The first time I was in Pokhara I discovered the work of the Women’s Skill Development Project (WSDP) and fell in love with the project and the work. They have really great (and practical) bags produced by local women. They are doing a great job at teaching local women skills (including dying, weaving, sewing) and then helping them take those skills and make viable and sellable products.
When I was back in Pokhara in November I was able to go and visit the actual project location where the magic happens. I was given a tour and was able to ask a lot of questions—really helpful for my research. Most importantly, though, I was introduced to the executive director and will be going back soon (probably January) to work with them for atleast a week (possibly longer). They will teach me the dying and weaving and in return I will work with them on design and teach some of the women to knit. I think it will be a great opportunity!
Contrary to what my last post showed, I did actually go to Pokhara for reasons beyond the goal of seeing mountains.
I have found that a lot of my time during my first few months here has involved networking and making the contacts I need to make the next 8 months of research run more smoothly. Contacts are everything here. Once you know the right people, you meet more of the right people and it is easier to get to the places you need to go to, etc.
I knew that there was a large handicraft and textile market in Pokhara and the surrounding area, but I didn’t have any contacts there. Rather than exhaust my time trying to make phone calls and find people online (most people here don’t have that much of a web presence) I decided it was better to just go and see what the market was like (and how it differs from Kathmandu) and meet people in person. Actual face time conversation is far more effective than the phone.
I was able to make a great contact with a local handicraft store owner. His store has beautiful textiles and handicrafts and he knows many of the local artisans who’s work is in his shop and others in the area. Jackpot! Now, when I go back to Pokhara I have an in for meeting artisans and to see factories in that part of Nepal! Like I said, contacts are everything here!
It was also interesting to see the difference of the Pokhara market compared to the Kathmandu market. Many of the textiles were similar, but it seemed like they were higher quality and better priced in Pokhara. Not really sure why quite yet, but I guess that will be on the list of things to figure out the next time I am there. I do have to say, going to Pokhara has added to the itch of seeing more of this country and the different textiles it has to offer!
In the past week I’ve been able to meet up with several contacts and see the factories that they run. So far I’ve visited a clothing production factory, a weaving and pashmina/scarf production factory and a felting factory (producing mostly accessories and hats).
All of my visits were introductory visits, but it’s been interesting to see the places that they work, the items that they produce and get their view points on production and fashion in Nepal. I will continue to make visits to these factories and others in the future to get a more in depth view.
photos (c) Bethany Meuleners
And for fun, here’s a picture from my night out with some of my friends at The Factory in Thamel:
Last week I had my first workshop related to making and working on textiles. The Felt Industries Association of Nepal put on a three-day workshop for local businesses and handicraft groups to learn some felting techniques.
As I learned in this workshop, the felt industry in Nepal is one of the only handicraft industries here that is actually growing right now with how the global economy is. With this being the case, the point of the workshop was to teach new skills to these groups so that they can have more to work with for export.
We worked with both wet felting and needlepoint felting. While I’ve done both before, my needlepoint felting abilities are far above my wet felting abilities. I guess that’s how it is when I needlepoint felted for my collection everyday for 6 straight months.
The instructor was a Japanese woman who has been here for the last two years working on her textiles and will be here for another 6 months. She was very interesting and I’m looking forward to meeting with her again to see everything that she is working on and to get her input on the textile industry here in Nepal.