Tuesday, January 20, 2015

plots, plans and clever tricks...

Probably a mis-quote but a line from one of my boy's books when they were small and when Gillian is around ideas, inspiration and new works always abound.
Such a pleasure to have her here, busily printing and trying out ideas, spinning more ideas together.
Gillian is like me an early riser, so nice to have a little chat at 6.00 am when we both start work...my lovely Praveen does not function until a few hours after waking.
OOps something happened and I published halfway through....3 days with Gillian is way more than that!
Generous, she shared some secrets that she uses to give depth to here Ladies pictures...Derwent watercolour pencils especially for textile use.

We pack kits for Gillian- take a look on her website, she will explain it all far better than me.
Good for the gang to see what happens with all the strange odds and ends we pack and send. They were most impressed to see the books she had published and recognize some local views.
She came out with us to visit our Tawla Ladies, interesting to hear her observations later on the way we work....we are quiet exacting with quality, which is especially important in the beginning phases to impress upon Stitchers what we need to ensure all our work. We have lots of laughs through the process, keep it light but as Gillian observed it is exacting.

This simple picture speaks volumes about Gillian, she is incredibly hard working, 6 am and stuck in, all day busy experimenting in the workshop, catch every tourist opportunity and bubble of fun. Inspiring woman.
Take a look at these few snaps- my vegie guys are always quiet, polite and have the very freshest and best quality around...take a tourist along like Gillian with such interest and a cute little camera and they become movie stars posing for photos, discretely checking out the camera, impressed. You realise travel is not just about the sites, really it is about people....we may look different but friendliness and a big welcome come out the world over.
Whilst she was here, many discussions of her upcoming trip to Ghana- our friends Magie and Bob of the African Fabric Shop are there now, if you can't join us on tour to this Craft heaven, you can get a great fix from them. Stay tuned for her pictures next month.....oooohhh wish we were going too! Here are lots of pictures from our trips and other images to whet your appetite. Most of Africa would be wonderful to explore but for a tour we must be practical- look at stability, are there health concerns, infrastructure....Ghana comes up trumps on all these fronts, unlike many African countries unfortunately and has a very active craft scene. Must find time to go again soon. Do email us if you wish to be in the loop
and, and
Bucharest to Budapest - a new tour, we have all the info in place, lots of contacts etc we just need to do a walk through and check all details. Gillian got us enthused on this one and we are going to meet up July 2016 for a wander. It will be on the Agenda 2017. Yippee.
Really this is just a fraction of all we talked about, new plans for the future, new kits Gillian will have available, playing indigo and resist prints, just a lovely time having her buzz through our lives

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Fact finding- natural colour

We are trying to refine exactly what we want to work with in our designs and the type of ingredients we would like to be able to offer prospective clients.
we are VERY CLEAR it is people and the work of the hand we value.
  • Home spun, hand weave fabrics....and who made them
  • Hand block print...environmental impact- low water volume needed for clear up, water based, solvent free pigment ink. Colourful and permanent...we have been watering these ins down and washing them onto the fabric for greater colour.
  • In the 'natural dye' range we have indigo, mud resist to make pattern and iron black.
  • Hand stitch- we have 77 women now gainfully employed- big, big yippee!!
The question of colouring fabric has arisen again....and it goes through my mind regularly....chemical dyes are so polluting and questionable. Add to that the difficulty of colour matching and colour fading and it is a nightmare we really want to avoid...but what is there to use that gives a good coverage of colour???

Yesterday we visited a new workshop that offers a range of options, rather limited and subdued but realistically all there is that can be sourced fairly close to us and won't fade out first wash.
1. INDIGO- love it, do lots of it
2. Natural iron black- fabric treated with halda - a plant extract mordant, the cloth is aged 3 weeks and then printed or dyed with natural iron black which is achieved by fermenting iron and jiggery sugar cake for 21 days. after printing/ dying and drying it is then boiled to become a very permanent black. nice and inky.
3. Kashish....still trying to translate exactly what this one is....been explained in hindi.
lovely soft grey colour, can be dyed. Here is it with mud resist creating the white.

4. this red is called Alizarin red, comes from a tree extract, again permanent, typical of our area of India
This is realistically the range of colours you can get on a scale for clothes/ home wares production.
not bad, not huge 

Monday, January 05, 2015

Happy New Year

Not sure if I am late from the last one or early for the next....the way time flies it is hard to tell.
My Grandmother - Nan Charlton used to always say time speeds up...never understood it as a kid but I really get it now.
 Even my chatting to friends has become via quick Viber texts and pictures or half finished emails...where I keep having to bail out and say I'll be back later....Anne - sorry :)

These are some lovely shirts we have been working on...a frisky breeze and they would not stand still!!
Our first order of the year involved printing
all over metres of fabric as part of a special order for one of our clients....Pretty cool....
computer and phone won't talk to each other at the moment so I can't load it???? what is that anyway??
 first work in production is covered in indigo kisses....

