I had a jam-packed almost three weeks in India at the start of this month, visiting with a lot of special Seek Collective partners. I started in the state of Karnataka, traveled up to Maheshwar and then Madhya Pradesh. It was my first time back since my visit at the end of 2019, before the whole world changed, and it meant a great deal to be with everyone in person again. This trip reminded me that everything in life boils down to relationships. I have a business and I have partners I work with but I built everything upon relationships that I value with people I trust and care about deeply. Seek Collective is not just about clothing, textiles, or sustainability but also about personal connections.
After over 24 hours of travel door to door, I landed at 3am in India and with the help of lots of chai and a dosa, I headed straight over to our wonderful block printing unit that very day. We caught up on all things in life, went through their library of vintage and new block designs, and drank some more chai. They have been dealing with a lot of excess flooding during monsoon season and it has at times made work come to a stand still so we discussed climate change and possible solutions for the future.
Outside of Bangalore is the handloom weaving group we began working with two years ago who use recycled cotton to create our black and blue twill, sand stripe, and basmati weave. This was my first time meeting this wonderful team in person. They have a real passion for their work and the positive impact they are having.
The bulk of all our stitching is done at a woman owned and run unit in Bangalore and it’s here I spend most of my time when in town. They moved to a larger space since last I was with them. It was exciting to see their new location where they are able to spread out more. We spent a whole afternoon going through bins of extra fabric I have, small pieces and larger yardage, so expect some creative ways we will use it up over the next several months.
One of my last visits in this area was with Bluecat paper, which is where our hang tags are made that have basil seeds embedded in them for planting. It is also where our Seek notebooks were made using our very smallest fabric scraps that were turned into paper. They are making paper with all sorts of different materials, from clothing waste to lemongrass to coffee beans, all while recycling the water that is used in the process.
After a plane ride and two and a half hour drive, I got to the gorgeous remote region of Maheshwar where all our natural dyeing is done. I have spent a great deal of time here over the years so coming back felt a bit like coming back to a home away from home. The people here are all very dear to me and I have such great admiration for not only their quality of work but also their absolute commitment to protecting the environment.
Finally I made it to Maheshwar in Madhya Pradesh, where I have been working in some capacity since 2014. I had not been back here since 2017 and it felt emotional returning. I learned that the last couple years have hit particularly hard here so I scooped up inventory to help in some way. Think the Dindori napkins, Dindori towels, and a new batch of scarves launching the first week of December. I ended up visiting with the current class of young weavers from all over India studying at the Handloom School. It was inspiring to see such passion for the rich craft of handloom weaving being kept alive.
When I began Seek Collective, I was in India two to three times a year, sometimes for months and other times for weeks. It has always been important to me that the processes and the people involved in making each element are seen and appreciated. I hope that it is not just personal for me but also personal for each of you every time you wear or use a Seek Collective item. x, Carol