Friday, April 18, 2014

Exciting day.

2 exciting things at the same time....neither is above the other but I have to start somewhere! 2 great initiatives that support and depend on the brilliant crafts scene of India in their own ways.
 
We are represented as part of the Maahi Roj [My everyday] event in Jaipur- fostering green attitudes with workshops on composting, recycling, bugs and many good things as well as a celebration of local culture and crafts....crafts as an industry help a huge number of rural people stay gainfully employed in their villages rather than joining the urban poor.
Really feel privileged to be part of this event.
 
 Equal in excitement for us is to be featured on the Jaypore website.
This is a web shop based in India that showcases excellent craft and design....again we feel blessed to be asked to show with them... and look at all the lovely pictures and display they have put together, it does make us feel rather flash.
 
These are our first two opportunities to sell our designs in India, so exciting for us to get this type of local response....
Good opportunity for you over there to shop as well because I notice on the Indian website prices can be so much different when export duties, import duties, transportation, money exchange expenses, etc, etc, etc through a paperwork mindfield don't come into the play of pricing items.
You know having to learn about all those expenses and realize what they do to the price of an item....it makes me highly suspicious of cheap goods to be seen in bargain shops in the west.....when you work backwards many of the people producing the work would have barely been able to eat.
 
Bit inclined to stand on soap boxes at the moment.
April 24 will mark 1 year since the factory collapsed in Bangladesh killing 1133 people outright....a factory cobbled together to produce cheap work that did not earn the workers enough for a dignified life AND in the end robbed them of any life completely.
It will be a day many groups and networks will be asking
DO YOU KNOW WHO MADE YOUR CLOTHES?
Can you answer that?....Who ever they are - they are real people just like you and me, just because they live "over there" does not mean they don't deserve to earn enough to feed and educate their families, have health care etc just like you and I want and expect.

Back to excited!!
and all our designs have listed on them exactly who made them....yeh!!!
 now back to stitching, lists and more lists...little block printing and big dreams for our gang.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Craftmark and...

Been on the hoof again....a few days ago we dropped a whole pile of our work up to Jaipur to be displayed at Ananataya as part of the Maahi Roj- Green Jaipur event.
We feel rather awed to be ask to contribute some work...Anantaya is pretty is awesome...if you have ever entered Delhi through the new airport you may have noticed to massive hand sculptures above the Arrivals Hall, just like the one in this picture- The are the work of Ayush of Anantaya


If you have a chance look at there new website- their work is great and the videos they have made of some of the crafts people they work with are brilliant. Sums up their energy and approach very well.

 Then back home and onto the train up to Delhi for a 2 day seminar at Craftmark, mentoring type event and jury selection panel for their new catalogue. We had to trot out our stuff in front a team of industry experts- [covering marketing, craft sector advocates, cultural heritage person and ground breaking people who have done so much to revive a flagging craft sector, bring to the table right to fair livelihood, promoting excellence and empowerment of people involved in the sector.]
When I thought of it that way- a bit intimidating yet the panel we met asked insightful questions, showed a great deal of interest and understanding and all in all were great to have the experience of presenting ourselves before them.
into the room....we did kind of explode with a range of our stuff....
then afterwards dragged it all out to give the next person a chance and exploded in a fit of nervous giggles.
So now madly to get samples ready to send up for photographs and a PowerPoint presentation of our work....we have been asked to be in their new catalogue which they use to help drum up a market their members with quality buyers from around the globe.
Wow....
Spent last night waiting for the alarm to go off to get up for my super early morning train and trying not to make lists....home again to a very hot Rajasthan and back into it- whew!

