Thursday, March 27, 2014

A New Loom for the Artisan's Alliance of Jawaja

In early February of 2014, Maiwa visited the Artisan's Alliance of Jawaja. There are both leatherworkers and weavers in AAJ and we spent time with both. The highlight of the trip was the arrival of Salt Spring Island weaver Jane Stafford who, at her own expense, shipped a table loom to India to donate to the weavers.

Unpacking the loom.

Jane sets up the loom and explains to Okar Lal Meghwal how it differs from his regular carpet loom.
Mahesh Dosaya (in the white sweater) acts as interpreter.

Working on the small table loom. 

There were many aspects to Jane's donation. Okar Lal Meghwal usually works on a very large carpet loom that looks like this:

Okar Lal Meghwal working on his carpet loom in his house.
To prepare a warp for the carpet loom is a considerable investment in time, yarns, and effort. In contrast the table loom can be set up in a fraction of the time. The weavers can experiment with weave structures and pattern techniques on the small loom and then transfer their knowledge to their carpet looms.

The artisans of Jawaja are production weavers. It is very difficult for them to take an entire loom out of production to try a new technique. As with any artisan, the loss of a loom means the loss of a livelihood. With the small table loom they can keep their production going.

The table loom had another unexpected advantage. If they are showing their weavings at trade shows, the Jawaja weavers can now set up the small table loom and demonstrate how they work at the show. This has resulted in greater understanding of hand-weaving for the public and better sales for the weavers. Jane is very familiar with the public's reaction to learning how hand-weaving is done: "You show people what goes into making a piece of cloth and they are staggered. We are so disconnected - even in India - from the knowledge of how things are made."

What was it like bringing a loom all that way and unpacking it in the centre of the village? Jane relates: "It was like the birth of a child! The entire village showed up and were intensely curious. It was a huge event - I was not really prepared for the scale of it. They were very very grateful. I think it meant as much to me as it did to them."

Our visit made such a stir that the local paper sent a report and wrote a story about it. You can make out Jane Stafford and her loom in the photo below. The other picture shows Maiwa staff Sophena Kwon sharing a shawl with one of the women from the AAJ co-operative. A feature in the local paper does much to raise the status of the Artisan's Alliance of Jawaja within their own community.

click for enlargement

click for enlargement
We carry the Jawaja carpets and a selection is available online here.

Jane Stafford's donation took place as Maiwa brought a group to meet the members of AAJ. The donation has inspired one of the people on that visit, Shanna Fromson, to make a similar donation. 

Next up - part two: a visit with the leatherworkers.

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