You may hear us always going on and on about the power of design or designing change, but what does it actually mean? Anchal was founded with the belief that design can change lives. This actualizes itself in many forms, whether it is our job training program, the actual textiles or conceptually through our global mission. In its most tangible form, designing change comes alive during the design workshops conducted by the Anchal team while we are in India. This unique and stimulating program has been a part of every trip since the very beginning of Anchal’s founding in 2009. In fact, you can read some of my favorites, here and here. While we have certainly grown and expanded since those early days, the core of the design workshops remain the same - provide the tools and techniques for the artisans to become empowered and confident designers.
Design can be an invaluable life skill and entrepreneurial opportunity, but also a rare moment of self-expression for our artisans. The confidence and smiles that emerge from one exercise are magical. Most of Anchal’s artisans were never allowed the opportunity to take an art class much less have a personal creative outlet now as a wife and mother, living their lives solely for others. The design workshops provide simple tools and rules as a jumping off point that results in incredible beauty that is all their own creation.
During a two day workshop, we taught how artisans can use different types of embroidery stitches and densities to create imagery and stories from fabric and thread. The first day was dedicated to a sampler of stitches and learning how to interpret shade and shadow with stitching. The second day was completely focused on individuality and design. We teach Anchal artisans to translate local imagery into hand-stitched fabric compositions that express the regional cultures and surroundings. This form of self-expression and storytelling is at the root of the healing and empowering benefits design can contribute.
Each artisan carefully chose a photograph of regional architecture and urban spaces that highlight shadow and light. They were instructed to create a textile piece based on the photograph and build up a piece of patchwork and stitching. The instructions were intentionally vague to promote creativity.
My favorite part is watching each artisan begin to make decisions on how to represent her photo. Some begin with drawing shapes with a pencil or chalk. Others use their needle immediately to make the first line. I am always filled with a deep sense of awe and inspiration when each artisan makes little decisions on their piece. I watch one use a little ruler to measure lines on the photo and then draw it on the fabric base. Another quickly cutting a shape of color that perfectly represents what she is seeing in the shaded image. Each stitch and piece of fabric begin to build up to become a beautiful story, designs that I would never imagine or create myself are innately created by women that never imagined being a designer or artist.
These pieces of artwork are just a small selection of the incredible raw talent which I am humbled to be surrounded by. I can’t wait to see which one will become the inspiration for our next collection.