Hand-Crafting Hope in India
At Noonday Collection, our vision is to build a flourishing world. We are passionate about creating meaningful opportunities for people across the globe. We partner with artisan businesses in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities to create dignified jobs. Orissa is one of the poorest states in India. Over the last year, Noonday Collection has partnered with a fair trade artisan business in Orissa to empower people through dignified work. Johanna, one of our talented designers, recently visited Orissa to work on some new designs for Spring 2016 and get to know the Artisans who make our pieces. Today on Flourish, Johanna shares about her recent trip to Orissa. Meet some of the Artisans who create our exclusive designs and learn how dignified work is transforming their community…
When I arrived in Orissa after a long journey from Delhi, one of the first things I noticed was the clothes the women were wearing. As a designer, I guess that’s only natural! The women in Orissa dress really colorfully and they all wear as many bangles as they can fit on their wrists. The town is filled with the music of the bangles and the hammering of brass beads. It’s really incredible to experience as you walk through the dusty roads of the villages.
Each of our pieces from Orissa features a similar brass bead. This geometric bead is special to Orissa and Artisans have been creating this shape for hundreds of years. Because this area of India is not easily farmable, the people here rely on their traditional jewelry making craft to sustain them. We love that we are able to preserve an element of this culture that has been cherished for so long by incorporating the beads into modern designs that our customers love.
I was excited to see where the Artisans who create our pieces work. Typically, the men create the beads for the pieces and the women assemble them. The men create each bead individually, completely by hand. The level of craftsmanship involved is truly stunning. It was really special for me to get to see some of the men creating beads for our pieces using time-honored techniques.
The women who assemble the jewelry come to a central workshop to create the pieces, but they have free hours and can come and go as they please. They typically come into the workshop after they have made breakfast for their families and have seen their children off to school. They work for a few hours, then go home and cook for their families around lunchtime, returning when it is convenient for them. It’s very unusual to have a job that is so flexible to their needs.
The impact this work is having on the community may seem subtle to many Americans, but the changes I saw were beautiful. The community used to be filled entirely with rustic thatched roof huts. But today, because the town has been receiving more orders from fair trade companies like Noonday, many of the families have been able to build sturdier brick and mortar homes with real roofs and even ceiling fans – a cherished luxury in this part of the world!
At one of the workshops I visited, I noticed that the women were younger than the women I had seen at other workshops – in their 20s and 30s. I met one girl who was 24 and was just getting married, which is very unusual in that part of the world. Typically women are not viewed as assets to their families because they are not earning an income. Because of this, they are often married off young. But these jobs are providing the women with the opportunity to earn an income for themselves and I can see the beginnings of a cultural shift as a result.
Noonday Founder Jessica visiting the Orissa workshop in October 2014
Orissa is a place that has really won my heart. The poverty there is still widespread and the changes are coming slowly. But I can already see the hope that people have because of the dignified jobs companies like Noonday are creating for them with their orders. When you buy one of the pieces made by these Artisans in Orissa, you really are impacting not just the person who made it, but an entire community. Thank you for supporting them and their beautiful handiwork!