 

Friday, April 04, 2014

focus on the now....

 bit of a so much to do time.....can end up running around in circles like an old chook with out a head....
walked with the sunrise.
this morning painted some cloth needed for bags, check, done...
fed the goldfish- silly things were waiting and jumping out of the water where I used to feed them...been feeding in a new place for 2 weeks and they forgot where.
tortoises acting weird making a big huddle and pushing each other to get the best spot????? why
Mogra jasmine blooming- delicious....


 checked emails, started the day....working out lists to fit orders into work schedule and try an keep everyone happy,
got a pile of new handlooms to check over an add to inventory...when I piece comes in marked 20 metres you can bet they used a yard tape measure [so you loose 3" or 7.5 cm per yard/ metre] and no use explaining difference. everyone says yes and does their own thing.
the only thing we can do so we have accurate costings when using the fabric to make items. is open it all up measure it exactly. cut a metre, wash it and see how much it shrinks and then work out the per metre cost ....whew......anal I know but if we don't them we end up loosing money because there is invariably less than we thought.

OOhhh joy.
So since we got back from trade fairs and had good reports on orders we have been onto many of our suppliers....in preparation we talked to everyone, confirm your prices, confirm availability...all those things to be reliable suppliers.
Well Gaffer who weaves this lovely heavy hand spun hand loom cotton - which we already use lots of and featured in a lot of our home wares says....we ringing up to report and order a mountain of it..."oh I have decided to discontinue that line."
Can you imagine how loud my "WHAT!!!!!" was.
We have talked to him- we order enough to keep at least 2 men employed full tie- so put them on and we will have a minimum monthly order.???????? some day you have to wonder.
The sari guy wants to hike prices by more than 30% and we only saw him 3 weeks ago.....
Our stitching ladies are doing well but they need to work at full capacity and although they say that when we are not busy I can see it is hard for them when it is a reality....
new ones are training and coming on rather well, it leaves me with a small anxiety of keeping up enough work for all of them.....
OOHH and today our lovely Mrs Manju, who does tea and lunch has been doing more and more handstitch and it has become good quality so we have been looking for another woman to do kitchen and she can improve her income becoming a full time stitching person and assistant. We introduced a woman the other day who says ohh I can only make tea for Madame and Sir not workers and I can not wash a cup used by workers....what an attitude...well that charming woman has gone to Manju's mum and said why is she working there all those men and few women. Manju's Mum has stopped her working for us.
Just scrambling around trying to get her back- she is happy here and doing so well. Bugger!!
Ohhh the head aches of India.
Need more men as well and usually have droves asking - now we have work they are all busy....in another month the other workshops will slow down and we will have a choice but at the moment we are all pulling mountains of over time.

 Anyway putting headaches aside,
just took 5 minutes to stitch and help Papu-ji who is working on one of our quilts.
Simple hand stitching puts things in perspective.....
This is the handloom cloth I was mentioning....hand quilting.....
back to it....trying not to gnash teeth.
 

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Scurrying....

Yep, that is what it feels like....so much to do
 we are getting there with orders but just as you need them extra tailors are busy so we are all pulling overtime to try and keep up with the work load.
One of those things it will all settle in place soon, and I will have my very own studio space upstairs, as well as a print workshop and more space to spread out for hand quilting quilts.....
all one of these days very soon.....
but it can't be soon enough for my liking
 Frantic but lots of love going into the work....as always.
Our training day went well- we have lots of nice stitching coming back and many little purses soon to be ready....quality is excellent. This concentrated effort of the women having to come here and gentle competition was a good idea. This amount of concentration the old way of talking in a mixed group took ages to generate.
We said only 5 places but so far they are all good enough so we have 11 new women.
And a big yippee!! one lady can crotchet. at the moment we have shaggy bags on order....they are just a starter though I can see so much more we can do with the idea.
And our exhibition/ interaction idea is coming to Fruition thanks to the support of Anne Kempton of Timeless Textiles.
We have been laying the groundwork for this for the last year, through what we have shown our women- students' exhibition at our house, women from our last tour group showing their work and journals, Sanju of Bihar talking of her story cloths....
the nerve racking moment though was actually asking our ladies if they would like to have a go....well here is Mrs Hema  concentrating on colours now but moments ago jumping with ideas as we spoke. Resounding "yes please!!
I am happy to make my own story cloth."
wow- fantastic we are now on a roll.
 
