CraftHER Project Week 1

An overview of my first week in India for my central LiA project!
CraftHER Project Week 1
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On June 24th I arrived in Cochin, India for the CraftHER Leadership in Action project, sponsored by Swara! Over the next six weeks my cohort will be traveling around different cities in Kerala, working with a variety of organizations and learning about traditional crafts and handiwork while uplifting and amplifying the voices of women who work in these sectors. Along the way, I am immersing myself in the colors, sights, sounds, and tastes of this new place, trying to take in as much as I can all at once. So far the experience has been exhilarating, informative, and so fun. I'm filled with so much gratitude for this place and for all of the people working to make this project possible, especially @Asha Scaria Vettoor I can't wait to continue our work, visit new places, and meet more women around the state over the next few weeks! 

During our first week in Cochin, my cohort worked with an organization called Save the Loom and their affiliated store, One Zero Eight. Save the Loom was established after the devastating floods Kerala experienced in 2018 with the goal of rehabilitating and restoring the practice of creating hand woven fabric. Their work started by literally rebuilding the giant wooden looms which had been smashed apart by the water, but has grown and continued over the past years—they now focus on employing and empowering weavers, most of whom are women trying to provide for themselves and their families. This art is dying, with less people taking it up every year, but Save the Loom is trying to reverse that trend and keep the traditional practice alive by both educating people about the handloom and selling products made with the weaver's fabric, providing them a steady income. Over the course of a few days we learned about the weaving process from start to finish and got to witness the yarn being dyed, spun, processed, threaded, and woven. Every one of these processes is done entirely by hand with no electricity. I tried my hand at the loom and it was so difficult—these women are truly forces of nature to be able to weave the way they do, using every part of their body to keep the pieces moving in a perfect rhythmic fashion and finishing yards of fabric in mere hours. At some of our site visits we also had the privilege of speaking with the women, hearing about their lives, how they learned the art of weaving, and what they hope for in the future. Hearing their stories and witnessing the work firsthand just makes the products they create that much more invaluable. 

After learning all about their work and visiting with some of their partners, we worked with Save the Loom to create a new social media strategy and updated online presence for the organization. By providing content and strategy tips, we hoped to leave them with a sustainable plan that will increase the online reach of their organization in the future. 

Working with Save the Loom was a great introduction to our overall project, providing a comprehensive and detailed history of the craft sector in India, as well as its current state of affairs. I left feeling so inspired. Every day here is truly a new adventure and the weeks are flying by. Looking forward to more learning opportunities and new experiences as we continue onwards!

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Go to the profile of Megan Shaw
15 days ago

What an amazing first week!

Go to the profile of Lily Bates
15 days ago

An unforgettable way to start the project! 

Go to the profile of Grace Argo
15 days ago

Thanks for sharing, Ellie! I'm so glad to hear your project is going well and that you've had the opportunity to learn about the craft sector from artists firsthand!

Go to the profile of Grace Nash
15 days ago

So cool Ellie - love it!

Go to the profile of Asha Scaria Vettoor
13 days ago

Absolutely love the photo collage that you've made Ellie :D You never fail to impress. So glad to have you as part of CraftHER's inaugral cohort.