An Introduction to CraftHER by Swara

Week one of my LiA with CraftHER.
An Introduction to CraftHER by Swara

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“Namaskaram” “Nandi”

To take an estimate, I would probably say that I've said those two words 600 times over the past week ("namaskaram" meaning hello and "nandi" meaning thank you). I haven’t quite learnt the word for "sorry" and "good" yet so I’ve thanked someone for stepping on their foot and said hello to someone who asked how I was doing. But hopefully the sentiment was still conveyed. 

I’ve always been a keen traveller but struggle to pick up languages. After spending four continuous summers in Italy with my friends, I managed a few phrases but would otherwise remain mute during discussions with their family. I wonder if I came across as cool and mysterious or thick and aloof… Probably the latter. 

Thankfully everyone I have met in Kerala has been understanding so far and I have been somewhat able to communicate through a series of gestures, head nods and hums. Pictured below is my perpetual expression of confusion as I attempt to navigate the intricacies of Malayalam.

To backtrack for a second, I should introduce my LiA and why my idiolect (fancy word) has been reduced to a handful of words and phrases.

Six months ago, I made the decision to sign up to the CraftHER program in Kerala. CraftHER aims to amplify the voices of female artisans while championing ethical fashion and traditional craft. On a more day-to-day basis it involves working with organisations working in these areas to learn from them and offer to help with certain areas of their business.

When I was first sent an email about the central LiA projects, I was sat in a restaurant for purely Keralan cuisine in Leeds. I also always loved fashion so that aspect came as a brilliant surprise. I couldn't quite believe it when I read the description of the project. The CraftHER program immediately had my heart (and stomach).

Before coming, I didn't quite know what to expect. But, as we began our induction and found out more about the program and what we would be doing, it all started to piece together. We were to be taken on a completely transformational journey, working and learning from a diverse range of people and organisations while developing our leadership skills and attributes. And this would start with a yoga session in the morning.

As someone who struggles to wake up for a 9am lecture, 7am yoga was a painful start. Stretching muscles that had never been used before and channelling my breathing through each nostril (with my deviated septum) proved to be a struggle but one week later I surprised myself with starting my non-yoga days with a sun salutation. I can’t say that I’ve quite gotten used to the early start but I am feeling more in touch with my inner yogi (namaste).

Yoga first thing in the morning proved a great preperation for our first project with Save the Loom. 

Save The Loom aims to preserve traditional weaving practices. It was initially founded in response to the 2018 floods in Kerala which devastated much of the state and disproportionately affected the community of handlooms in Chendamangalam. Save the Loom initially started as an initiative to support weavers impacted by floods but its founder, Ramesh (pictured above), recognised that many weavers did not go back to this profession. This underscores a wider decline in the workforce of weavers. Save the Loom seeks to continue this tradition.

During our time at Save the Loom, we learnt about the rich history and context of Kerala's craft sector. Our journey included tours of several weaving workshops, providing an eye-opening experience which contextualised the issues and challenges faced by this industry. This experience not only deepened our understanding but also inspired me to become a more conscious consumer.

At the end of our project, we were tasked with producing a document for recommendations to improve Save the Loom's marketing and outreach. As our first project, we were all rather apprehensive about what we would be able to produce but managed to rally our efforts together to produce a comprehensive social media plan with example images and recommendations for future content. 

The biggest challenge to the first week was settling into a completely different environment while working at the same. It served as a great challenge for me in both my personal and professional journey. Now I'm sure the next time I start a new job, it won't feel hardly as difficult to settle in!

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Go to the profile of Elizabeth Morvatz
13 days ago

So great!!!

Go to the profile of Megan Shaw
13 days ago

What a fab start to the LiA!!

Go to the profile of Lily Bates
13 days ago

Amazing start to the CraftHER project!

Go to the profile of Asha Scaria Vettoor
12 days ago

You write so beautifully! Thank you for sharing and I completely agree, afterwhat you've been doing in the past 18 days,you can take up any challengethrown your way. I'm so impressed!