After a week of shopping and preparing in Jaipur, Tess and I finally arrived in Ajmer to begin the artisan workshops. We felt anxious about reuniting/meeting the artisans and ensuring we were prepared to maximize our time together. Could we connect with such significant language barriers? Would we establish a mutual trust? Are the artisans excited to work on new designs? Do we have the designs and interview questions sufficiently prepared?
The flurry of questions circling were immediately put at ease the moment we stepped into the office. We were met with the giant smiles of Anchal’s four project assistants and project manager, who welcomed us with love and enthusiasm. Though few words were exchanged, as soon as our eyes met and hugs were shared I could feel the mutual respect and excitement. I was quickly reminded of how much I missed our connection and why I do this work. These brave women are my sisters and we are working together to change lives!
Once the reunion and giggles subsisted, we started work with the leadership team. I shared our plans for new designs and they showed us product ideas they had created. The spark of innovation was evident in the way they looked at the new sketches with intrigue and eagerness. And over the course of the next four days, together we prepared pieces for each the artisans to create the following week during the workshop.
As the team planned, cut and stitched each piece, I was incredibly proud and impressed by their confident execution. I know how far they have come after witnessing the challenges of a single stitch years before. This makes the seemingly simple moves like measuring fabric with an inch tape to interpreting new design drawings such an impressive milestone for women who are illiterate and have endured such hardships. They have now begun learning how to craft new pieces on the machine by expert tailors.
The small moments of observation confirm our assumptions; the women of Anchal have become empowered artisans and designers.
Check out a sneak peek of new pieces and what the project assistants created below.