Saturday, July 20, 2019

BOOKS ARE FUN LIBRARY

Just quietly....
Super excited....
We might have bought the little old house next to the workshop....
And we will have a space for a library.

Fingers crossed

Toes crossed....
Anything else that is good luck.

We hope

We hope

Friday, July 19, 2019

Rambling....

Hello,
I have been back for so long, rushing to do a million things it is hard to remember I was away.
Stuff is happening on all fronts

  • Workshop I am working super hard to train office staff up to more responsibilities and get them out of my hands. This is proving successful but it is time consuming and demands a lot of interruptions for me as i check and we have little quizzes to see they got it.
  • We are also writing up an instruction manual for every procedure. Technically I think they call it KRA. This means the person assigned a job knows exactly what is their area [recently 2 someones who were jointly assigned a task both said the task was not their responsibility!! nearly had a fit. one is no longer with us [same comment heard in too many areas] second person is big part of these training and documentation sessions. Hope to be able to get him up to speed and keep him. Attitude is important. We can encourage but ultimately everyone makes a choice about their behavior.
  • Most days I feel so blessed to work with a gang who make very positive choices everyday to approach our workshop with enthusiasm and bring positive attitudes to the gang and learning new things
  • Much work with running an order is now farmed out around various people in the workshop, via our tablet system.
  • BUT getting an order on the tablet system takes a lot of my time. I have to check format [I have been quite a demanding pain asking clients to very carefully follow our system and we are by and large starting to line up]. I then need to check there are no changes to our sample sheet reference system and it is good to go to tablet system
  • once on tablet system.... meterage is worked out, fabric in stock checked or more ordered. Designs by design/colour/blockprint is packed and sent off to colour unit/ blockprint studio/ cutting room/ machine room/ stitching Ladies for hand stitch AND finally checking room for checking/ironing and listing to go. Many garments actually go through all those areas ALL THOSE AREAS.... on their way to dispatch. Can you see why I get twitchy trying to set up a system???
  • writing it all down makes me feel like yes, there is a lot going on and I am not a whinger, just busy and so thankful the team is picking up so many elements of the mix.
That is just the homecoming :)

Where I want to have my head is actually the why of why I was away. 
Hah?
Romania and research.... immersed in all of the above I almost lost the feel for it and then yesterday downloading photos and it came swooping back to me and also reading a friend's blog.
Yvonne and Peter were married at our house in Pushkar more than 10 years ago, we felt like old mates when we first met and have become so over the years. They are presently in Romania visiting many of the places I loved and it has been fun to look over their shoulder.
as Yvonne wrote yesterday I feel like I have lived here before. Yes I felt so at home.

Where to start?
a jumble of impressions.
millions of churches, some postage stamp size were the most lovely, warm, welcoming and filled with beauty. Others, a few - nah- filled with their own importance.... but my general impression was of warmth and lifting your heart to higher things through the beauty.
Painted Churches of Romania

Romanian embroidery
Like the world over craft and traditional culture is being lost in a modernizing, urbanizing world. Romania though has many who want to reverse this. In Bucharest I met a warm and welcoming group of women who for about 6 years have been meeting regularly after work to sit and learn and so stitch their own traditional blouses. Many did not know the first step when they started, they have a weaver they buy hand woven cotton from, they have invited people from all over Romania to teach them the stitches and patterns. They learn and share and are so very welcoming to those with interest.
So inspiring. In the far north traditional costume is still a big part of life especially when going to church or for  auspicious days, you see lovely outfits just wandering down the road.

I was driving on my journey so my eyes took in so much it was impossible to catch as a snap. Many times I had to tell myself  "The road!!!"

From Painted Churches to graffiti; art abounds all in the cause of telling various stories. I took a wonderful urban tour and through graffiti caught up on lots of recent history and issues of modern Romania. Well presented and again that word- inspiring, I believe this will be part of a great introduction to the country when my guests arrive.

Definitely felt like I was in Middle Earth some days.... towers, forest covered mountains and narrow green valleys, it was all wonderful.