Below is Anne's media release
come and join us if you are close.
Talking needles- stitching the Strip with Fiona Wright
Much loved Fibre artist, Fiona Wright, who now lives in rural India is returning to the Hunter. For many years Fiona has been working with locals, mostly women in “ The Stitching Project’.  The Stitching Project is a social enterprise dedicated to making fine textile products with a style that is a little bit ethnic and lot contemporary. The Project produces quality hand worked home wares, garments, and craft supplies.
‘I spend much of my time working with a group of people, endeavouring to find a way for us all to produce an income, an income that will feed our bodies and our soul. We look at our business as a social enterprise and can see the benefits for all….most of our people are women and they bring hand stitch to our work. Our women are happy with the work- it helps feed their bodies; we have seen how sharing finished pieces with them and later pictures of our foreign clients and their appreciation has added to their satisfaction and encouraged them in their involvement with the work and its quality.
The idea for this exhibition arose from our latest designs: a series called “Hopes and Dreams”, which fit so well with what we want to share in the world and held the germ of an idea of how to give our Stitching Ladies a chance to bring their own creativity to the mix.
 
Talking Needles: Hopes and Dreams- exhibition will showcase a collection of Hope Flags [similar to the idea of Tibetan prayer flags] that have been block printed in English and Hindi and stitched into using a range of coloured threads and embellishments Themes are: Compassion, Hope, Peace, Love, Sharing and Dreaming’.
 
The Hope Flags will be created by the Stitching Women in India and more will be made here as a result of workshops held @ Timeless Textiles Gallery with Fiona - joining up with the creativity across continents and cultures.
Come and create ‘ Hope flags’ with Fiona- listen to her wonderful tales, whilst you stitch- focusing on the themes of compassion; hope; peace; love; sharing and dreaming
The workshop dates are May Monday (4th), Tuesday (5th), Wednesday (6th)  Thursday (7th)and Saturday  (10th) May 2014- so drop into Timeless Textiles Gallery anytime between 10 am and 3.30 pm and create a Hope Flag.
This is a free event, and Hand-loom cotton flags are available to stitch into ($5 each).
150 metres of stitched white ribbon was created from the International Women’s Day stitch a thon will be used to hang ‘Hope’ embroidered flags, in the Talking Needles exhibition opening on May 11th 2014.
The flags will flutter along The Strip- Islington a vibrant community of independent retailers located on Maitland Rd Islington, focusing on the unique, eclectic and unusual. Starting at Madame Mo’s and rounding the corner to end up at Timeless Textiles Gallery
 
The Hope flags will be auctioned off at the opening of the Talking Needles exhibition 6pm on Sunday 11 May. All proceeds will be donated to create a library for The Stitching Women, increasing their literacy. The Hope Flags which are not sold will be returned to the Stitching Project and will be stitched together as a quilt.
Venue: Timeless Textiles Gallery
7 Beaumont St, Islington
Newcastle. NSW
 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Training Day

 Summer is definitely on the way...here Spring is almost forgotten by the time you realise it is here....look at how bright the sun is and our lovely shade tree has been pollarded to feed the goats. Can't wait for it to grow back....against that wall was the perfect spot to take photos for the website....soon, soon.
Today was our first formal training day....as we have grown out of small things up until now everything has been rather informal showing people one by one how to do things....encouraging quality and pulling our hair out when people don't get it.
We think by being a bit formal and having a bit of competition we can help women sharpen their focus.
So we started showing different types of work- some one side will be used, a lot of our work is reversible. There is a different approach for both. ....many things to instil in women, keeping work clean, being timely with completing work, speaking up if you don't get it, we are happy to be patient and train as quality is important, we are impatient of careless work.
 Our lovely Om-ji came with one of here neighbours....she brought the jacket she is working on, not wasting a free moment.
Interesting to see the new ladies disappearing under their veils, Om-ji and Saroj-ji who have been with us for sometime were comfortable to joke around with us and show their faces.
I am so impressed with Praveen....not long ago he knew nothing of stitching and was so shy in front of the women, now he is comfortable and confident to explain how we are working, say wait a minute improve it this way, etc, etc.
We intentionally held the training day in the workshop, wanting to get women used to coming in here, learning something new, meeting the rest of our gang, and getting a glimpse of how the workshop runs. Next visit I will show them pictures of the day on the internet and explain the reason we want their name on their work is because the people who buy it are genuinely interested in where and who it comes from.
Locally the word for Mrs is related to the caste someone comes from...so rather than Mrs Om it is Om Kanwar which would tell me she is from Rajput caste....someone else might be Sanju Devi who comes from a different caste, not as high as a Kanwar....and on and on it goes.
In our workshop we ignore caste and religion for that matter...work is what matters so I consciously and respectfully call everyone Ji or Madame....Ji is a general honorific in Hindi and Madame is what everyone calls me.
I noticed some of the women reacted to the different castes here...politely we try and show it is not important. Praveen very much seconds this.
I also noticed the ladies watching and laughing at Praveen and I, in a nice way....Om-ji is very fond of us and you could see here almost saying to the ladies she brought- look at that loving couple. We are obviously a team as well as husband and wife and best friends....for most here their friends are the women of the family and their husband is their husband but not a friend as such.

