Let me try to catch you up to speed. My lack of communication leaves me with a long list of interactions, stories, accomplishments, failures and new designs to share. Today, I will quickly tell you about what we are teaching and creating in our design workshops. Tricia, our fabulous guest designer, helped implement the creation of a vest prototype. Without revealing too much, the objective is to introduce a new elevated design not only to our customers, but also to expand the artisans’ repertoire.
What seems like a relatively straightforward concept of 1 decorative back panel and 2 simple front panels quickly turns into chaos with 47 artisans in 3 small rooms. We finally manage to calm the storm and cut 270 pieces of sari material. This happens while the artisans learn new stitching techniques and we are being pulled in 47 directions to “check” every line of stitch. In the spirit of nothing going according to plan while in India, the method by which Tricia had planned to teach the artisans to transfer the design to material failed, the tracing paper was not showing on the heavily patterned sari. In addition the materials at the office are virtually nil. We were limited to 1 pair of scissors and 1 metal straightedge. With failure and lack of tools, cue the imagination. Tricia begins to show the artisans a new way to copy the design using the 1 ruler and a piece of chalk. The next event was the most exciting. Nazia began to create her own system to execute the design using widths of fingers and angles of her hand. It was truly incredible to witness - creative problem solving at its finest!
Once each piece was under way, the emphasis on precision was reiterated again and again. The artisans now know how to stitch the most incredible line of kantha you have seen, but throw in new more challenging stitches with little framework and the challenge becomes sewing straight and proportional. While seeing the handmade aspect is treasured, each stitch must be consistent so as not to look sloppy. I could see that through the week, improvements were being made and the rationale was understood. But my favorite part was watching the artisans teach each other. I witnessed Mumpta patiently showing the women sitting next to her what stitch was next and what distance it needed to be. I am always amazed by the communal and sharing spirit. It is magical! The artisans work on pieces together and even help stitch each other’s names. There is a lot of improvement still to be made, but what I continue to learn is to celebrate the small victories because the small victories fuel the big ones.
Still to come…. Stories from the artisans, a visit from Dining for Women, dance party at the workshop, sharing failures and hardships, and future goals. Stay tuned.