Most of our past has work been in Nepal and Indonesia. This trip was to see visit our new suppliers in India. India a truly remarkable place full of history and colour with strong disparities.
My visit to India was a whirlwind of sights, decisions, colour and taste – in overload proportions. My trusty photographer friend Tanya from Gray Dot Photography accompanied me and as we giggled and ate our way through India.
Over the past 6 months I have been emailing and talking to some new carpet and yarn suppliers. I knew it was time for Happy as Larry to move on and become of age. I have been running the business for seven years now whilst raising my three young boys. The past 2 years have been tough in business whilst adding a number three to the tribe. I found myself right back in baby land with no spare time. I must admit Larry took a back seat for awhile there. Now that my youngest is 3 it is time for me to roll up my sleeves and pursue one of my loves again more vigorously. My love of textiles, interiors and children’s rooms whilst supporting fair trade.
I have been on the hunt for exactly the right producers to work with and support. Family is so important to me and I want my business to also run like a family of sorts.
Out first stop was Delhi a baptism of fire into the cities of India – there is no time for a gentle ease into a culture but only full immersion in Delhi. Fresh off a red eye 17 hour flight we were straight into business. Our first contact picked us up and we headed to Panipat about a 2hr drive from Delhi. Panipat is a city on the outskirts of Delhi well known for its textiles.
I was met with the sweetest of hospitality of a family run businesses of two brothers and their mother and father. Wide- eyed I entered the showroom. It was full of sample weavings, carpets and rugs woven, handloomed, hand knotted and braided. Hundreds in fact – I was super excited seeing all the amazing work but then the hard work began selecting yarn, colours and textured weavings for our new rug collection. When faced with so much choice I went on into overwhelm. The heat had something to do with it also – 40 – 44 degree days with a humidity like no other, so making any kind of selection was hard. My suppliers were pretty good about it all and let me take my time, take photos and make buying decisions later.
Next day was a visit to the weavers, the part I was most looking forward to. My admiration for their craftsmanship was amplified seeing them in action on their looms. These are mostly men that have been weavers for 3 and 4 generations. This is a skill that you are born into. The staying power and the mathematical geniuses that they craftsmen display is beyond me. To keep count, to create pattern and work together in unison with other weavers is extraordinary.
Lunch was at our suppliers home with their extended families. Mumma bear cooked us more Indian delights, so much more than my poor little Australian belly could handle. Then came the sweets topped off with more mango and a Kulfi. I am sorry the Kulfi (Indian icecream) although it was an amazing combination of flavours my body just could not consume one more thing. I felt ungrateful leaving it on my plate to melt.
From there we made the long drive back to Delhi – the first monsoon rains had flooding roads and highways and delaying our flight on the runway to Jaipur.
From Jaipur the next morning we braved a Cessna 8 seater plane to Bikaner. What was an initially terrifying experience turned into our most favourite. For only $60 you can fly in style and see India from the air. This beat the 8hr drive we were going to take via car even it is was a little scary!
Flying over semi arid lands, Bikaner sits on the edge of the desert. It has a more laid back feel – much like a country town but only bigger. The roads are wider (for the camels) and it is hot – but more of a dry heat like home in Perth.
We were met by our second supplier at the tiny Bikaner airport on to their family factory. Today was hot – so hot and exasperated by intense conditions in the factory. I can remember the smell vividly! Their yarn production was much bigger than our first when it came to producing the yarn. Bikaner is known for its wool industry and the producing of yarn. Here we see firsthand the long and tedious process of turning wool in various natural colours into yarn.
First it is washed and washed and then washed some more – the lanolin is removed and the smell here was a stench your nostrils would never forget. Tanya nearly passed out at the door the poor girl! From there the wool is carded (combed) and carded, washed and pulled to remove all knots and impurities. About 40% of dirt, dust and fibre is removed to make the purest of yarns. This wastage is also recycled to make the cheaper yarns. The purest of wool is then spun into yarn or felted depending on the types of yarns one requires for weaving and textures of carpets.
We saw so much yarn in varying combinations that is was hard to choose once again. Visiting their showroom was even hotter with hundred of ideas and combinations. My mind once again was faced with endless possibilities – how would I choose this next collection carefully?
We saw more weavers with different ideas and skill sets on large hand looms. Our presence in the weaving factory made them all a bit nervous we think as they kept dropping their tools as we photographed. Best not to stay too long they said as they make too many mistakes!
From there we went to the famous Rat Temple – YASS I said RAT temple – and we had to take our shoes OFF. An memorable experience to say the least!
We had a hotel experience like no other here in Bikaner – Nerendra Bhawan - a boutique hotel built around the late Kings residence. Each room and each floor was a celebration of his life and travels. We were greeted with fanfare and trumpets! The super friendly and cosmopolitan manager spoilt us with cocktails each night and let us stay in the 1920’s Hollywood suite.
We decided to drive back to Jaipur but via Pushkar to visit an Australian woman running the The Stitching Project. Fiona’s work is not only amazing but what she is achieving for ladies and men in her community is inspiring. We saw firsthand the impact she is having in her little factory and the happy faces of her machinists and block printers. Hopefully one day we can incorporate a block printed beautifully stitched range of linen into our range.
From Pushkar we spent a few days in Jaipur seeing the sights – you can see our other blog here on Jaipur.
India we love you – your hospitality, colour, sights and people. I can wait to come back again and immerse myself some more – this was just the beginning.
So now we have loads of creative decisions to make and we can’t wait to show you our new collection for 2017-2018 and all that is in store for Happy as Larry and it may just even coincide with a name change ….OHH ……
We would love to know have you been to India?