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Journal

An Open Natural Dye and Textile Design Studio

We took up a small physical space in Industry City, Brooklyn, for you to visit us!

I still cannot believe that we actually took this massive step especially in the current scenario - when stores are shutting down due to unaffordable commercial rents, a shift in buying patterns - from in store to online, effects of pandemic still looming over etc. My thought process was simple - I strongly believe in the existence of small, charming, beautifully stocked stores. The joy of discovering unique and thoughtfully made pieces, meeting the team behind the brand, the touch and feel part of the shopping experience is more important than before. Mindful and conscious consumption movement, shopping small and with a purpose, owning pieces which bring us joy while also contributing to a good cause is on the rise for last few years but more so now. 

 Ever since I opened my small business space to the outside world, I have been really enjoying having conversations with my visitors. By sharing the process of natural dyes, handloom weaving, block-printing and other crafts, I feel that it makes the buying experience much more enriching for both of us. Also, after more than one full year of technology and screen overdose, we want to experience, engage and feel things again. We want to surround ourselves with people who are closest to us and have a home which make us feel safe, happy and calm. 

I don't know what the future looks like but right now at this moment, I feel that opening this space could be one of the best decisions I have made for my business and for my customers. I have also been fortunate to have support of my friends, family and most importantly Industry city, who is so so supportive of small creative businesses. I am truly grateful to have their support.

If you are based in New York or are visiting, please drop in at Makers Guild at Industry City, Brooklyn. I would love to see you

💛 

Soil to Studio

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Foraging Color - A Sustainable Dye Project

Last few weeks have given me a lot to think - personally and professionally. Life has slowed down in true sense. I was always a strong believer in slow living but somehow was always running around, trying to get million things done at the same time. Working non-stop is in my DNA but I never hardly took a moment to be grateful for so many things I am blessed with. While my heart bleeds for so many people who are suffering physically, emotionally and financially due to the current crisis, I feel grateful for the good health of my family and friends, spending quality time with my husband at home, ability to have blocks of time to myself and nurture the ever itching creative side of me.

I have been dreaming about the world of natural dyes and plant pigments for a while now but always found it a bit intimidating. Given my finance background and no formal education in design, I also felt that apart from a reasonable sense of aesthetics, I did not know a technique to create something with my own hands. I usually work with artisans in India who are masters of their own skill. During the Co-VID crisis, when my small business took a massive hit, I wanted to find a distraction to manage my anxiety. Learning a new skill (and a challenging one) seemed a good solution. I am a hoarder collector of books so I already had few books on natural dyes but what really got me deep into it was a class by a beautiful artist - Cara Marie Piazza , whose work I find inspirational. Since that day, something has changed within me. Creating something with my own hands is giving me immense sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. I value handmade goods even more than before. I find joy in admiring the stillness in making hand-dyed textiles. While this is just the beginning of my journey on this beautiful path, I wanted to share my excitement with you all. I am blessed to have so much love and appreciation for my work and that keeps me happy and motivated.

For more updates on my journey as an artist and related experiments with plant dyes, you can find me on instagram @foragingcolor

 

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Living Colors

My studio these days is filled with an aroma of spices, delicate flowers from my garden, some sweet smelling camomile tea and eucalyptus leaves, which I bought from the farmers market. Can work life be more magical than this, I wonder. Then I smile, count my blessings and get back to work:) Sharing last week's work where I made these bundle dyed silk neckerchiefs for one of my stockists in Cape Cod. I love how the same dye stuff resulted in unique patters and color combinations! It completely blows my mind every single time!

 

Bundled dyed silk squares

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A Small Textile Village in West Bengal

Bengal is world known to weave the finest handwoven textiles, so we were super excited to visit this remote village in West Bengal. After more than 8 hours of a long car drive from the city of Kolkata, we arrived in this tiny village. After a quick refresh in our hotel, we were on our way to meet the weavers and artisans. It was hard to contain our excitement!

As we meandered through the narrow alleys of this village, the air was filled with the rhythmic click-clack sound from the looms. The tiny houses had their windows and doors wide open. As we stopped by their door to have a look at their magical work, we were greeted by generous smiles. Inspite of the language barrier, we communicated with gestures (some were really funny hand and head movements!). We were really touched by their warm hospitality and had local snacks and tea in each home we stopped by. 

We then arrived at a small cluster of loom weavers, who were being guided and supervised by a master weaver. We were surprised to learn that this community of weavers is physically challenged (deaf and mute) but choose to live a life of dignity instead of letting their physical disabilities dictate their way of living! The local handloom school, run by the district, trains them in various weaving techniques, starting at a very early age. This visit really got us thinking about many aspects of our own life.. how privileged we all are and how little time we spend practicing gratitude and compassion for others. They truly were inspiring and we are proud and grateful to be working with them for our handwoven linen textiles! 

 

 

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Staying Creative when Homebound

Sharing some powerful lines which recently inspired me to be more optimistic, hopeful and remain focused on building for the future:

“Conversations will not be cancelled.

Relationships will not be cancelled.

Love will not be cancelled.

Songs will not be cancelled.

Reading will not be cancelled.

Self-care will not be cancelled.

Hope will not be cancelled.

May be lean into the good stuff that remains..”

 

We may be socially distancing ourselves but we are not quarantined. Most of us are now either working from home or find ourselves spending more time at home as the world shuts down. Staying creative during these times could not only boost one’s mood but also invest in our better future.

Below are my top 10 things to do while being at home. Also sharing the work of few of my favorite artists, authors and chefs for inspiration. I am sure they would get you off your couch!

