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

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

 The last few weeks have been huge....running our Stitching workshop, training new women, madly scrambling to finish off orders and get it out the door, and time to host various groups....it is the silly season!!
 Fantastic tie and dye by the Teachers Education Tour and a night of laughs cooking dinner and enjoying gypsy dancers....
 We met a group of University of Technology students in Jaipur and spent 2 days playing indigo experiments and then back to the workshop for a 10 day printing intensive.
 great group, we are so enjoying seeing what they are creating, the time to focus on the challenge at hand away from the busy world of University is really paying off.

We have another group we have organized a trip for doing yoga each day in Pushkar, they are coming to visit tomorrow, so will be great to touch base. The yoga teacher was once my student many, many moons ago...I so enjoy seeing the wonderful young woman she has grown into.

Amongst all this is fiddling around, continuing to work on better understand our book keeping system.... we need to know what we have at hand, what processes need to happen to it, who has ordered it, filling orders, filling all the one million and one forms to export it, or all the taxes for selling in India.... never ending paperwork.
Most importantly we need to be bale to analyse what is happening business wise, cash flows etc and plan to keep the work coming in , being made in a timely manner and getting dispatched on time.
This is to safe guard the work for our gang and ourselves- we all need to earn an income.
 Next hurdle is form filling and starting the accreditation process with Fair Trade Forum-India.....more paperwork!!
next week when the studio is free I am going to run away and hide up stairs and print up a storm!! Silver lining.
and, and , and, I think I have a friend coming to visit who will help get the library project up and running....I figure if she is here and keen to lend a hand then the Indian paperwork and registration can keep taking its own time, we will get books, cover them, catalogue them and start hauling them around to schools.....fingers crossed.

could do with a good snooze - but happy, happy, kushi, kushi

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

 Life is just a blur.....wwwwwwhhhhhhhhoooooooosssssssshhhhhhhhhh
is all I hear.
I went up to Delhi for a training session organized by AIACA, the group that certify us for Craftmark, focused on things I never thought I would need to think about in my life.....and quite frankly if it was not for our responsibilities to all the people we create work for I would avoid it like the plague!
Costing, indirect costs, direct costs, entity legal structures, production planning, being up to date with Government requirements for taxes etc and India has so many things to be aware of...always something new we have not heard of.
So with my head bursting from all this, we realised we need better procedures for all our book work and accounting....no education in this area we have been creating a system as we go along, then refining things as we go. Really trying to re-invent the wheel!
 Sushil a  good friend of our nephew Sunil is an accountant and he came down for the weekend....went through our book keeping like a dose of salts.
Wow, many things we had right, a bit of refinement is all that is needed and other things we have not even had a chance to work out yet.
Intense.....now is a melee of chopping into and re-working books. Getting it all ship shape...it will be so  much for usable soon.
BUTTTTTTTTTTTT OOOOOOOOHHHHHHH bookwork is not my strongest love.
 All I want to do is run away, up to my print room and play new samples.
It is a carrot that is getting a bit soggy from over dangling.....
a little therapeutic stitching each evening keeps the dream alive and has netted this new indigo quilt top.....a tumbling block one pending....

The first pleasure of each day is breakfast with our tortoises, I have let the bigger ones out into the garden area....lots of space and different things to nibble and yet here they are waiting on the step for me to come out.
Back to the grind stone.
 Ohhh and tour season starts next week, we have 4 running in the next month, lots of lovely visitors here and much to watch from the distance as they have a lovely taste of our type of India!

Monday, September 01, 2014

Bhuj break.

