Thursday, July 24, 2014

Indian Inspiration Creative Camp

It has been all systems go in The Stitching Project world but no rest for the wicked....burbling along on the back burner Creative Arts Safaris has been sorting through a million details for a batch of teachers, students, yoga practioners to visit around October and further along, collecting details for our Indian Inspiration Creative Camp and finishing itineraries and costings for our Textile Traditions of Vietnam's North 2015 and Moorish Delights of Andalusia and Morocco 2015

Sort of where to start situation....best to multi task.
Indian Inspiration Creative Camp.... agenda is worked out but layers can always be added in.
My mate Dawn is going to be here- bit of a helper and we always fiddle around and experiment together...she is excellent at rust and book making and tweaking ideas- take a look on Pinterest at some of her books etc.
We had a great session with our Indigo guy recently and got play days all sorted for groups...look back through these pages for pictures
During our last Indian tour Praveen learnt a lot about eco-dyeing from some of our guests so will be master of the dye pot as we try hubble, bubble, boil and trouble stuff out....
also keeping an eye on some inspiring blogs etc. Have a look at these Louio, the watercolours of Louise Molesworth are beautiful and her notes on eco dyeing a good place to start, Living Cloth- lovely ideas for getting in the zone, and Dips and Stains is a mine of imformation...
Jude Hill of Spirit Cloth always inspires me to want sit and ponder and stitch,.
I currently collect things that catch my eye on my Pinterest page for the tour, and lots of indigo stuff on Inspiring Blue... or Eco Dye.... etc, etc, etc, ....yeh got a Pinterest bug....not terminal or dangerous, possibly contagious!!
 and I am hoping, hoping, hoping my mate Dijanne Cevaal will be here as well....I have wanted her to visit for ages but she is a busy soul....we are thinking she can stop off here on her way to Europe- I do hope so....good research for her Traveller's Blankets surely

Vietnam is such an interesting place, embroidery everywhere as well as markets and places to explore, the beautiful Halong Bay to hang out in/ on and cruise....


and Moorish Delights of Andalusia and Morocco is a lot of fun and laughs, yes set against a fabulous landscape and amazing history....inspiring stitching/weaving women and oohh more fun.

I have had a few complaints already- too many good offerings at once. What can I say? sorry- but  no way are we sorry...they are all good, my only suggestion is join them all- we will be :)

 

Monday, July 21, 2014

making headway....

 Well builders left, thankfully tapping and stone cutting finished....painful.
 Painters in
Mess everywhere building clean up to do
everything needs to be tossed out of every room and nook and cranny and dusted and a new home and organization found for it.
Got new office guy, who is turning all the books up and out as well....transparency and order coming along....soon I will be able to turn over to him a mountain of fiddly tasks....the need for systems and double checking he gets. systems, systems, systems....up until now every time I instigated  something it was either crashed or forgotten and everyone relied on me to remember everything. Exhausting and stressful and you well me can get so locked into coping you well me couldn't see the end to the mess.

A good scream and a new employee and boy what a difference.
Same method employed in the cutting room....new cutting man looking amenable and a new system there will help Praveen and I keep everyone on track.

Meanwhile we as a workshop have been working like crazy on orders.
We now employ 45 women...amazing, training is going well with new ones....probably 1 or 2 to be weeded out they are onto there 3rd chance and we have a strict 3 strike rule....so we will see.
More building.....relationships....
In Singapore we now have a presence via Anita of Moirai
They stock a lot of our work and we are working on a whole heap of new things that will be exclusive to her shop[s]...she has plans.
 They have created an elegant, peaceful space, madly busy with interest in our work; so behind the scenes a lot of scurrying getting work happening.
I have spoken to Anita a few times this week and I can hear her excitement and the pleasure she is experiencing working with one of her daughters, sharing a dream together.
Wonderful energy.
 Do drop by if you are in Singapore

Shop Great World City, 

Moirai 

B-2, Unit 10,

1, Kimseng Road , 

Singapore 




Lovely to experience their dreams happening and be involved.
Many amazing new beginnings....

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Building....hopeful camels, helpful cows....

A mate just asked for a building update....it is getting close now....
 Baba - early morning ready to go to work...hopeful for a handout on the way. He is integral to building, ferrying water to the workshop in his camel cart.
 Door is installed for print room
 stone shelves are in place...
 tiles are going onto roof to weather proof everything
 view from print room window
 Ladies Stitching room- space for 2 quilt tables and plenty of stuff
 lots of windows for good light
Matilda the cow...sampling cloth we are dyeing for new Peace Graffiti Lycra yoga tights....
Things are happening...can actually start to see an end to it all.
can't wait to have a good clean up and get the dust out of everything...picking up files or thread boxes or anything and it is very liberally coated in dust- yuk!!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Indigo day

 Finally got a chance to spend the day with Rababu-ji our indigo guy....we need new samples to use for the next range but more importantly we wanted a chance to really look at what happens when you layer this over that using our blocks not the ones available to us through our mud resist guy Me Ganesh.
 So a great day, looking and doing....



