes, Australia)