I’m re-posting this from my old blog onto the new one here. Written on 1st February 2020 on the way to India again…..
It’s been quite a journey since I started out on my quest to try to raise the profile of some of the textile artisans of Kerala and Mysore and to try to increase the value of their incredibly skilled work. I thought, “Why don’t I share awareness of these skills and the beauty of hand produced fabrics with like minded people?”
I thought it would be a straight forward process of deciding on a company name – Textile Travels – working out a tour itinerary, organising it on the ground in south India, advertising it and then leading the tour the following year. I was a complete innocent.
That was in 2016. In fact, the process did include all of the above, plus a multitude of other processes I could never have envisaged at the time.
I’ve almost abandoned the idea on a number of occasions. When it seemed like the package tour laws of Great Britain were solely in favour of the giant tour operators, needing substantial capital to satisfy bonding requirements; When my life partner of twenty seven years died suddenly in September 2017 and I felt that nothing interested me any more; When it just seemed like too big an undertaking to carry out on my own.
Once I had started to emerge from two years of the grieving process, my natural curiosity and passion that I had originally felt about the weavers, spinners and natural dyers of south India, started to re-emerge too.
I finally committed myself to re-starting the process of organizing textile tours in 2019. With the help of a variety of angels both in India and the UK who have been looking after me, encouraging me and providing the most invaluable help since 2017, I now find myself at Heathrow, waiting for another flight to India, in the final preparation stages of Textile Travels first textile tour.
Now all I need are some travel companions who are looking for an exciting, immersive south Indian textile experience!
We’ll be taking three one day workshops with skilled local artisans, in natural dyeing and wax resist block printing; hand spinning using a box charkha; and block printing with discharge printing techniques.
There’ll be visits to village weaving and spinning workshops and the handloom factories of north Kerala, a visit to a farm to fashion cotton maufacturer to learn about the organic cotton producing process from seed to sari. Apart from the unique qualities of fabric that’s been created solely by human hands, the benefits of hand produced textiles in terms of the sustainability of village life are myriad. More about this later!
To balance the focus on textiles, we’ll be able to have days enjoying the deserted and stunning beaches of north Kerala, experience local culture that only a handful of travellers experience, such as Theyyam, a traditional village ceremony in north Kerala, visits to temple towns and tea gardens and a chance to explore the rich cultural heritage of Mysore and Kochi. Not forgetting the joys of shopping for textiles at every opportunity!
You can follow my progress with final preparations over the next six weeks in India here. I’ll be posting updates regularly on my adventures with all the wonderful helpmates and friends I have found in India in my quest to raise awareness of hand produced textiles in south India.