George thought I wanted to play as I sat this morning to contemplate all the pieces on the washing line and dream what we might do....silly boy.
Yesterday whilst we were waiting for the fabric to come back from the washer man Praveen and I had time to twiddle our thumbs and chat a little.
Interesting things happening, we are madly building the workshop and scrambling just as much to set procedures in place and stream line office work and workshop stuff.
We feel we had a win last week with workshop staff, now we have dis-armed the workshop manager who was not managing but muddling and bullying staff have been keen to help work out a workshop agreement defining our expectations and their expectations. Something to keep everything clear and protect us all from the way things had gone.
realistically a lot of the blame is ours- we appreciated the good, skilled work and made allowances for little things we saw that were not the best behaviour. We should have had much clearer boundaries and asked more questions.
We are getting there.... and workshop is coming along nicely.
Next thing I can see that I will have to deal with is clients and payments.
One thing all our staff comment on is they like the way we pay regularly...often in India workers will not get paid until the boss is paid by clients, or after they have spent a fortune on a wedding or something.
our first commitment is to our staff and we pay monthly for workshop members and upon completion of each piece for our women. this is important because for many that has an impact on what goes on the dinner table tonight and kids school fees being paid.
when we talk to clients we clearly state we expect a deposit before work can start and we expect FULL payment once work is ready to be dispatched. I can understand they might want to check and so wait  for arrival of goods but then for people to regularly forget or send a message "OH I am a little cash strapped...I will pay soon" is not fair.
What would you think of me if I said to a woman...sorry no money for dinner tonight -client made an order but now doesn't want to pay on time?... you don't mind do you?
 It puts us in a very difficult position- we don't have the money to cover people's debts to us....sometimes I wonder how we will go on?
What do they call it a cash flow problem? those better off not being careful enough to make sure there is timely payment for the fairly traded goods they are so interested in?
Interesting isn't it? I am sure they are not mean or horrible people but they are also not thinking.


 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Peace, Love and Hippy Dreams....

Peace, love and Hippy dreams might be where we started but it has become a never ending tale of paperwork, organization and details....I keep telling myself it is just a phase....and it is just a phase.
 
If you take a job you join an organization where existing procedures and practices are there for you to slip into...even if you come in to improve the system, they have a system.
We as the originators of this idea have to be the ones to set up the system, set up the procedures, understand how it all fits together.
 
What a steep learning curve.
We both tend to be easy going- well Praveen is easy going, I am probably intense if I am truthful...but I do like to believe in people, believe they are of good heart and will get on with things.
I am so, so unused to delegation...no I was unused to delegation I have become much better at it.
I do expect once I have started a system, given out a job it is followed through.
Well a few things lately have made it glaringly obvious that not everyone we employ are on the same page.
Our workshop manager is an incredibly capable guy, unfortunately he seems to think  he is indispensable and so can misbehave in his interaction with staff and if he does not like their response he can fabricate a story and get them sacked. It has really come to a head and his prima donna act of it is them or me is about to back fire.
 We had a big talk with him when I got back 2 weeks ago....somehow he came out of it thinking he is untouchable...don't know what it is- clearly defining what is not acceptable and pointing out good points we want to see more of...how do you hear "just keep doing what you like, mate."
 End of the month we account the months work and pay wages....his will include a yellow slip- OUT Mate.
As you can surmise this is painful, frustrating and difficult....Praveen, even- the man who can give way  too many last chances is at the end of his tether.....
so it has been painful, and frustrating see a capable person so full of themselves they are shooting themselves and us in the foot....it is now difficult waiting the last few days to GET THAT NEW LEAF TURNED OVER!!
yep Praveen might be very patient- I am not!
 
