Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Beeja

paper maiche products - photograph from beeja

 Another great find in India. We met up with Meghna Ajit of Beeja and instantly felt the connection with her and her philosophy behind Beeja.  She works with the local artisans in UP with the agenda to develop a environmentally conscious community.  Meghna designs awesome products that are environmentally friendly and use basic hand tools and skills. Check out her facebook page for images of her work.
photograph from beeja
photograph from beeja

Friday, April 22, 2011

What day is it? It's EARTH DAY!

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EARTH DAY IS EVERY DAY at Ich-cha, where we make a conscious decision to provide responsible products made with the environment, communities, and traditional forms of art in mind.  This mission allows us to be conscious individuals in our work and personal life, today, and every day.  Today, on the formal Earth Day, we present you with a challenge … should you choose to accept it. The biggest difference you can make in the world is by spreading the word – by educating and changing the consciousness of others. 
So, model good behavior to your friends by using reusable mugs instead of disposables (take your mugs to Starbucks or Caribou Coffee for some free coffee), turning off your computers AND monitors, and remembering to recycle. 
Send a reminder message to your family and friends (check out cute ecards on Care2.com).

See how businesses are getting into the spirit and what it means for you as a consumer:  Best Earth Day 2011 freebies, steals & deals - National Holidays | Examiner.com
 
To educate impressionable minds, be sure to visit Free Earth Day Coloring Pages and Crafts for Kids for a wide variety of Earth Day craft projects and coloring pages and Earth Day Fun and Games for the kiddies.

Whatever you choose to do – log it here (http://act.earthday.org/) and help reach the goal of “one billion acts of green”.
And please remember to pass it on…
This Blog was submitted by our guest blogger Monika Kumar. Thanks to Monika and her friends for contributing the information and helping to educate us!


Thursday, April 21, 2011

I want!!

photo from www.specksandkeepings.com
I came across Specks & Keepings during my usual blog wanderings and oh how I love their things! The book bag made of upcycled fabrics is gorgeous and really contradicts the view of many that sustainable products are unattractive. Check out their website here.

photo from www.specksandkeepings.com

photo from www.specksandkeepings.com

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Check it out!

Masala Baby is giving away a $100 gift certificate to mum's who post up photo's of their youngun's along with a word about their best MOM moment. I love their clothes and would love one for my wee one (If I had one). :)
Also don't forget to "Like" them on Facebook!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Great organizations

We came across two very great organizations during our trip, Sunder Rang and Khamir.
Both a pleasure to meet and learn more about.

Sunder Rang
Based half hour from Pipar City Block printers, we stopped on our way at this base camp of Art and Culture on our way to Ahmedabad. We had met the owner of The Chandelao Garh, at Yasin Bhai's block printing factory. As he heard us speak of our agenda, he told us of this small organization that is located by his heritage hotel and that if we are interested, we should drop by. And so, we did.

We were quite happy to come across such a small community of women working to make handcrafted items. We also met the project Coordinator, Radhika. She walked us through the facility and answered all our queries about the women from the community who come to this facility to work.




Khamir
Located in Bhuj, Khamir Craft Resource Centre works to preserve, sustain, and promote the arts and crafts of the Kachchh region. They work with designers from leading design institutes in India who work with Khamir to produce a wide range of products that incorporate the tradition techniques for contemporary products.

 We met with the trade manager who walked us through the facility. He spoke of the wide range of craft workers they associate with, such as embroidery, tie dye, block print, felt, leather work, copper belts, and silver jewelry. Khamir's agenda is to find market for these crafts and also to provide workshops for perfecting the techniques for high quality products. They currently sell to Handmade Expressions, Maiwa, and Feel good factor.

Another aspect that seemed to impress us was their take on payment. As in the case of a block printer who gets paid by the meter, Khamir believes in paying the block printer more money so that the printer takes his time printing the fabric instead of hurrying through so that he could get the most money in a day. This truly helps start the cycle where the artisans are getting the opportunity to respect their craft and still survive.


Friday, April 8, 2011

Visit to Craft villages


We spent the rest of the days visiting various village settlements around Bhuj. These villages are made up of families that migrated from Sindh Pakistan and have now settled in these regions. They live in traditional Bhunga's that are a sight to look at. The different villages that we visited were Bhujodi, Hodka, Dhodko, and Ludia.


Each settlement, except for Bhujodi which was a weaving community, had women who invited us into their houses so that we could see their embroidered work. We were invited to buy their heirloom fabrics as well, some of them selling for quite a high price especially in Rupees. But the temptation was surely there. The women in the household usually do embroidery work during their free time, this craft is taught from mother to daughter over generations.




Bhujodi was a weaving community that had amazing shawls and products. Again, you had to pay for the high quality and extensive labor involved. One day...









Thursday, April 7, 2011

Day 2 of Kachchh, Gujarat

We're off to see BLOCK PRINTING!!
 We visit the famous Ajrak block printers in the towns of Dhamadkao and Ajrakpur. I finally get to see the ever famous Dr. Ismail Khatri. I took some pictures paparazzi style. 
 So, the Ajrak block printing is a 18 color process, taking 2 weeks to a month to finish one design. Their designs are highly recognizable because of the geometric patterns that are famous in their community. We met Aurangzeb and Sufiyan Bhai, the next and 8th generation of block printers in their family.

