Ever wondered what it means when a label reads “Made by hand” or “Handcrafted”? When we are at fairs, networking events or talking to customers about our textiles, we often get asked – “It’s handmade? Entirely made by hand – how is that possible”?
We realized that though we all love to read labels saying that a product is handmade, unique or one of its kind, however, we might not entirely understand the workmanship that goes into making an entirely handmade Scarf, Shawl or a Cape!
My first-hand experience of this complex journey happened in 2013, when I took one of the most significant trips of my life. I never imagined that one trip could change my life, but it did. From doing a 9-5 job to founding a company, I promised myself to do all it takes to make it work, after my visit to the mighty Himalayas.
Kanak (my business partner) and I had gone there to meet our weavers, spinners, dyers, people involved in the silk rearing project -- basically everyone contributing to our business. We had promised ourselves to meet each and every person responsible for making our Karigar products.
Our journey began at the weaving center where we met young, skillful and beautiful weavers – some were married with kids, some were single and looking for a life partner, one of the weaver’s had lost her husband to fighting on the border, and another’s husband left the family in search for a better life in the city. What united all these women was their skill and love for their work. They happily and proudly took us through the processes within that center – setting up the warp, spinning, and finally weaving. Phew!!
We were already overwhelmed by just glancing through the different steps, when we were reminded that there was much more to see! Our next stop was Badeth, a small village focusing entirely on silk rearing. What an experience it was looking into this world: It still feels like yesterday that we saw how an entire eco-system was built around this process – hundreds of people responsible for taking care of the silk worms, feeding them, controlling the temperature and hygiene, and much more. But the best part was seeing the village women, who have for years sweated it out in the farms, sitting confidently behind small spinning machines (given to them by the government). With these machines, they spin yarn by hand from the silk cocoons, while at the same time take care of their home, family and children. This sight moved me the most. And it is what I called true empowerment!
Next stop? The dyeing unit. Apart from the fact that it had the most breathtaking view of the gigantic mountains, I could not believe the joy that seeing so many colors could bring. I absorbed and understood the complex process of how the yarns are dyed, how one could use grass to bring the most beautiful and fresh color on to the yarns and learnt that nature also plays a key role in getting that almost perfect color.
Though there is much more involved in making each product look the way it does when you, our customer receives it, we have tried to share some of the main steps in the process of making a Karigar Scarf, Shawl or a Cape.
We learnt a fact that still amazes us: it takes at least 14 artisans to make one Karigar product! So isn’t it wonderful that when you buy our products you support not one, not two, but many more artisans to earn a livelihood?
We are proud to share the stories of our products and the capable people who created them. See the entire process, the artisan names, their pictures and more by just scanning the hangtag or Talking Tag that comes with each product. Come, be part of our journey.
Text: Sindhu Holla
Photos: Marloes van Doorn