Madly working on details for a private tour of 14 embroiderers from the UK- will be great to have them with us, our first Indian Inspiration Creative Camp is a whirl of bookings our end and excitement for me....look forward to all that creative energy here in the workshop....Friday we will be taking our block designs up to our block carver - yeh!

Not long later will be Textile Traditions of Vietnam's North....love Vietnam. All in all our chance to share some of our textile enthusiasm and connections with our through Creative Arts Safaris is rocking along...oh and our next Rajasthan and beyond tour is all sorted and listed on the website as well.

shhhh... I don't want to spook them but our 2 office guys are proving helpful at getting through paperwork......

Amongst all this our workshop has been busy, busy, busy.
Pushing a bit and drawing patterns myself because our pattern guy is still a bit dozy and we have not found anyone new but we are making headway.
Think you can see some images here...still got to get more in our shop and in our catalogues on Pinterest but we are making headway!
Mr Mahendra our print guy is fabulous to work with ....Gillian Travis has given us the thumbs up on the printing in her new batch of flower kits....I am getting to try ideas out and have him pull them off. A very quite man he has a lovely cheeky humour and good grasp of care and quality.

off to see what is happening...I have new samples hald way through and must watch they don't get sidelined.....

Yeh a bit busy, I have visitors this week and next in the studio so hope to be able to sit and talk a bit, play with new ideas, find the bits and pieces from my Vietnam stitchied journal I have been playing with for years....lots of things.

OHH goodness yes visitors- I have to sort out the Upstairs studio!! it looks like a bomb went off....my space and so only one to blame is me- or perhaps Praveen! he can help fix it.
 Happy happy to 2015 :)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

been there and back- Artist-in-Residence

I feel very boring, it is always the same story, based around running like crazy, but if I actually draw breath and think about it, a little something new happened yesterday. My office guy sent me through invoices all set out correctly and ready to send on- he did it not me!!...the office work learning curve has been a huge millstone this last year... but that felt like light at the end of the tunnel.
Another observation- Praveen's job is to look after tour bookings, I do all the email/ interaction stuff because I am more vocal but he handles the organization....as you know he has been working since 8 so school really did not happen, supporting his family on a rickshaw from 12 [thought I would throw that in it always wrings my heartstrings]
When I first met him, he could read Hindi slowly but English was not possible....I was watching him go down through the itinerary yesterday on his own. He is amazing, my man. So proud of him and it is a bit more office work I can allocate to other people.....
I have this sneaking feeling next year might be a little easier....I might have more time to work on new ideas in the print room, hand stitch samples- all those yummy creative things possible in our beautiful workshop!!
It is always good to dream
 Here are some of our dreams come true, a new women gets the pat on the back and becomes a Stitching Lady....
 Really lovely to go to Bangalore and meet Kusum of Timri, kindred soul and new friend. Bangalore is amazing- felt like we were out of India, so affluent compared to where we live....down side for the locals is the traffic- 2 hours to drive 23 km.
and then we went onto Hyderabad- beautiful architecture.....want to go back...lots of handloom in the surrounding area, just need time to look for the connections.
Then off to Oz and back again- ohh my boys are gorgeous and my mates great to see.
Back again and scurrying to get through things until that moment yesterday I noticed there might be light at the end of the tunnel.

My mate Dawn chortles some days and says "Be careful what you wish for" when I am having a bit of a moan about how much work we have on for our Stitching.....
there are other days when "Be careful what you wish for " has a whole different flavour....one of those things I have wished for since I came here was a studio I could create in and a space I could share with us....thanks very much to Praveen we have a workshop we are so pleased with- space for us to be creative, a place to create work for others and now I am realising we finally have the space to polish up the Studio side of our workshop.....
Really it is already happening with our visiting student groups, workshops we do for passing visitors and our tour groups, The Indian Inspiration Creative Camp is a Pukka Studio experience.....[ still time to join us for the whole time or a few days]