Bit of therapeutic sample stitching always soothes my raging heart.
Our work with the women is proceeding very well, and  inducting new women going great.
Really not much in the way of teething problems and batch 1 we started  before I left are up to speed and Batch 2; who a very brave Praveen started on his own seem to be coming along very nicely.
New women tend to be relatives of existing women...some are coming from Beawar....which is more than 1 hour away on the train ..... they say it is worth the time and expense to go through the induction as once they are up to speed we will give 2 weeks of worth at a time. They have no chances of fair employment and being at home and are really happy at this chance.
We have a clear system with the women- it all clicked into place a few years ago when we started recording below par work in the work register along with the notice 3 marks and you are out.
Before that it was difficult us saying better, them saying the kids were sick, the cow go out...a wedding came so my work was poor.
We put it in perspective poor work and a client does not come back and we are all out of work. Better to stop that at the source- you let us down by not pulling your weight as part of stitching team.
 3 counts and you are out.
Now exactly same system in the workshop and it applies to everyone.
If you know a good workshop manager- send them along, position vacant!!
 
 
yippee...we will be back to being happy little beings in no time :)
and my frustrations have paid off - getting ready for new improved space I dragged all the saris home and have been having a massive re-organization and colour matching session....
we have so many orders for our women's hand stitched re-cycled sari stuff.
yeh!!
 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

new clients

wow we must be doing something right,
we have interesting people contacting us, interested in our products, our look, what our people do....
in the past we have spent a lot of time with some people who were basically daydreaming about having a little business with no grounding in the reality of what needs to be done to make it real and how much time it all takes.

what has happened is we have put a lot of effort in for small orders that fizzle out....we have too much other work to do, we need to allocate our time wisely.

I have written this up- a little quiz for potential clients...does it sound OK? not too pushy?
over the last year or so we have had a few big time wasters...want a lot but don't seem to be onto it with answering questions or getting things started....etc, etc, etc,
Everyone has their own way of doing things...we want to work with people who are complimentary to our approach- we are after work


TSP New Clients

 

Hello

Welcome

Thank you for considering working with The Stitching Project.

 

About us:

Kanhaya Lal [Praveen Nayak to his mates] is Indian

Fiona Wright is Australian.

We live in a village just outside Holy Pushkar, on the edge of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan. Initially we operated a small, special interest tour company Creative Arts Safaris whose main focus is textiles. Once we had relocated permanently to our farmhouse we fell into what has become The Stitching Project – our blog tells many of our stories over the years


We are a limited liability partnership [LLP] registered in India. Registered in June 2011, it took us 2 years of paperwork to achieve this point, we hold an Import/Export licence, are certified with Craftmark for the authenticity of our Kantha stitch/ quilt stitching and meet all the many government regulations in operating our business.

 

Our Mission Statement

·       ethically create as much work for ourselves and as many hands as we can

·       emphasis on the work of the hand- handloom fabrics, hand block print, hand stitch

·       source materials as locally as possible

·       make choices that are as environmentally friendly as possible- unbleached handloom fabric, re-cycled silks saris where suitable to the design.

·       where the quality of modern sewing techniques are necessary use the best quality threads, zips etc and our modern sewing workshop.

·       promote fair pay for well-produced work and educate to help achieve this

·       develop work informed by traditional techniques with a contemporary twist.

 Working with you:

·       we’d love to

·       we would like to ask some questions before we get started.

·       Our workshop evolved out of a good idea….now we are responsible for the livelihood of many people, this is very time consuming, satisfying and scary some days.

·       To start with a new client takes a lot of time on our part

- understanding what you want

-working out where to get it

-making samples

-creating production sheets, costings……labels, wash tags, ...questions questions, questions

-setting up procedures to make repeats

-training people to produce the correct print, stitch pattern etc

 

·       Where are you up to in the process of operating a business?

·       Do you have experience doing this or a first timer?

·       Do you have mission statement?

·       What is it that really interests you about your project?

·       Do you plan to have your own label, sell our product, re-label our product to your brand name, or create completely new designs?

·       Have you worked out a financial basis for your business

·       Have you identified your potential client base, how will you connect with them?

·       Do you use social media to get your brand recognition?

·       We write a blog, use FB, Pinterest, a little bit of Etsy and an online shop, do trade fairs…mostly to tell our story and help people find us….we would prefer to be making and you out there selling.

·       Have you made any type of feasibility studies of your projected market, similar items out there already, similar projected price points?

·       Ethically produced work is our mandate and we are very careful of the source of all materials we use. Will you also be stocking items that do not come under this ethical mantle?

·       Will you clearly define how your goods are made? – an experience we have had: at the moment kantha stitched recycled cotton saris are extremely fashionable….most work on the wider market is produced in Bangladesh in near slave labour situations….one ex-client was buying a very few things from us and much not so ethically made stuff, using our story in their sales pitch and completely glossing over how most of their stuff was produced. Not an ethical business in our eyes. Not where we want our story used.

Punchline:

·       What is your projected timeline to get it all happening?

·       What quantities do you expect to be ordering to start?

·       In 1 years time?

·       In 5 years time and what will you do to attract that level of sales?

·       Where would you like us to start?