 On the train to head home...we visited Bhuj early last year and loved the area...but it seemed so remote we wondered when we would ever be able to visit again.
As a member of Craftmark [AIACA] we were asked what help do we need, what do we want to learn. Our response was ideas for managing larger number of women, we do it all ourselves and just can't keep up with things.
Can I just add AIACA are a fabulous organization to be a part of, they really live up to their mandate- we so appreciate them.
Early in our stitching we had an incident where one of the women was telling us she was taking work for her sisters- really she was farming it out, her husband pretending to be Praveen and ripping the women off 50% of the money we were paying, that along with issues of quality has made us reluctant to hand the interactions with women over to anyone.
Craftmark organized for us to meet with 2 very large organizations that work with literally 1000s of women....
We need a field worker...some one to run around on a regular basis who knows the work and how to show /train stitchers and a head stitcher in each village. We can see the hierarchy needed now to support quality control, training and support of new women.
Kind of things we already knew but time out and hearing the voice of experience will hopefully help us grow more easily.
Being out there and a car to get around we had the chance to visit other workshops and talk to businesses as well...we have found a wool weaver who does a good quality flat weave-something we have wanted for some time to experiment with for jackets,
Caught up with Sufiyan Khatri [ family of the most amazing Ajraak work] for tea, made a great contact with a tie and dye guy and a batik man.....Creative Arts Safaris could well have a new tour offering opening up now we know how close the area is via train....
 Another feature of Bhuj was its nearness to the coast and the change for a few days R&R at the beach.
Truthfully we did little more than sit and look at the beach for a few hours, eat fresh fish and slob around in our hotel room watching TV, reading books and a little stitching for me.

Flamingos to be seen from our window was an added excitement and watching the tide come in and go out....yep bliss.
We learnt a lot through meeting people and having the time for us to talk about our stitching workshop but I think the best thing we learnt was how easy it is to get to Mandvi and a beach escape.
We can work a full day, catch the night sleeper, sleep well, have 2 days there and catch the night train home arriving back at 6.00am in the morning we could roll into the workshop at our regular hour.
Just the thought of this will be sustaining in our busiest times.

Friday, August 22, 2014


My mate Dijanne has a lovely dream...half reality....her work is fantastic and her attention to detail and background info amazing...I have seen the small book she did on the Sentinel's-  beautiful work.
I am giving her book a big plug. I want the copy I have ordered one for myself and the 2 copies for friends to become a reality. I know they are going to very much appreciated gifts....not exactly a surprise because both mates read this blog and will probably guess...but hey!
have a look, lend your support, I am sure you will enjoy the results 
here is the link

 Finally Praveen has let me explode upstairs...Ok I had to give him a big elbow in the side and barge in...he wanted to wait for the tables to be installed, I could not stand it any longer.....so here are saris across the print room floor
 off in the distance is our new office- still got to drag stuff up there....we are so busy downstairs stitching and organizing things....
 Views from the verandah...starting to feel like home with drying saris draped everywhere.
so excited to think we will have a print room very soon....I am bursting with ideas to try and will not have to waste precious time drag around to Nandu's place. Nandu has agreed to come and work for us mornings, her son Vijay can keep the printing going at home, she will have regular income and being here we can keep an eye on quality issues we have had with her.
madly trying to employ more tailors and a helper and a samples lady....chasing sari sellers all over the place....normal days in the workshop.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

books and stuff...

 Rakhi is tomorrow- a Hindu festival that celebrates the Brother /Sister bond...and it has really speeded up things....our Block guy got finished a few days early and has been on the phone COME NOW and pick up your big order of blocks...we have to go to the village for Rakhi they said...come quick.
All our ladies have been stitching like crazy [ and very nicely] and it has been a bustle this morning of women dropping off work and getting paid to go and buy presents.....
Ladies all dressed up- all a a sparkle with bling bangles etc.
I have had to point out to Praveen how many they have and how few I have....won't hold my breath for him to get the hint, haha.
 On our way back from block man Mr Jujartram and dropping off a rather large order for indigo to Mr Rambabu0ji and his son Kuldeep we dropped into the old textile market at Kishangarh....it is a spectacular enclave built by the Maharaja of Kishangarh about 100 years ago to create trade opportunities in his town...feels a bit like a place time forgot.
 I hate to ask...but all has gone quite upstairs...floors are ground back and polish is being applied, painting is almost finished...if the sun ever shines again [4 days of overcast and rain I am suffering that SAD, perhaps it is MAD syndrome from lack of sun] print tables will be made....
above quilt room, ohh and need glass for windows,,,
 yippee!! print room
 a divider has to go up and this end becomes our design studio/office....just me and my man!!
garden is starting to look pleasant again and this rain will certainly bring grass again, a lawn in no time.
I am madly stitching samples to send off with the courier....but I actually have enough space in the side of my mind to start thinking of our Book Project.
we have a lovely nestegg sitting waiting for something to happen, it does cause me a smidgeon of guilt but not much because I simply have not had time to allow it to grow.
Right, we have funds, we have papers in front of us for the necessary to set up a Charitable Trust...we need a few answers.
Mission statement.....
Friends of our worked or at least told us about Big Brother Mouse and we gain much inspiration from them...we want a mobile library- if books are all packed into crates we can take them from school to school on a weekly basis....
I had a rather difficult childhood, 13 primary schools does not suggest the most stable time....my father used to drink, my mother wait in the car and have a tipple and we sat there until closing times many nights a week.
For 12 months or so we lived in Wallsend and across the road was the library...it was free baby sitting for my mother to drop us there and from that time aged about 7 or 8years old books have been a source of pleasure, escape,  information and later a road to some semblance of sanity. I figure if you can read, you could learn and the world becomes a lot more available to you. You are better able to create your own destiny.
 Praveen never really went to school, for him opening a book is a bit scary but over time he has come to see what inspiration we have from some of our design books, all the ideas we get from our travel books, what fun his kids get from the books we buy them [ and since he met me and we first spoke of education and how to encourage his kids he has made every effort to encourage them to dive into education]
Can I brag a minute,  Preeti his biggest girl has just enrolled in a degree course to become a teacher, she has been at Uni 2 years now starting in a non-degree course and done well enough to move onto a bigger pond.  We are so proud of her. 10 years ago her outlook was finishing school at 16....
Here books are so rare, only tattered text books and painful to wade through...a good story or nice picture books are a whole different idea...