 Loved driving along a magical valley filled with a pine forest and signs noting bears, wolves, wild boar and maybe lynx were also around.
Should I include notes on what to do if you meet a bear in my tour notes- would people be excited or turned off?
Population is actually doing well, trees are being cut down though and so space is dwindling... bears have wandered into Brasov looking for a feed.  Wow.

 Churches again- big ohh wow so many times, so many varieties. This one was at Rogov and extra special.... got to be there to soak up the atmosphere I think, you'll get it
 Kitsch is an important part of the culture, even a museum in Bucharest dedicated to it. The museum is actually very insightful in their notes and sets a good grounding to help understand a number of things you see along the road.
Summer and fresh homemade lemonade abounds. delightful.

Food is danger, danger.
Why because it tastes so good, yes it is aimed a someone who works hard all day in the fields, that is the danger of it. The waistline will take a flogging.
Romanian pastries are a field of research in themselves and all delicious
same shops have Romanian pretzels, again different to other countries and extremely moorish.
Romanian coffee- delicious to go with above.
Telemea, the simple everyday cheese and many other varieties - delicious.
Polenta served with many meals- never liked it much when I have done it, here, yum, suspect being fresh maize from local fields and probably butter is what does the trick.
Eggs were farm fresh once you hit the country....
home grown bacon and homemade sausages.... trout, duck...
Fresh fruit, cherries falling from trees everywhere...
Moldova [on the east side] every house was covered in vines.... and from this comes local delicious red wines and white wines. My taxi driver in Bucharest told me how he and his mates visit family in Moldova in autumn and crush the grapes together then set to ferment, taking the final product back home later.
Ohh and PALINKA goodness me. Goodness me, my mouth is on fire just remembering. Families gather around grandma and help brew this fire water. It is a homemade spirit, visiting in the country you are offered a snort on arrival and more is consumed through a dinner.
Amazing... the good stuff can leave your mouth numb but in a good way. Amazing stuff.
There is a whole political story behind it and beer and communism to learn about along the way.
It like the Romanian heart, it still flourishes today even after all the country has been through.
 Amazing scenes deep, deep under the ground in a salt mine. Middle Earth, I tell you!
 Locally woven rugs.
Now it is summer looms are packed up because everyone is out working in the fields but beautiful rugs can still be found.
 Traditional costume. The blouse. BEEAAAUUUTTTIFUULLLLLL.


 Green, green, green. Fields, forests, valleys and might mountains. so many shades of rich peaceful green.
Truly a place to treasure.
Hmmm just my kind of place. Loved it, the warm welcome from people and so many layer of history.

So many more stories I collected of Dacia, Romans, Romania, Wallachia, Carpathian Mountains, Transylvania, Hungarian people, Transylvania, Communism..... all so interesting.
Ohh and Vlad was there... the real Vlad is so much more interesting than the story written abroad.

My favourite drive music when I am alone is to sing Rocky Horror Picture Show, it keeps me awake. Ask Praveen he has suffered through it in Australia.
I did sing it driving through Transylvania but felt a little weird and Mrs Google of GPS fame kept shutting it down, so mostly I traveled with the sounds of silence.

There is a lot to enjoy, yes we start with textiles and craft but culture and arts are special to us too, and Romania is so rich and diverse. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Last Days

For more than 5 years I have been hording information and leads and talking to people, getting ready to put a Romania Tour on the map.
Really it all started as a young child, someone gave me a small card hand painted with flowers, she said that is how she used to paint Easter eggs where she came from; Romania.
Even as a kid I was into maps. I knew where it was and the likelihood of going thee was remote because of the Soviet Block thingy; might have liked maps but politics was not my thing. My old friend in the library Britannica told me Carpathian Mountains and Transylvania.... oooh I liked the sound of them in my mouth, how mysterious.
Weird things you remeber from kid time.
Then ages ago Gillian Travis was visiting and mentioned how interesting northern Romania was..... well I was off.