Many of the steps and materials used differed from the process administered in Pipar City. The designs also were more fine and complex as compared to the ones in Pipar. That is due to the printing technique. Pipar does a lot of dabu, or mud resist, printing which requires the design to be more bold. The designs in Ajrak printing are not done using mud. They instead use a mixture of gum arabic and lime to create the resist, which I guess allows finely carved blocks to be used. 




Next we stopped at a village called Dhaanati Village. It is a community where the women engage in embroidery work for an organization called Shrujan. About 50-70 women in this village work with Shrujan, out of the 112 villages that they work with. We went into the house of Laxmi ben who showed us her embroideries, some of them done 30 years ago for her dowry. Also, in the back of her house, there were a few women who were doing embroidery together, these are women that Laxmi ben has employed herself.




Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Kachchh, Gujarat

After Ahmadabad, it's time to head towards the border of India and Pakistan to Bhuj, located in the region of Kutch (or Kachchh).

I never thought we would go this far into Gujarat but fully glad we did. Kutch is a major hub of crafts. It has artisan communities of various skills; block printing (Ajrak), 16 types of embroidery, pottery, copper bells, lacquer toys, and bandhini (tie dye).

During my research for communities and organizations, I came across a couple located in and around Bhuj so we made our plan to head on out to meet them. We met up with Neha Gandhi of Matsya who took us around on a craft tour of the region. Her experience of the region was very helpful since she has worked with the artisans of that region previously. She is located in Mumbai. Check out her blog here.

Day 1: Kala Raksha
Based 25 Km from Bhuj, we hired a car to take us out there. Turning into a village, we found Kala Raksha and it's compound containing a guest house, museum, and production unit. It is a non-profit organization set up in 1993 and has worked since to preserve the traditional Arts and culture of Kachchh.

They work with women surrounding the facility to produce rich embroidered products along with products using block printed fabrics. Most of their material is sourced locally, which in turn benefits the local communities. The work is distributed to the various artisan communities by a supervisor, who then re-distributes the materials and instructions further to the artisans. The women decide their own wage depending on the work. The community then decides how much goes to whomever produced the work. They currently sell their products in India and online through Equal Craft.

It was great to meet with Judy Frater who heads as the project coordinator at the Kala Raksha Vidhyalaya. The KRV is an institution of design for the artisans, who learn how to create and market their work to contemporary markets. While in conversation, Judy mentioned that she wants to stress the artisan intelligence and creativity in her products, not their living conditions or sad story about their lives. Which was a new outlook for me, as most of the fair trade websites I've seen, shows the face/woman behind the product. And in a way we do end up buying into the feeling that by buying this product, we're helping that women out of her plight. We buy into her story and not necessarily into the products quality and worth.




video



Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Next stop: Vadodara and Ahmedabad, Gujrat

Lunch courtesy of Mrs. Mala Sinha, served on Eco plates!

After some obstacles getting a train ticket to Ahmadabad, we finally got on the 5:00 a.m. train and slumped into a slumber for a few hours before our final destination. From Ahmadabad, we were driven to Vadodara, thanks to Mrs. Mala Sinha, where we were greeted by a scrumptious late lunch and chai.

Our mission to travel to Vadodara, or Baroda, was only and only to meet Mrs. Mala Sinha of BODHI. I had contacted her while doing my Masters and she was wonderful enough to reply with an awesome and heartfelt response. So, of course, I had to go meet her. :) Even with all the hurdles along the way and the temptation to stay back in Pipar City for a wedding, we made our way to her workshop and left with a great feeling.

Mrs. Sinha took out her time to show us around her facility and even more, engage us in a dialogue about our decision to start Ichcha.  She truly was a special person with whom we got the opportunity to meet and spend a few hours with. Check out her website here.
Mrs. Sinha is the mind behind the wonderful designs of Bodhi. She has worked through the years to bring Bodhi to the current day stage, where the products are made with environmental awareness. Waste water management, use of solar energy, and rain water harvesting are a few actions followed by Mrs. Sinha and her team of artisans to create beautifully responsible products.




The next day, after another round of confusion, we caught the local bus to Ahmadabad, a ride of 2.5 hours. Over the next 3 days we explored Ahmadabad and also met with SEWATFC, Self Employed Women's Association Trade Facilitation Center, a non profit organization.  They work with embroidery, tie & dye, and block printing artisans throughout Gujarat. They have 3,500 share holders of women artisans.  The product is sampled, then redistributed in kits with materials and instructions to various officers at artisan villages, who then discuss, teach, and hand out the kits to the artisans to create the product in mass quantity. The quality of products was very impressive.

Our visit to Ahmadabad was complete with visits to the luscious Parimal and Law Garden, along with the Mohandas Gandhi Ashram. At the end of the day we retired into our beds after having a Gujarati thali (lots and lots of food!).