Saturday, September 24, 2016

life in the fast lane...

Yesterday I thought it was Saturday and was told only Friday- Yeh an extra day this week....then on the way home Monish pointed out 2 weeks before we start our tour....I have been running like a crazy person thinking I start out next week!
Our workshop is rocking along at a crazy speed- so much khadi to chase, indigo and traditional dye colours to organize....hand work for a our women, getting it into machine room and then cleaning and labelling and packing to send.
Monsoon has finished, weather is finally dry and heating up and so many staff off sick with a vile fever.
We really realise how much we depend on each and every member of our team.
Madly trying to train people in a second task so they can act as back up if our primary person is away.
I must admit I am a bit of a princess, I am so used having my very helpful staff find things for me, answer questions like "how many? show me?.... help!"
Key people away and we are all scrambling to find the things they know....and we all realise how well we work together.
We have started a new gentleman to be my production assistant/our workshop production manager...idea he has a big picture idea of what is happening, which comes next and lines things up.
He keeps our machine men focused and consistent quality coming out. Generally they are good, but it can be they get into chat-fest and work slows down, one or two can't talk and work at all so if chatting not checked we have rejected pieces.
If our lads who check send things back they like to grumble.
So like the ladies we have a production register and my production assistant's job is to monitor rejects and record them.... so they can't be swept under the carpet.
The two machine guys who consistently chat and make a mess are on notice- straighten up, mate.
Should be good for us all- usually a bit of gentle 'encouragement' helps focus. This has worked wonderfully well with our ladies.
 My Baba looking so cute...finally got the maggot problem in his nose cleaned up and all on the mend...poor middle aged man, that he is.

 He is such a funny fellow....
 Ladies in training with new ideas...scrummy shaggy coats coming for our Anna Madam [ Anna Reynolds] I really enjoy her cloth and she has the guys in the stitching room smiling with her out of the box approaches in her garment construction.... you will have to follow her to see what she has hitting CLOTH.
This week has been huge, did I say that before ? so many orders finished and out....I think today I can draw breath a little...
Fingers crossed with my Production Assistant, I think he will be fine. I had to be careful and not hug him yesterday- not the done thing in India!! as I watched him pick up on and handle details I would usually have to follow up.
Creative Arts Safaris season is getting going, our Teachers Tour are just arriving, we are off on our Rajasthan tour in 2 weeks and it will be the last in the present format, once we start our Gurjarat Tour next year we will take Ahmedabad out of the Raj tour and can go visit some other wonderful places we have not been to on tour for a few years....
Almost closing date for our Glorious Ghana tour- we have a great bunch joining us, it is going to be fun!
Bengal Tour is already full, everything is in place...a big yeh AND we already have a list for 2018. Cool.
Tours we definitely earn our keep, we work hard looking after everyone, sharing information etc, etc and etc but it is also a lot of fun. A change is as good as a holiday, as they same. They are our holidays, it seems. We dream of a loll around do nothing type one, one day but I wander how we would cope
I am off upstairs now to finish off our workshop shop. Once tourist season hits we have plenty of visitors here in the workshop...I leave them upstairs and they have great fun trying on things. It is cute.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Khadi Junkie...

In the old days when I used to travel all over the place to teach felting and design I used to start each class with a little circle and we would each introduce ourselves briefly- it breaks the ice, gives me some idea of backgrounds.

I used to imagine it was kind of like being in a 12 step programme....
Hello I am Fiona
I have an addiction
Textiles really float my boat....and so on.

The other day I was writing a little about khadi for a potential customer and how we come to get our hands on it.... I was reminded about a recent visit from a friend Anna....workshop was closed so we were alone in the storeroom groping various khadi.... the nuances of weight and texture was shining in my eyes and she was not looking at me as I was crazy.....a fellow addict. Hmmm

I have put a little on our website about how we get our hands on khadi, I feel it is very important to be aware of your connection to the source and the clarity of the process of purchase.

 Last week we attended the 10 Anniversary celebration and seminar for CRAFTMARK. As you know we are very proud to be associated with them and again they shone.
The line up of makers and shakers at the seminar means it was not just a self congratulatory chin wag but actually worked on concerns and recommendations to be factored into policy at high levels. The National Minister for handlooms etc was our special guest. What a coup getting her attention, even.

The handlooms and crafts sector employs something like 100 million people.

Can I say that again 100 million people!!
My mind boggles, that is a lot of people and largely some of the poorest in our country.
Many of them hold impressive skills in their hands and are able to produce amazing items but being from poorer classes and lacking education and working as family groups they are at the mercy of higher up the food chain.
Groups like Craftmark are trying to address this and they are not alone, many other people, groups and NGOs are in there too.
We need everyone we can get to spread education in the sector and to educate the wider community to their skills and products and an appreciation for what these skills and products are worth.

Another fact I picked up somewhere is that about 90% of handmade cloth in the world is produced in India.
So what is khadi and who cares how it was made?
Fair enough.
I have always been a bit of a make it myself nut.... I love to know how to do something and I value the connection to who makes things.
I used to make all my own bread with flour grown bio-dynamically by the Williams of Breeza when I lived in tasted wonderful and was a world apart from that white fluff in a plastic bag in the supermarket.
Khadi is the same.... the life of the people is there somehow. It has texture and nuances, personality.
Within India there have been some successful interventions like the amazing silk brocade weavers of Varanasi and other places.... work has started on the high end luxury weaves.

We use the simple cotton weaves- strong and honest workers or farmers cloths..... that end of the field is still largely hanging on by its finger nails....
Making clothes mainly for foreigners these are the fabrics that could have an opportunity to be appreciated- we want easy to care fabrics and a bit more weight than a fine, diaphanous silk confection.... 

The seminar blew my mind with numbers involved and got my thinking of all those artisans that produce the more serviceable fabrics- not as sexy- will someone take notice. The weaver we work with from Bihar is part of a staggeringly poor community- our guy is no longer in debt because we prepay for orders...only difference, he sets his price as well and it is very reasonable... what of the rest of the people around him who have to sell to the middle man?

Can't fix everything but can do our bit in our little corner of the world....

and if you would like a fix.....we have just popped some more offcuts on Etsy.
Note we are true junkies and our secret plan is to turn you onto khadi... we can supply it to you or go and find your own source just make sure it is procured in a responsible way, please.

Khadi breathes
khadi has subtle texture and personality
Khadi is wonderful for hand stitch
Khadi takes eco dyes beautifully.
Khadi is totally produced by the human hand and it the best thing to wrap humans in!!

a true addict talking :)