And now in a few short days I really will be off. Yippeee!!
I have spent the last few weeks, compiling all my notes, making lists and getting in the zone.
Tour prep for us is listing like crazy, find a story of the area to read each night and then get there, leave the notes aside and wander with sparkly eyes and see what we see.
Oh yes and the 'fun' side look at a thousand hotels and meet infrastructure people and make a thousand new notes of everything we 'discover'.

OOHH can't wait :)

Back home, pretty much got workshop up and ready for time out from me.

Monsoon weather pattern arrived yesterday.
Up until now it has been mid 40's everyday, mid 30's by night and sharp sunshine. Fries what little mind I have it is so intense.

Yesterday, clouds came in, the weather started to feel like you are encased in a damp sponge and someone is sitting on it pressing it into you everywhere.
Not nice.
Tortoises started groaning and baby making which proves Monsoon time is here.
The thing though, here on the edge of the desert, is that is does not necessarily mean rain. Just the possibility.
All the farmers have been spreading manure and plowing.... now they have to wait and hope.
This first week is OK but it could be 4 or 5 weeks before a shower and by that time everyone is so tense and anxious and brittle. This rain if it comes is there one chance for crop this year.

Fingers crossed.

Our new Creative Arts Safaris Newsletter is out - a very big thank you for feedback. Really appreciated, anyone else who wants to throw their two bobs worth in- yes please :)

OK pff to organize workshop things, catch myself when I start to daydream ... it is just next week :) Yippee.

Watch there will be plenty of photos, but other things you will just have to join us to experience.
Being there is the thing.
No actually being here is the thing. Focus on right now, right here.

Nothing wrong with moving that right now, right here around, is there?

Hmmm  maybe heat addled philosophy. Haha 

Friday, May 31, 2019

Quick visits

I have been there and now back again,
and it seems as quick as it took to type this note.

It was lovely though, the light in Australia in May is magical
and fresh air
and blue skies
what a luxury.

We had a huge dust storm 2 days before I left and I got a face full trying to force my lounge doors closed in the middle of the night. It really set my asthma off so travelling to Delhi and onto Perth I was stumbling along like an ancient.
Blue skies and fresh air though and a few days I was right as rain. Lovely feeling in itself.


I was invited to be the guest artist at The Perth Craft and Quilt Show
They looked after me very well,
I was asked to tell my story of how I came to be living out in the sticks in India and how Praveen and I came to start The Stitching Project.
I couldn't believe how tired I was each day talking, talking and talking. Many people were very interested to hear our stories.

We are all the same, it is just circumstances that vary- I think telling stories like this allows people to make little connections and hopefully appreciate the lucky life they have in a country with very good living conditions, equality of the sexes, many opportunities in work,  leisure and social situations.

I am also happy to be a proud Mama and talk about the progress our people have made in learning and working in our workshop.
Literacy is not high in our area, traditional life and lack of experience means people are loath to take on challenges and responsibilities.

Now we have a team who by and large are doing just that and our workshop is starting to be a well oiled machine.

You can't imagine how happy I am to say and feel that.
The last year or so the struggle to keep everything running smoothly has been immense.
I wondered if I would crumble under the weight.
Changes in a few key personal, more junior members of staff stepping up and taking the big leap from a failing paper based system onto the use of tablets and a willingness and lack of fear of tablets verses writing on paper and HERE WE ARE.

AMAZING!!!
and I do love to tell people about it.
Another good thing is, even when I am away we can use the online tablet system and what'sapp on the phone and we are in communication, work does not slow down, which really did happen before.....
and I am asked less silly questions because people are thinking things through and taking initiative.

Yippee
Yipppee

 I do feel a bit dim some days

So many people came up and said they wanted to meet me, they had heard about me.... etc.
I was amazed how could that be, I come for the middle of nowhere, India???

Well- there was a spread in the event magazine and on their website. Haha silly or what?


A huge thanks to my mate Gaelle, she is the rock that organized me and helped every day, I could not have done it with out her.

When I am away I send the gang pictures of where I am .... interesting tourist things like  foreigners trying on our clothes, the ocean had people swooning.
Boy I would like to do a staff field trip to the beach!
Don't know why it is sideways but you get the idea.
My gang like to see the foreigners in their exotic western clothes.
 I joke, you want to dress like that?? 
Lots of giggles no, sari or Rajasthan skirt and veil are much more beautiful but it is interesting to see them.

