pattern sample sheet hanging in the studio

18.10.12 | block print training

On Monday we started training one mother (Arifa) and two members of the local community (Shabnam and Kamarjaha) in wood block printing. The training is taking place at Chhaya, in Rajpur – a beautiful village on the outskirts of Dehradun in the foothills of the Himalayas. Chhaya is a part of a fantastic initiative, set up and run by Annamma Ebenezer, in order to train women in cooking, sewing, embroidery and block printing. They run a lovely cafe, with amazing views of the mountains, and have craft studios and a small shop on the same site. Wood block printing is one of the local crafts that we would like to use in interiors of the new building, and we’re keen to start the training soon enough that new designs can be developed by the mothers in conjunction with the building process. The idea is that Chhaya trains three community members, and that these women then move into a studio at the school to share their knowledge with other parents, and some of the older school children.

The women we chose were already quite skilled, belonging to a group of extended families who work in the tailoring business. We wanted to make sure they had an understanding of fabric, an attention to detail, and the capacity to use the training to improve their own livelihoods beyond the scope of our project. They were very excited to have been chosen, and all was going well for the first couple of days until Kamarajaha’s husband and Arfia’s mother-in-law prevented them from coming. Determined not to let the training fall apart, we jumped in a Sonu’s rickshaw with Sorad on board to act as translator, and drove round to their houses to try and work out how to resolve the problem. All three come from a Muslim community, where it’s rare for women to work outside of their homes – so there was a basic concern that it was inappropriate for them to be spending the morning elsewhere. On top of that. Arifa’s mother-in-law was worried that there was too much sewing to keep up with anyway, and that Arifa was having to stay up ’til 11 at night to finish it. Although we were worried that our initiative had interfered with the families livelihood, we also felt very strongly that in the long run it would be a great skill to have. We reassured the mother in law that Clem would be accompanying the women door to door, and offered to contribute Rs.100 per day to cover the earnings Arifa was loosing by coming with us…after lots of pleading and hugging she agreed! With that sorted, we rushed up to Rajpur and got on with the training, led by a the lovely Bimla. Hopefully next week will go more smoothly, and by the week after they’ll be fully trained. We still need to convince the women’s families that they should be able to work on-site, rather than take the work home, so that they can teach the other mothers…but that’s a challenge for another day!