 We would love to help you bring your dreams to reality, from experience those that are well thought out have a chance….

We have a lot of people to look after and never enough time- we have to make the choices where we are spending it wisely.

Best wishes

Happy dreams

Fiona and Praveen


 

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Goodness me.

Someone just asked how I cam to be in India....bit of a soapy when you write all down quick.
 
Sure in point form
·       2003 single mother and Waldorf Steiner teacher, with MA[Visual Arts- Textiles] realising kids growing up and I needed to get a life
·       Spur of the moment got a passport, ticket and went to India all within the time it took to get the passport
·       This, that and the other I met Praveen
·       Circled around for years meeting whenever we could, started creative Arts Safaris- specialty tours focusing on textiles, arts and crafts
·       2008  kids flown the nest we decided we would live in India together.
·       Did not want to live in Delhi where he comes from wanted to live rural [much laughter and confusion here as people leave the village for the big smoke not go the other way]
·       Rural Rajasthan was where we were headed and this is where we are
·       2009 We operated a tour business by now, rented a hotel to operate and to keep me busy I started trying to teach local women to stitch for income generation….needed a translator so Praveen was roped in.
·       Didn’t go so well so we had to be more hands on……long story we no longer have hotels we stitch all the time…somewhere in  there The Stitching Project started to evolve
·       We are mad about work that employs local people, work of the hand, travel extensively to meet the people we buy handweaves off
·       We are 3 years completely registered as a business [12 June]  + 2 years working out how to do that in India, have Craftmark certification for our Kantha stitch/ quilting work. Now 3 years registered we can apply to join Fairtrade India and it is on the ‘to do’ list.
Lots of pictures on our Blog http://ofdaydreamsandmemories.blogspot.in/
 
·       I have an extensive textiles background, Praveen is a new addict, dragged into it to help me he discovered he has a good idea for the work, love blockprinting and it fills his heart with pleasure at the social impact fairly paid work can achieve.
 Working in India is not always easy for either of us but we love our life, our worksop and our home here, and continue to work hard to create work we love and employment for those around us.
I think that is the quick version J
Bit soppy but we are lucky it is a true story….amazing things can happen some days
Fiona and Praveen ,
haha.... as a couple over time we have become incredibly happy together....we have been in love 11 years but time and listening and making conscious changes for our health individually hence then as a couple has chipped away at all the things that used to make us miserable and grumpy. so now we are happy as well.
still firey but much more constructively so.
 
 Building report- Our Ranjit and our Sohan have got amongst the building to keep the pace up...otherwise it could take 2 years....so I can hear Sohan cracking jokes and teasing and Ranjit egging him on all day.
That is Ranjit halfway up the ladder hoiking sand up to make the render for the roof- he is calling out to Sohan to STOP jokes- if he laughs he might fall off the ladder. See we have safety standards here in India.
 the boys again- pushing the pace with slab laying.....as a treat we made chicken dinner for them last night.
Whilst this has been happening outside the workshop, inside has been a bit different. Same them freshening things up but quite a different angle needed.
whilst I was away a few things have become obvious....
A lot of the problems have arisen from Praveen and I being a bit too friendly and easy going. we work with smart people, and they are skilled we are happy to have them on our team....problem being 2 key ones think they are indispensable and becoming more princess like as time goes by.

Only people indispensable in this organization are Praveen and I - we are the reason the others have jobs....simple as that.... we have pointed that out rather clearly.
So workshop manager has been given a BIG wake up....
Years ago when we realised with our ladies keeping note in our register and the rule 3 strikes and you are out...all things run smoothly and become fun.
As the boss we need to be the boss and sometimes be very bossy....no matter how much you encourage and expect responsible behaviour it won't necessarily happen...egos sometimes become rampant.
 Not sure what is happening with my office guy.....he has not had enough time to being doing paperwork properly but when I checked his computer he had plenty of time to be visiting lots of places on the internet that have NOTHING to do with work. He is on notice - get it sorted and quick or go somewhere else.
What a week! this is all whilst intense building is happening....thank goodness for our 2 lads helping there.
One of our new blocks....we are building up a little library of traditional blocks as well as our own designs.
Look at the workmanship in this.
This is why we keep at it....local people, local skills, amazing opportunity for us to be immersed in a creative life that has social impact.
Look at the blocks Fiona -don't think of using one of them to scone someone!!
Intense week but really we are making good headway....I am advertising for another office staff I can always find 2 if I need to.....and whilst Pau-ji is very skilled and can be a great help; if necessary and we create the space and  the Universe will supply someone even better.
Everyone knowing that seems to help put everyone in a better space to focus on what is important.