Archive for March, 2010

Nepal trip September 2009

March 24, 2010

My first trip to Nepal was last September. It was my first time there and just an amazing experience. The closest I’d been previously was China, also funnily enough to look at rugs, but this was my first time alone (well, with my very good friend Fiona) rather than working for someone else.

Visiting the factories was fascinating. While I have visited many factories in the past, I have not developed products before that are made completely by hand and the workmanship, skill and patience that is involved is incredible. Not only the fact that every single knot is woven by hand, every yarn is spun by hand etc. but also the many environmental factors that affect the making of every rug. There are constant electrical outages in Nepal, frequent strikes due to the difficult political situation in the country and for a good portion of the year a monsoon that makes drying the rugs extremely difficult. But as with the completely chaotic traffic in the city, Nepalese people accept it as the way it is and get on with it. The people at every factory we visited were really nice and having got all the names through GoodWeave, everyone we met was very involved in improving their workers’ conditions, helping by providing daycares etc. One of the things that really struck me, and that I really liked, was how the factory owners’ children were introduced to us and came out to dinner with us. It is a very family oriented country and coming from a society where it would be deemed highly unprofessional to bring your children along to a work-related meeting, I found this really refreshing, and something we could learn from here. The main difficulty was figuring out who I would eventually work with, I met so many good people.

In retrospect we packed a huge amount in to our few days there. Between each factory visit we would wander the streets of the various towns making up the Kathmandu valley, soaking in the sights of temples, stupas, brightly attired women, Buddhist monks and monkeys. We spent a few nights in Thamel, and after some bad experiences with slimy creatures in the bathroom splashed out on a night in the beautiful Dwarikas hotel before our last night in the ancient town of Bhaktapur. By the time we left, my mind was swimming with everything I had seen and the decisions I needed to make, and I couldn’t wait to go back!

March 22, 2010

After years working as a textile designer and having designed the first rug collection for Calvin Klein Home in 2002, I decided last spring it was time to set out on my own and started the process of producing a line of rugs. Scary but exciting! For years, I have gathered my photos/ideas and somewhere in the back of my mind knew, or at least hoped, I would eventually develop them into something more.

Having trained as a weaver, with a tendency towards working with troublesome fine yarns and complicated weave structures, I knew I would inevitably want to develop rug designs that would be challenging to produce. Inspired by socially responsible companies such as Tufenkian and Odegard, I also knew I wanted to produce them ethically and be in a position to do something positive with my business. Continuing to work as a freelancer and looking after 2 young children, it was not easy figuring out how I could be in a position to do that! I contacted GoodWeave (formerly called Rugmark) which is an amazing organization that is working to eliminate child labor and improve working conditions generally for the people working in the carpet industry in South Asia and through them obtained a list of Goodweave certified factories in Nepal. I knew this was where I would want to start with producing the rugs, as the Tibetan weavers there combine their amazing skill of hand knotting with an ability to understand the Western aesthetic, which is also really important. And that was really the start. 10 months and 2 trips to Nepal later, I have a collection almost ready to show!