• Shila Desai

Covid pivot - handloom curtains from Gujarat

Updated: Feb 7

After multiple tour cancellations, our guide began supplying the most exquisite handloom drapery. Here's the story from Nirav's first ecstatic customer.


Gandhi charkha handspun handwoven organic cotton

It started as a "curtain call". Cathy, an E.Y.H.O. traveller, asked, "Do you have any contacts for handwoven curtains in India? I need 300 metres for my new home. It might help your artisans during Covid."


A traveller-friend and I had been casting about for a covid-pivot for our indomitable Gujarat guide, Niravbhai. Despite generous financial help from our community, he'd benefit by applying his textile talents to an online business. Here was the perfect opportunity to support him as well as artisans whose looms sat unused and hands stilled.


Niravbhai was enthusiastic. He travelled to Kutch to source the best handloom. A month later C. received a sample book of 35-40 gorgeous weaves. She wrote, "Hi Shila, I am quite happy with them. Of course the one I love most is the Gandhi Charkha organic cotton at 1400 Rs (USD 18) per meter. The runner up, Amber Charkha, is around 60% cheaper."


Further, Cathy asked: "My husband asks what Nirav’s role is. Wants as much to go to the artisans as possible." A valid question, given exorbitant middlemen everywhere.


I suggested transparency to Niravbhai . His response:


"Dear Cathy,

Greetings

I am so pleased to know that you loved kala cotton. I am very happy to give you all the information about this process. I have been working as a tour guide in Gujarat from the last 18 +( 15 month of Covid with no work🤔). I have been more in the profession of giving information to people around the world about the craft and culture of Gujarat. Before working as a tour guide I used to work as a fashion designer. Now after this Covid and I don't see any feature in tourism I am trying to go back to design.

I love to work in the same way with different projects.


About where the money goes :

Very honestly I don't know 100% the truth, because all is done in different areas of Gujarat. But I can tell you with best of my knowledge with my experience and relation with local weavers and farmers. Many times I am dependent on other contacts. eg. Kala Cotton is grown in east Kutch which is 400 km from where I live. Then it goes for the ginning and carding process which is about 200 km in west Kutch from farm.

After that we give it to a different institute for weaving if it is Amber Charkha. This is about 300km from the ginning place. If it is Gandhi Charkha it is headed to another weaver community. Village head will give it to different spinning families and weavers to work at home. It is much more complicated to explain with mail. I really hope that one day people will travel again and you can come for tour to experience all this craft culture.

Best of my knowledge money goes as below

40% to weaver and artist

10% transport all from different places.

20% to different people... like village head, farmer head etc...

30% I target to make profit.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

My job is to supervise everything, I need to travel all the places. Chances also to get wastage during weaving and dyeing. More you buy is more cheaper in two ways

1. My travelling cost

2. Courier charge is less for more to send.

Please feel free to ask anything more, I love when you are interested in more of culture and craft and then buy it.

Some information.

Charkha means = Spinning wheel

About Gandhi Charkha :

I personally love Gandhi Charkha spoon fabric very much. Even some of weaver think that this is the only real cotton yarn. This spinning is done on Gandhi charkha and woven in a hand loom with a fly shuttle. This process is longer than others and has more chances to get some cotton waste during weaving. This is about 42" wide. I can not tell now how much quantity i can get in week! Best of knowledge there are about 75 family working in this.



About Amber Charkha :

Other fabric is also hand spun and hand woven, It is just a different spinning wheel and different loom. It is woven on 'Amber Charkha' in south Gujarat. This kind of weaving is done in cities like Rajkot and Gondal in Gujarat. This spinning wheel is kind of advanced mechanised hand spinning wheel. I get mostly spinning & weaving done in the small town Gondal in Gujarat. I look for other places if they are busy. This weaving is done on foot-loom where loom operated is with feet.



This can also be called handmade cotton in textile. as there are humans involved in this process. This is faster than other Gandhi charkha processes.


With best regards

Nirav Panchal."

(reprinted from original with minimal editing/formatting. Video links sent via Whatsapp)


An impressed Cathy ordered 300 metres.



It wasn't all smooth sailing. Which fledgling business is?


After washing the fabric, Cathy found darker threads every 2m.on one panel. She also noticed a slight colour gradation on two panels. Cathy wasn't complaining, only wanting to help Nirav hone his business skills. She wrote, "I am so humbled to help Nirav along the path of understanding us uptight North Americans and what is 'acceptable' here. I hope he understands my desire is to help not criticize."


Nirav travelled almost 1500km to get to the root of the problem. Several families work on an order under differing conditions. Although they are masters at weaving, it's difficult to impress upon them the workings of the international market. Nirav found them innocent and honest but in need of more training. They asked Nirav cut their weaving labour and give Cathy a discount. Cathy declined. "I understand the challenges at this early stage of your business. I do NOT want the weavers to have their labour discounted. They are learning too."


An ecstatic Cathy sent these photos from the initial mounting. She anticipates years of pleasure watching a shadowy sun highlight the gradations, nubs, and inconsistencies, each as personal as a thumbprint. According to Cathy, the curtains are a piece of art.



Thank you, Cathy, for empowering a perfect covid-pivot.


Read Cathy's testimonial.


Contact shila@eyhotours.com for your own piece of personal handloom art.


 

Thanks for taking a look! I am Shila Desai, owner of E.Y.H.O. Tours. I personally handcraft itineraries, infusing them with curated activities, accommodations, and sightseeing. Together with my in-country teams, we deliver exceptional holidays every time. I invite you to leave me a comment or write shila@eyhotours.com










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