Cimi. An energetic man. His father was famous for his resistance to change, a hero defending a tradition so old no one thought it would even be past over to next generation. A superficial observer would have mistaken that “resistance” with a somewhat negative attitude towards life.
None of that. When it comes to felt , in the family either you have it their way or you don’t and, as it happens, this is often the only way.
Cimi has that same energy, even though he seems to use it also in other dimensions of life apart from felt. When driving it feels an independent bandit is being chased both by Naples’ police and “camorristas” at the same time. He might even make it safe home. Energy. It simply runs in the family veins.
I’ve been told Cimi has had it so strong since childhood. At the age of six he felted Auntie Violeta’s hen with a bar of soap he’d found on a wall near by. Luckily this did not affect her eggs, even though Violeta’s legendary “Vez dhe limon” soup has since been thicker than previously recorded.
His energy is truly astounding to this day.
The felting process requires a great deal of energy.
Felt is the result of energy transferred from a hand to wool.
At first it’s just heaps of sheep’s hair. Then a fluffy cloud is created from the carefully washed bundle, spread and dried naturally. “Opened”, using a primitive kind of bow made of a piece of wood and string, it becomes light as a feather. It is then roughly shaped with water and soap and left to rest. It is fitted on a shape made in a very, very special wood and rubbed thoroughly with soap till if becomes a thin regular felt. Again it is left to dry naturally on the form.
A lot of energy. A lot of time.
Cimi’s hands have a very clean, smooth and soft skin.
Since the first days of our business relation with the family, we have been working to persuade them to make different shapes.
In Hysen’s days me managed to alter the diameter of only a couple of centimeters. The wood seemed to have been a major obstacle at the time. A special wood of course, very special, only from a tree we could not understand the name in archaic Albanian language. Any man of experience hearing the name would look to the ground and repeat “vështirë” -difficoult- shaking his head.
The wood was found in the end, on a hillside close to the village. It was nearly burned as firewood because of an ancient unresolved dispute between four men. We were lucky enough to help clear the dispute during a meeting in a “Kafe” just outside the “pazari i vijetët” before it was too late.
Cimi got down to work and we were overwhelmed with the result.
There are rumours there might be colours coming up.
We’ll wait and see, hoping Cimi has forgotten about Gjorg’s disrespectful glance he gave the family cat when he chew the geraniums.
Gjorg owns the shop next door. He sells and grows flowers and plants one can use to make colours.
A member of his family was once late at a meeting with Skenderbeg, some say one of the reasons behind the defeat of the Albanian resistance to the Turks in the 16th century, but that’s another story.