It was during my first trip ever to India that I had happened upon a fair trade organization called Sadhna in the state of Rajasthan. It was only week two in India; I was still very overwhelmed by everything, I still had months ahead of me in the country, and I was a few days away from starting an artist residency in the next door state of Gujurat. I was so thrilled to hear about this NGO in the town I was in that was dedicated to working with women in the area and that there was a craft and stitching portion to it. I showed up to their offices only to find out they were closed for a holiday and wouldn’t be reopening before I had to journey onward. Yet I knew I would someday find a way to work with them.
A few years later I had started Seek Collective and had told the factory I was working with at the time to save all the scraps left over after each season was complete. I knew I wanted to find a way to use this fabric so that Seek Collective could be zero waste. I got in contact with this NGO I had always remembered and scheduled to meet with them. It was this time around that the stars finally aligned. Everyone working there resonated with me and we shared the same values. I visited with the local stitching unit that trains and employs women from the slum areas. I also visited with the rural headquarters located in the countryside that works with groups of women from various villages. Together we worked out a way to put all the scrap and left over fabric to use and create something new and purposeful. We agreed to partner together to start making Gudri quilts with the fabric.
Ever since then, once a year I send any remaining fabric that’s left over from previous seasons to Sadhna. Together we work out which fabrics get used together and which thread colors for each quilt. The process of making these quilts utilizes both locations, urban and rural. The cutting and patchwork is done in the urban studio and then sent to the rural area for the quilting to be done entirely by hand. In the rural area, a group of women come together to create a working group and they nominate one of them to be the leader. It is the leader who travels to the office and is trained on the work to be done. She then brings the work and supplies back to her village and trains the women in her group. Together the women hold each other accountable completing everything without having to leave their families and communities.
Providing work to both segments of women is incredibly important. Women in urban slum areas as well as women in rural villages often miss out on chances to get educated, trained, and employed. Giving this to women, who are looking to make their own income, is invaluable and the fact that it also gives them a source of pride and independence is critical.
All these years later, after first learning of this NGO and being so inspired by the wonderful work they do to empower women, I feel immense joy and gratitude to be able to partner with them. Together we are able to create beautiful one-of-a-kind handmade quilts not only helping to reduce any waste as a company but also creating valuable opportunities for women.