3 conversations in the last week have happened upon the idea of making our space available for Artist-in-Residence" experiences.
Wouldn't that be wonderful?
We would be happy to share our workshop, but need to define the experience. Artist-in-residence suggests it is a space to be used as part of an arts practice, so there would need to be clearly defined goals, what are they coming to pursue...not just a place for someone to lob up.
If people want to learn - we do workshops, if they want to visit they can ring and be invited,
For the artist-in-residence programmes I looked at in my teaching/travelling days you applied had goals etc.
I would also ask residents bring a skill or idea they can share with our women...impromptu learning not formal it would scare them....but secretly we would like to train them up to be micro-entrepreneurs who make things of their own design- we could put them in the workshop shop for sale for them.....more dreams there.....another story.
So thanks for listening....writing to you I am talking the idea through in my head...any comments, observations, suggestions greatly appreciated. details to consider....
Applicants? drop me a note.
All the best wishes for the season


Sunday, November 09, 2014

Sunday again...

In the office again, our accountant is down from Delhi....still inching our way through getting all our books absolutely ship shape, tedious but necessary. other pending paperwork expeditions like the Fair Trade registration and the library registration are just lurking on the hopeful list.

Being quite I also have time to work on getting proper inventories up to date with Ranjit.

All so anal, details, details, details yet I can see as we grow into being a proper business, it will enable us to know what is happening, be able to estimate production times and let clients know when they can expect delivery, being able to calculate this info will mean a lot less sleepless nights for me.

Already I can see how much hand stitching we can do in a month,  how much is waiting to be done and that we can comfortably increase our Stitching Ladies gang by 50%+ and still be sure of keeping the work up to everyone. Previously we have been nervous of taking on more women because we see them as a big responsibility, they depend on the income.

Now refining our record keeping on which stitching is going where, so we know what to expect back in and so when it can go out to clients ....We have a record of what wages we paid per previous month, but trying to answer what is out now takes a lot of flicking through the Stitching Ladies book....a head ache.

Ranjit looks after this side of things and he has a good mind to understand systems. Bliss.

After that I have the cutting room. GGGGRRRRRRRRRR. Mr Pelad our cutting man makes very nice patterns, properly graded, nice fit.
He does not process instructions very well and really, watching him, he could not organize a piss up in a brewery.
So trying to get a system going so I know he understands our cutting programme, can find the right pattern etc, etc is sending me a bit nuts.
We are fiddling, trying to juggle people around, use the skills they do have and find who will fill the gap of thinking and record keeping.
Quietly we are grooming Ranjit to be workshop overseer in time. He is maturing nicely, his people skills are maturing and he has worked with us for 4 nearly 5 years now- we know what he is like.
 Amongst organizational headaches- growing pains when we look back on it in the future it has been a pleasing week as well,
22 visitors for a nuno felt taster....in the Studio... we sued cut up saris as the base fabric, some started to felt up fine....they needed to take them home and finish the kneading of them....some the saris were not co-operating so well. I can see ways to tweak if we are to do these tasters again.
we have been hit for more requests/orders for our hand stitch work than I ever dreamed of...hence a lot of flustering and REALLY working on our systems.

Another joy of rural India....internet connection is so patchy even with the expensive government service and the Camel Fair on top of it....no pictures for you today.

Off to do inventories......organize, organize, organize...our motto.
You know it is serious, even Praveen who is loath to do office work is on the band wagon. That man is a keeper. :)

Sunday, November 02, 2014


The Story has not changed much....
mad rush here in the studio....good news is our new print person is working out real fine.....learning so much about tweaking the constancy of the ink to improve prints.
Originally block print was done on fine cottons...this week I have been printing onto absorbent cotton knit material...causes a few hiccups- it sops up ink, so is quite wet and takes ages to dry....add that to overcast days and it is a head ache. Slows everything down significantly...
getting there, I have to keep saying to myself....
I'll show you some prints and samples in the next few days- promise.

Today is Sunday and supposedly my day off, I am at the workshop...I have a mountain of saris to keep sorting....but a little time to sit and daydream first.

Our first Indian Inspiration Creative Camp is at the end of February next year....

we intend to create a space for people to come and play- a studio away from your studio type idea, line it with things we can do here in India that are special and create a space and assistance for our guests to work that into what they like or want to do.

