Indian Artisans

Everything we make is handmade in some way - hands cutting, stretching, printing, stitching. Certain ways of creating though involve deeper roots - traditional heritage techniques that have been passed down by family or region.

They often involve human powered processes that are unchanged over centuries, such as wood block printing and hand woven khadi.

Where we have used these special techniques, you will see a little tag on the thumbnails of the products called Artisan Made.

Fair Trade Block Printing & Cut and Sew - Jaipur, Rajasthan - India

We've been delighted to connect with an organisation based in Jaipur, India that work to fair trade standards. The organisation was founded by Shari, an American woman who became passionate about the traditional artisan skills of India after completing an Anthropology PhD centred on Indian artisanal development. After completing her PhD, Shari and her husband Mark decided to start a business in India that could actively improve the lives of its employees while promoting and celebrating their fine work. Since 1999, they have developed a cut and sew facility, as well as a block printing workshop in neighbouring Saganer.

When we chatted with employees, the resounding sentiment was that, for them, working with an organisation that adhere to fair trade standards means they work with fair and reasonable production times, have on time salary payments, have medical insurance for themselves and their families, as well as the security of a pension fund.

The first time we visited the organisation was in April 2017, and it was a joy to watch everyone block printing Nancybird’s Autumn HOME collection, as well as sampling our AW18 garment collection.

Meet the makers

Ghanshayam Ji- Block Printing Master

Hi Ghanshayam!

How long have you been block printing for?
It's been about 30 years now!

How did you learn to block print?
My parents and grandfather. I grew up around block printing – kandani – [which means his whole family unit and whole community does block printing, that is their history, culture].

Does your family still block print?
My kids aren’t printing but the rest of the family still are.

Are you from this region?
Yes, I'm from the Jaipur area.

What kinds of designs do you enjoy working on the most?
Everything! Traditional and modern, I like fancy traditional intricate designs the most.

How many children do you have?
I have two girls and two boys – one boy is married, he's twenty six and a mechanic, both girls are studying, they are twenty and seventeen. The younger one is in the final year of high school, and the elder one is in the third year of commerce degree in college in Jaipur.

What has being the block printing master meant for your family?
The benefits are for my family have been studying, being able to pursue further education.

What does it mean to you working for a fair trade organisation?
Being paid on time, medical insurance, getting all facilities that we need to work well. Steady work.

Thanks so much for chatting with us Ghanshayam Ji.

Ghanshayam Ji being very gracious at my average block printing attempt! - Emily

Handloom khadi - maheshwar, madhya pradesh - india

We connected with Women Weave, a charitable trust organisation, started back in 1978 by Sally Holkar, the daughter-in-law of the last Maharaja of Indore.

It does many things - there is a weaving facility right in Maheshwar, where women hand spin and weave plain cloth khaki, all using human power, no electricity needed apart from the lights and fans! There is the Handloom School, where they teach weaving to women, including multi tread cloth, which creates twills and other more complex weaves. The graduates can then go and start their own small home enterprises – they are given business training too. THEN there are more regional programs where the traditional techniques of a particular area are utilised, and weavers there are given support and training to bring their skills into a more commercial realm.

And there are many other great things about this organisation – there is child care at their main facility, so that women can bring their pre-school aged children to work with them. The women weavers have an annual meeting where they actually set their own wages (amazing!) They are paid per metre of woven cloth rather than an hourly rate, which gives them the flexibility to come and go as they need to fit around family life.

We have worked with all three sections of Women Weave.

Their regional project in Dindori, where their specialty is the blocks of what looks like hand stitching square sections, we used in our cotton scarves for the past two seasons.

The Maheshwar facility wove our Spring Summer Artisan range checks.

And lastly, we’ve started working with the Handloom School in our Autumn Winter 2018 range, creating more complex designs – we can’t wait to show you!

Emily was lucky enough to visit in April 2017 to see the Spring Summer collection being hand dyed and woven by these amazing women (check out some of our blog stories for more pics and an interview with one of the weavers!)

Hand Beading and Embroidery - Noida, Uttar Pradesh - India

Hand beading and embroidery are heirloom Indian handcrafts, that have been key to India's heritage for centuries. It's a privilege for us to have found a collective of artisans to collaborate with, celebrating the legacy of these virtuosic skills in select pieces in our collections. 

We connected with our artisan partners via NEST, a New York based non-profit who are passionate about preserving important cultural heritage by connecting artisans from around the world with designers and labels. As well as this, they  help international artisans becoming enterprise ready, amongst other super-amazing work in this sector. All things that we are passionate about too!

NEST have a Code of Conduct which all makers must comply with to connect with and be recommended by Nest. You can read about their Code of Conduct here

I visited our artisan partners' workshop in Noida, India as they created incredible hand-beaded clutches for our SS17 collection. 

About 12 beaders work on a addah, or frame, with 4 men to a frame. This work is all done by men - I asked whether women are ever involved in this, but it seems not. It was so interesting watching them work – the long needle picking up a number of beads at once, with a hand on the underside of the cloth picking up the thread. It takes three days per person to finish one of the clutches, which were fully beaded front and back. Such detailed work, and it felt very special to see a design we had created come to life in this little workshop in India.