I write these blog entries but Praveen listens to what I have written and his comments are added in...as a team I am the writing walli [ hindi for person or fellow in the feminine form] and he is quite often the speaking wallah [hindi for fellow in the masculine form] he gets to translate what we are trying to say into Hindi.
I  think it went well..... yeh.
 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

nirvana.

Nothing like turning the generator off to feel a touch of nirvana....
electricity only out for half an hour [ last year half of most days at least] but I find the vibration and noise of it so hard to cope with....torture. At the moment my lovely spring time garden means also springtime asthma/ hay fever....which notches up the reaction to generator by a fair margin....
now in post generator nirvana will stop whinging.
 look at my lovely flowers....heat is already building on Holi a few days before it was one of those bleached out intense sun days, a little hint of the heat to come. yet somehow that does not seem as daunting as coping with the humidity down south or the cold in Australian winters....we are all strange creatures and need to find the place that best suits us in the world. It ain't necessarily where you started.

 So been working like mad,
happy, happy madness because it is filling orders, keeping us all on our toes and because we have a number of different people we are trying to make them all happy as quick as possible and do everything at once! used to plodding a long a bit more but first order is important.
We are planning a training day for new ladies in the next day or too and trying to work on training our existing people to plan a bit and give accurate feedback about when they can finish a piece....
so many little things that you get from going to school
just having to turn up in time for the bell is a training, which days to go and what books to take a training in organization.... as an old school teacher I see the layers of education which were the foundation of imparting the 3 R's to students.
we're persistent and our people are great, slowly, slowly we are building a strong team.
new clients mean new questions and requirements, one wants to feature some of our products in their on-line shop [ stay tuned- Ill tell you all about it when it hatches!!] which means things we have always done as a 1 off need to come in a range of sizes
 boy has it caused Papu-ji to scratch his head a bit but finally we have a plan and work underway.
This is a great improvement over how we have been working with the waterfall jacket design  and we have tweaked the pattern as well..
change is difficult but it brings good results. Thank you Universe for the lessons.
Philosophizing finished a need to go help hand stitch Happy Hippy key chains for one of our orders
Peace, Love and Hope to you too :)
 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

one of those weeks

Everything is running by at a blurrrrrrrrrr,
we have orders, and then more orders and more.....so pleased
caused a few tense minutes trying to get things happening and reinforcing idea of following samples- once order placed is not the time for creative suggestions hold onto them until we are making another round of samples!!!! please ...
generally though things are progressing well.
Today is the start of Holi...so this afternoon and tomorrow off.....yet ladies have been able to maintain focus and keep the stitching coming right up until the last minute/
Praveen is very good at begging and cajoling about keeping going.....
once we are back in the workshop on  Tuesday will see work heading off and more piling up everywhere to do the same soon
Blogger is already in holiday mode so only 1 picture from the dim memories of our holidays

a beautiful Madhubani bridal room.
Happy Holi