So there is pre-planning to do
  • draw up a design to get made into Indian slippers....the village just up the road...very bumpy road to be truthful is home to many skilled shoe makers, so if we take a cartoon to them within a week or so they will be able to return a pair of hand embroidered leather slippers.
  •  I have a trunk of bits and pieces that might be interesting to use in stitching....for myself I am thinking textile broaches...wonder what will inspire others.
  •  we have a weekend planned in Jaipur, based around visiting and experimenting in Rambabu-ji's indigo vat....
  • Part of the Pre-trip planning revolves around designing a block for printing [and taking home later]....we'll get it carved and oiled ready to go. I know if I was a visitor I would jump at being able to print a mountain of cloth...I have always been that type of crazy though


  • Our friend Sanju will be joining the group for a few days....she will share ideas/ skills to do with her Sujani embroidery....I want to be able to show her some of my ideas inspired by Toile de Jouy ...I am plan to have made a block based on a machine embroidered sketch I did of Pushkar....it would be cool to stitch back into the print. I tried this out a few years ago now and never had time to follow the idea up...I figure this will be my chance....


    This is a picture I found on the web [sorry not sure who] I must admit to a small obsession with Toile de Joule for a while and my June visit to Paris just fuelled it!
    • My mate Dawn is coming along to help....she is that type of crazy too, but much more into eco dyeing and journal making....so more skill sets to share. Part of the Jaipur week end will include a visit to a paper mill and supplies for journals, dyeing...we will see where inspiration travels.

    We have some lovely guests signed in and still room for more, you're welcome to join us.
    I will still be at the workshop should they need me but plan to schedule myself off production work altogether so I can work with our visitors and sit around a play on ideas as well.
    Can't wait to get onto that block design, I have more than enough hand embroidered shoes already...it is raaaaaatttthhhhhherrrrrrr exciting commissioning a pair.
    I have a page on Pinterest dedicated to the camp...but a lot of my other boards overlap a lot, the one about indigo, the one about dreaming blocks...our latest print board...lots

    off to sort saris now....

    Tuesday, October 14, 2014


     Life is a blur...some little time in the print room which is good....finally I have easily accessible space to work in...then it just takes time fiddling around to find combinations and ideas that work.
    One of our staff members, a skilled worker but a very difficult personality to deal with...egotistical and often looking for ways to manipulate people is finally gone.
    We have hung in with him, explained our problems and tried to get him into line but finally enough is enough and ohh does it make a difference not having a dominating personality in the machine room trying to muck things around.

    Such a relief.....and now other people can settle into their roles with out stress.
     You can't see the tail/ handle....little Mouse Purse.... used up the squares we stitched years ago....great size for a small sewing kit or pencils or stuff.
     ooohhh the joy, print experiments....one more problem to sort but we are onto it.
    We love block print, it is so versatile, easy to do, minimal clean up and obviously hand work. For a long time we have worked with Mrs Nandu, unfortunately for a long time we have had many hiccups with her about quality. When her mind is on the job she can do a reasonable job...increasingly this has not been happening.
    One of the biggest reasons for the new print room was to have quality control at our finger tips. To be polite we had to offer a job here and we hoped with it being under our nose, and no distractions we could ensure care and quality.....not happening.
    She seems to think we are silly some how and stories about bad ink, rubbish blocks etc will be brushed off. It is so frustrating and disappointing once again to have to go through this.
    I must admit the anxiety levels of will work for good or will it once again be rejected is getting to me. We pay her the same amount a man fully skilled would get. whilst we could make allowances for speed of work, sloppy work and excuses are not acceptable.
    So hard to deal with but today is the day, and employing a reliable person will take away the worry, speed up work and increase productivity we have such a backlog of printing work to get through!
     Anyway some of my experiments on our lovely Bihar handloom. Mr Ansari has been a lot of work for Praveen to chat him through quality, and sending exactly the same thing each time, no marks and working out how much fabric we can expect....Mr Ansari is very careful, there might not be written lists and proper bills coming through to us but a phone call and it is at his fingertips. So we have Sumeet our office guy ringing and preparing his invoices our end.
     Making great headway in that department.
    new prints to show.....samples happening and many small jobs in the machine room at the moment...time consuming to do small runs but it works for a smaller customers and helps them build their client base so we can all hope for more.
    Amongst all this we are trying Etsy as our shopping outlet- it is a dedicated site for handmade and busy so hopefully it works for us....slowly filling shops with
    Watts Wright Designs graffiti stuff, you know our supplies shop Glitz and PiecesTasty Old Chooks Clothes still needs some TLC but it is happening... and The Stitching Project has the tide coming in....tell your mates about us, please :)
    And another quilt top coming together square by square.....liking this idea a lot....
    oh well off to run around like a crazy woman again....
    amongst all this staff are madly cleaning as well.....6 weeks of rain leave a lot of damp around the place and with Diwali coming all needs to be cleaned and freshened for the new year. BBBBYYYYEEEE