So we are wading through details for our Reading Project...is that boring? as a name I mean.... I thought before Hope Initiative? ...the Kitab= Book [ marrying Hindi and English in the name]

got to dive back into samples now but we are finally on track with the books and reading idea

OOHh and a small excitement, a month ago we engaged a new office guy...our books were in a terrible state, mostly because the guy we had engaged to do them was rather slack...well it has been a very hectic month in the office...to the point of driving me nuts some days BUT light is here, he has just presented me last months report, files are all maintained, books balance, I can pick up any file and see what is happening for each tour, each supplier, each order...it is such a relief.
I now have to review all costings and the order process for manufacture...but it is looking do-able and so much stress will be off my shoulders, thanks be Ganesha you have been working over time here this month [ the Hindu god Ganesha, remover of Obstacles is one to have on your side]

Saturday, August 02, 2014

blue days.....

Blue days....only in the sense we have an ongoing obsession with indigo and are just working out how to utilize it in our next range.
 Our play day was weeks ago but it has taken ages to have a minute to think about it....
workshop building...big stuff finished but much slow little stuff ongoing.
painting man near finished, electric finished just got to buy fans to install,
gggggrrrrrrrrrr grinding man is here, cleaning off the floors...hate the noise it makes the whole building vibrate.....
not bags of cement outside my office means no clouds of dust blowing in....
once new office is ready we can start to move and dust everything off as we go, until then old office looks like a bomb, a dirt bomb that is hit it!
 in amongst washing another million saris and getting them dry in between thunder storms I have been arranging and re-arranging piles of indigo looking at how the prints come out, what we could mix with what to make new quilts and throws, new garments....
 a lot of just ooohhhhh and aaaahhhh over how lovely it all is. This silk musru is mesmerizing.....
Workshop re-organization has been more than spaces deep....had a few issues with staff come to a head last month and just about finished working them through, we have regular Friday meetings now and ask for feedback as well as give feedback ....ideas sharing, programming for work etc, etc.
really good for the energy of OUR WORKSHOP.
we want it to be our workshop- only if everyone likes to pull together can we be the type of success Praveen and I envision.
Australian that I am I have longed for Sunday off.....new moon and full moon just seem to happen and I am not prepared so usually work...crazy but that is how it goes.
Indian law says Sunday closed for bigger businesses, but Rajasthan practice doe not.... staff worried wages would drop...worked out if lunch is a little shorter....we save enough hours in month to have Sundays off-  had to talk it all through and work out hours etc but we can do it.
Yeh!! a step towards modern work practices....and staff at home Sunday, kids are off school that day...family time. novel idea?
so different here in India....people work so hard just to get by, most don't expect family time, just family looking after, paying for food, housing and school.
Off to work because tomorrow is SUNDAY!!!