Everywhere we have gone we have picked up product samples and new inventory from our producer groups. So our last day in India, we had to figure out how to get some of these treasures home due to the new security issues. We were allowed no carry-on luggage, when Susanne and I had two pieces each. Asha came to our rescue as we headed over to their office with two suitcases filled with stuff to ship home.
We spent the afternoon with our friends at this business who are working with hundreds of NGO’s and artisans in India to design, market and export internationally through Fair Trade practices. Their work has expanded into self-help groups that work with the artisans to improve their lives through education. They are helping to supply them with gas stoves to reduce the hazards of wood fires, starting backyard gardens using drip irrigation, and lots of hygiene and health classes.
The products range from jewelry and wood boxes, to beaded purses and leather goods, along with wrought iron and environmentally friendly items like bone and horn. The work is intricate and detailed with vibrant colors and mixed materials. We have modeled our work after their model and help them with design and trend issues. We saw the possibilities for doing something similar to this in Africa.
Asha has set the bar high for quality, integrity and social responsibility. Susanne spent some time with the head of their social work and took a lot of notes on how they operate, while Debbie led a training on design trend. We are excited to use this model to bring sustainability to the artisans in Africa. Big surprises and “Aha” moments were uncovered when Debbie did the design and trend training with the two new designers, Joanne and Mithily pictured with us here.
One such moment arose as we helped them understand that in the US and UK we have a market for more tribal and traditional designs. Susanne modeled a top she bought for this trip from Old Navy and they could not believe it was from the US. They giggled and thought we were fooling them until they realized we were serious and showed them the tags. We designed some new handbags for spring and a few for fall and checked on our order of Christmas ornaments. The Warli designs and Bidri were also reviewed and, with only so much we could do in a day, we came home with photos and disks to design from moving forward.