Kissweh is an embroidery studio based in Los Angeles and Lebanon.
Our goals are: to be a contemporary source of exquisitely designed and timeless products inspired by the rich folk art of traditional Palestinian needlework motifs; and to give skilled craftswomen living in the refugee camps of Lebanon the opportunity to earn a fair living from their artisan skills.
Women in historic Palestine traditionally embroidered their clothes and home accessories when preparing their trousseau, or kissweh. The traditional folk motifs were passed down from generation to generation and were associated with the villages and regions they came from, and reflected the dreams and aspirations of the women who embroidered them. The needlepoint motifs represented fauna, trees, gardens, precious objects, and religious beliefs, and reflected everyday village life, rural scenes and a respect and love for nature. The names of some motifs are a witty glimpse of daily life: for example, ‘chickpeas and raisins’, ‘bottom of the coffee cup’ or ‘old man’s teeth’ (Kissweh's favourite!). Coming from a land of pilgrims and of spice and silk trade routes, these motifs have a rich history of symbolism and influences from around the world.
Claudia Martinez Mansell
Originally from a Spanish-British family living in Madrid, Claudia has now made a new home in Los Angeles, where she founded Kissweh in 2017. Before that, she worked for over 10 years with the United Nations in its humanitarian operations, living for extended periods in Kosovo, Lebanon, the occupied Palestinian territories, Sudan, and Yemen.
For nearly twenty years, Claudia has been visiting and working at the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. Inspired by LA's creative energy, she started Kissweh with the idea of joining this rich tradition and exquisite craftmanship with the best quality cotton threads and carefully selected linens.
Our essential partner in this work is Beit Atfal Assomoud, a secular non-governmental organization that carries out indispensable and inspiring work for refugees in Lebanon. A percentage of our sale revenues go to support the activities of Beit Atfal Assomoud and the Greening Bourj Al Shamali initiative.