Happy Home Coming

Monday, May 13, 2019

Vietnam

Our latest trip has been a pleasure.
Traveled with a bunch of keen and interested people, met up with many old friends and contacts along the way and found new connections.
Many changes since my last visit and they make me very happy to notice.
This year Praveen was along with me, it has been 12 years since we first visited the north of Vietnam together.

After my last visit I felt a little sad, I could see huge changes in the urban areas of Vietnam, the Asian Tiger in full development but I could see little trickle on effect for the Ethnic Minorities in the more remote areas.

This time I had a most interesting conversation with Mrs Thuan, of the White Thai Ethnic Minority.  You will find this group practice wet rice cultivation in more remote valleys [this translates to a better income than dry rice cultivation groups of the mountains but not as prosperous to the delta rice cultivation of Viet people..... income indicator]

 White Thai are traditionally master weavers and were famed for their cultivation of silk worms and fine damask weaving techniques. 
War, post war political structure and now China pushing their cheap fabrics into Vietnam has seen a near death of this tradition. They are also well known as great entrepreneurs and so when I first met women of the Mai Chou area they were replicating H'mong motifs in embroidery for the Hanoi Tourist market. Income generation sure but but loss of contact with their traditions made me sad.... 
back to the conversation with Mrs Thuan, she and the women's group she started are making gorgeous bags, toys and garments utilizing their woven cotton fabrics and embroidered motifs based on their traditional weave designs
Yes!!
Even talk of starting a small museum of Traditional White Thai work for reference.
Entrepreneur with vision, we sat and stitched with her people, had a delicious lunch and then came back for dinner at her Niece's Guesthouse. Strong women, good business and very happy visitors. 


Eyes all sparkly, back in Hanoi on our last night, replete after a good meal and even better trip.

We took time to spell the roses..... had to use that line.
even more impressive was the amazing flowering of orchids in the mountains. Orchids my grandmother used to have to look after so carefully grow wild up near Sapa and this year we were there are just the right time to see wonderful display.
The mountains and the people of the mountains are always a delight. Pint size, our Mrs Ge Indigo women extraordinaire doesn't even come up to my shoulder!
Again I had not seen improvements in the difficult conditions the people of the mountains live in.....poor was the only word to use. Beautiful locations, beautiful, colourful people, the ones everyone wants to see but not seeming to get a fair bite of the Asian Tiger apple.
This year wandering around in the mountains there is definitely better cemented tracks to villages, more electricity, house been ungraded with steel roofs and brick walls, a number of TV aerials. Perhaps not as picturesque for visitors but it must be so much more comfortable for people, no rain in monsoon time, warmer in winter.... means trickle down effect must be making some impact.
A lot more people using motorbikes not hiking up and down near vertical mountains
Yes as a visitor I see the simple beauty I come to see being eroded, conversations with contacts and they see hard questions arising about how to juggle tradition and modern world pressures.
But it does seem to be a question people are looking at... and it is good to see their lives improving.


Halong Bay, stunning as always.
Fun, cruising, taking time to paddle kayaks or sit and stitch, such a magical place to be.
Still a lot of a plastic floating in the Bay, but I think less  than last time. 
Last visit the local people who live in Floating Villages were all topsy turvey as there was pressure for them to move out not continue living in the World Heritage Area and fishing. 
Now I see many small ventures creating employment for those who were once fisherman, hosting kayak adventures and such. 
The altar in the Captains cabin of our boat. Important to revere the Ancestors.

We live in such a wonderful, exotic world and it is a real privilege to be able to visit people and places and share it with our guests.


Must read we came across in the lead up to this trip [thank you D- you have an eye for a good book]
is The Beauty of Humanity Movement

Signing out, can't wait for our next visit in 2021 - let us know if you are interested or join our newsletter to stay up to date.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Home again

Lovely travels
Excellent tour to Vietnam
I have started a proper write up but need to get office computer fired up to add photos. So enjoyed our latest visit to this magical place.

