A community catch up

One of our key pillars here at SUI is to support Indian craft. If you’ve been following our journey, you’ll know that we do so by working with handwoven fabrics and block printing as our key crafts. Exploring these mediums of creativity in the textile industry gives us an opportunity to learn more about the beauty behind handmade craft, the stories of the people who create them, and the history these crafts hold.

With Covid-19 and it’s impact looming over for us for a year and more, one of the sectors in India hit particularly hard was the craft sector. However, with growing awareness in the public eye, the sector has slowly  been able to bounce back (would probably have to add a link with facts here) and adapt to this new way of working.

For us, bringing you their personal stories is what we believe creates a much stronger impact so, as one of our first few journals of the year, we thought we’d bring you an update from them.

Catching up with WomenWeave

Our vendor WomenWeave needs no introduction. They have been a part of our SUI family for over 2 years now and are the hands behind our much loved handspun and handwoven organic cotton.

Pre-covid, our team had the chance of visiting them just before lockdown and we got to take a look around their workshop that’s set in the beautiful village town of Maheshwar and is a beautiful space bustling with women, young and old that share much in common - their love for weaving and their personal stories of how their craft has helped support their families. We chat with their team Pragya and Anupam to get an update on how things are going...

How has 2021 been for WomenWeave so far?

For WomenWeave, 2021 has been amazing so far. People have shown so much concern and they have been supporting us in this difficult situation. It would not have been possible for us to survive this pandemic without their help.  With the grace of God, we got one huge order through which we are able to provide the source of income to our weavers as well other artisans in the Maheshwar.

Due to Covid precautions, what have been the particular difficulties you have felt in the past year?

One of our major sources of sales was through exhibitions. We usually did at least 3 to 4 exhibitions every year, which also include buyer-seller meets. This platform provides our young weavers from The Handloom School an opportunity to connect with clients. It's almost a year and we haven't had a chance to resume these activities. Covid precautions also slow down tourism which directly affected the number of patrons in our shop. However, our team is very optimistic and looking forward to a great year ahead.

Though 2020 was difficult, was there anything you were proud to achieve in it, big or small?

Yes, definitely! I think we are all searching for rays of sunshine in these dark times. During the lockdown, we were trying to figure out what would be the first thing we do to put our peoples’ lives on track, so we decided to pick up an upcycling project because there was no rush for completing orders on time and we did not want to produce a lot of stock. So, we engaged our people to use short old yarns and fabrics. From old yarn, we made multicolored fabrics which are unique because our weavers chose the colour combinations themselves and it cannot be reproduced in the same way again. Similarly with old fabrics, we learnt new surface embellishments techniques, experimented with products that can be made out of our left over fabrics like Potlies, patched mobile covers, napkins, bags, buttons, etc. and started our own small stitching unit.

Is there something you have learned from your experiences in 2020 that you will carry through in the future?

It was an experience that showed us we have to work more effectively in the online market and look at an up-skilling market strategy, so it will be good to involve that practice in our plans also.

With more people becoming more eco-conscious with who they buy from especially with this past year, have you found that to affect you positively or, even, negatively?

People have become more eco-conscious because they actually enjoy the taste of these handloom materials and current social media as well as digital media have made these things easier to access and know more about.

What is something you wish more people knew about your craft?

I wish people could understand more about the needs of the community that will be fulfilled by these craft markets. Also preservation of craft culture which totally depends upon them.

Do you have an upcoming or current project you want to tell us more about?

We plan to focus more on natural dying and organic conventional cotton products. As Shantipur (WB) started so fine Jamdani and linen products will also be included in our look book.

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As a final note from them, we also had a chance to get an update from one of the members of their team. Gayatri Karma, like many of the women in the WomenWeave community, further developed her weaving skills with the NGO. She is 45 years old, has been working for the past 4 years as a weaver, and recently started her training with them. She was not from a traditional weaving family, so she engaged there to expand her skills in which she is an expert now. Her husband is a daily wages worker so, by doing this she supports her family financially. Her personal hope is to involve her family members in this craft in a modern way.


We are so grateful to have WomenWeave on the SUI team and that they are doing so much for their community and craft. These small stories show us just how integral they are to their community and why their presence is so important in cultivating the handloom craft.

Catching up with Bagru Textiles

Bagru Textiles joined our team just last year, collaborating with us to create our very first prints for our summer 2020 edit - their process is completely by hand from carving their wood blocks to hand block printing each and every fabric. We loved them so much, we continued our partnership for winter 2020 and are looking forward to showing you all new print motifs for the coming summer!

Those who have been with us on our journey for more than a year may have come across last year’s catch up with them where we spoke to Vijendra, Bagru Textile’s leader, live on our platform. Today, they share more insight on the year gone by, the difficulties, the victories and more, as we head into a year full of potential...

How has 2021 been for Bagru Textiles so far?

2021 has had a good kick start till now. The encouragement and orders from our clients have helped us support the block-makers, printers, and our society. We are still facing issues as all the block makers and printers are not back from their villages after lockdown, so there's a shortage of labour at the moment.

Due to Covid precautions, what have been the particular difficulties you have felt in the past year?

The most difficult situation was sourcing the raw material as the prices got really high and there was a shortage of them in the market too. The second difficult situation was that the clients couldn't visit us for sampling and printing, so working remotely and over video calls was not easy.

Though 2020 was difficult, was there anything you were proud to achieve in it, big or small?

We are proud that despite such challenging times we were able to support our ground workers to lead a decent lifestyle. We have never worked in the absence of our clients no matter how small the project/order was, so working remotely without poor internet connection is a big achievement for us.

Is there something you have learned from your experiences in 2020 that you will carry through in the future?

We learned how important it is to support ground workers at such a time. We have lost so many of them as they went to their villages and never returned.

What is something you wish more people knew about your craft?

I wish people understood that this craft is our life. Myself and my family (ancestors) have been known for this since ages past. This craft leads our existence.

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Being a craft community that has stood the test of time, it’s incredible to see how Bagru Textiles have managed to keep growing and sharing their love of block printing. Their contribution to our pieces is one we treasure and we can’t wait to further create consciously alongside them!

 

Having communities such as WomenWeave and Bagru Textiles work with us has only shown us how important it is for us to support and cultivate craft. Not only is it because it’s a beautiful art form but because of the stability it brings different communities, giving those in need a beneficial work environment where they can share and learn in the experience. It also makes us so proud to be able to help revitalise traditional Indian craft that is close to our nation’s heart, bringing it to more people in the world who can further appreciate it for what it is and the green good it does.

Stay tuned here for more stories and let us know what you think too. Have a wonderful green week!