Then a fantastic family holiday in Oz, got to spend time with my kids, grandkids and mate Dawn, rather than running like crazy as I have done in last few visits when new grandkids came.

Off to Oz again in a few weeks at the guest artist at The Perth Quilt and Craft Fair
Very exciting, let me know if there is anything I can bring along. I am there to share our story and show our work as well as have stuff for sale. Suggestions on what "stuff" appreciated.
Just before I will have a few days visiting our mates at ANJELMS... they always come to us, it will be lovely to meet Gaelle and her gang at home.

Our TO DO  list is huge, glad of the family holiday in Australia, our time away was actually relaxing. We will need all.our strength to get through the next few months.

1. Catch up in workshop, gang seems to have done a great job moving through work left in progress, now to sort out a few glitches, new orders and see what training needs to be improved upon in following up on orders. I am working very hard at putting responsibility into our staff's hands. Good for their confidence and skill set and takes a huge weight off my shoulders.

2. Websites need a whole new thing  especially back end. Grrr it has to be done, I have outside expertise to do the big lifting but will need to do all the blurbs and pictures etc to help.

3. Planning new trips.
We are knee deep in plots and plans and lists and contacts. Time to do road trips and walk it all through. Literally a road trip here in India for the 'Chikankari to Enlightenment Tour '  and an addition of train and aeroplanes for the 'Bucharest to Budapest Tour'

4. Creative Arts Safaris is busy later in the year with trips, still places to join our Rajasthan:A Tactile Textile Tour
AND 2020 is going to be exciting so many places to look forward to...
So much planning to make it happen.

5. After CAS gets its website spruce up I need to rethink The Stitching Project site and what we offer.
We are so busy looking after client work, it keeps the gang employed and let's us slowly bring in new members.... I have been trying to get up new original work under our label as well but sm rubbish at the getting it onto the web for people to see. If I am to continue with that I need a format the gang can follow to get it listed for all to see. Not enough hours in a day for me to do it.
So hard to develop the necessary skills but surely I can spot someone here able and willing to learn. Hmmm?

There is more, but thankfully it eludes me at the moment, I would not want the list so big it is overwhelming
Haha

And another

Haha.
Off to work we go :)

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

TSP

 WE tend to have lunch separate, Ladies upstairs and men downstairs.... except when it is something special and we all eat together.
Reason for this tradition, yes and convenience, we can chat about what we like, drop off veils if hot, lounge around. Things you don't do in mixed company. Haha.
Every day our Indra Madam cooks a vegetarian dish which the whole workshop shares, everyone else brings a lunch box from home and their chapati. So we have a serve of the main course and a spoonful of everyone's lunch box - a delicious mixed plate every day.
Their is gentle competition between the women for group appreciation and laughs at me because I love salad and it is not a THING in India, only fit for goats. I have converted a few but mostly - forget it!
 This [up and down ] is the gang at chai time,
Majority women in our workshop. Yippee!! years of work building the numbers and training up a strong workforce, Not so many blokes but the ones we have are good guys and happy to be here in our workshop.
As you saw at our New Years Party everyone gets along together very well.


Been thinking about what I can do, what I need to do, who I can delegate things to....
I love to make things, using our talents for others, it keeps so many of us busy and they get to do all the marketing etc. I get the good part, making something nice.

I try and make new designs to carry TSP label, as a few clients order from them but it is such a big job making them available for prospective shoppers to order against.... I never seem to get it done and what I do could be polished more. Oh well.

Do you know what I really like to do.... when I have time. Yes haha.

I like to make quilts.
Folky, Gees Bend Bold hand stitched quilts from our off-cuts.
And Jackets- I love making unique jackets.....
combining these ideas I have some patch work jackets starting to come together.
Offcuts, too lovely to throw re-purposed into snuggly jackets and kimono coats. Hmmm
my heaven
And a few more quilts.....
yeh! This one is for Anjelms of Fremantle, featuring this season and a season a few years back black and white prints. Cool isn't it?