Note: This is not a sponsored post. I love their work and I love sharing good things with you ❤️

 

1. Pickling

I always wanted to learn that and now seems to be the most appropriate time. Pickling is a great way to build food storage reserves. It also seems like a fun and easy activity for a lazy afternoon. All you need are some glass jars, a pot, vibrant produce and some good quality vinegar, sugar and salt! 

Favorite recipes:

Pickled Shallots + Chiles by Athena Calderone, Pickled Cauliflower by Recipe Girl, Pickled Red Cabbage by Take Two Tapas 

 

 

2. Bring the Outdoors Indoors

They say – plants make people happy! While most of us living in cities don’t have the luxury of an outdoor space, we can still get our hands dirty and pot some indoor plants. It is truly satisfying to watch a new leaf grow, a bud bloom into a flower or using those fresh herbs into your favorite pasta sauce! I love bringing outdoors inside my home. 

Few of my favorite Instagram accounts to follow for some inspiration are:

Hilton Carter, The Jungalow, Succulent City and the Urban Jungle Blog, Homestead Brooklyn

Favorite spots in NYC to buy plants:

The Sill, Sprout Home Brooklyn, Union Square Green Market, Flower District in Chelsea

 

 

3. Organizing Bookshelves

This is my favorite one. I love spending time going through the books collected over the years and discovering a book which I had bought but forgot about! Also, arranging books is therapeutic for me. I love to use their color and sizes to add some visual interest to the bookshelves. Throwing in some different objects and plants can really make the bookshelf stand out and become the centre of your space. I have put together a moodboard with inspiration images to get you started.. 

 

 

4. Spa day at Home

Because we must take care of ourselves! Think essential oils, milk baths, fresh flower foot soak, your favorite scented candles, spa water, hydrating and rejuvenating face and hand masks, hair spa and some calming music. If you have company, throw in some massages you could give each other!:) 

 

 

5. Learning New Recipes

I am always looking for new and creative recipes to add seasonal produce to my diet. Learning new recipes and adding those to my repertoire is fun. I am not a very good cook per se and I don't enjoy cooking that much. But to avoid eating out on weekdays, a good recipe gets me going in the kitchen. It is like a new project for me! 

Below are few of my favorite chefs. Their recipes are fun, creative, healthy and focus on seasonal and local produce.  

Ottolenghi by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, Green Kitchen Stories by Luise Vindahl and David Frenkiel, Eyeswoon by Athena Calderone, Half Baked Harvest by Tieghan Gerard, Bakers Royale by Naomi

 

 

6. FaceTime your Friends and Family

Social distancing does not mean isolation and disconnection. Social isolation can be especially unhealthy for older adults. Use this time to bond with friends and family through Facetime/video calls. Letting your daughter sing her favorite poem to her grandmother over FaceTime could be very comforting to her even though she knows that it might be the safest way she can watch her granddaughter grow for the foreseeable future. Spending time together over video calls is unlikely to feel as satisfying as being in the same room. But it’s better than nothing! 

 

7. Explore the world of fruit infused water

I love color in everything. You probably know by now if you have seen our textiles and pillows! Adding vibrant berries, citrus fruits and herbs can dramatically make the otherwise plain taste of water very refreshing. Added bonus - lots of vitamins and nutrients. Easy to make too. 

 

 

8. Composting

Now that you are likely to cook more at home, this is another fun activity to learn. With compost, we are creating rich humus for our plants. This adds nutrients to the soil and helps retain soil moisture. It is good for the environment too. They don’t call it “black gold” for nothing. I tried composting for the first time late last year and now my compost is ready to be used, right in time before spring arrives! 

Below are some helpful links for beginners:

How to Compost – Magnificent Garden Soil

The Best Compost Bins, According to Environmental Experts, 

Composting for Beginners at Home,

Home Composting 101

 

 

9. Simple DIY Craft Therapy

It's not always easy, or affordable to go to a therapist. But that doesn't mean you can't do a little DIY therapy on your own. Putting our energy into creating simple DIY projects can be therapeutic. Below are few ideas (Clickable links): 

1. A Concrete Vase made with a mailing tube

2. Romantic Floral Bath Salts 

3. Repurposing Shoe Boxes

4. Modern Clay Earrings

5. Propagating Plants

6. Clay Knot Paperweight

 

  

10. Discover work of some very talented artists! 

I adore art and artists. I am on a constant lookout to find beautiful handmade things. Filling my home with objects and things which tell a story, are made with thought and intent, is very satisfying . I love putting a face behind the object. While we all shop at big stores for convenience and familiarity, I find that small businesses put a lot of their sweat into what they make. They put a part of their soul in telling their stories and expressing themselves through their work. Big stores cannot compete with that. During such extraordinary times, if you are looking for anything for yourself, do check them out. Supporting small businesses can mean a lot to our small business community, now more than ever..

Below is not an exhaustive list, so please support your local artists and businesses and say no to factory made goods! 

1. Ceramics - From Fran, Micole Ceramics, Helen Levi Ceramics, East Fork 

2. Candles - Brooklyn Candle Company, Queer Candle Co., Lex Pott

3. Objects - Palorosa, Two Tree Studios, The Floral Society, Studio Carta, Sin Ceramics

 

 

Hope you found couple of inspiring ideas to do while at home (apart from Netflix binge and instagram gawking). I will post some updates on my projects on my instagram stories and grid, so feel free to follow along if you wish. Would also love to know about your creative projects, ideas and thoughts on how to be creative and productive during such times. Please leave a comment below, connect on instagram, or write to me on email. Also, do share with your friends and family and spread the love. A creative community is a happy community! 

Stay safe, stay creative.. Xx, Swati

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Meet Khimji Bhai ❤️

A story which touched my heart. Our first visit to one of the most renowned weaver families in a small village of Gujarat, we were introduced to Khimji Bhai. He was sitting quietly in a corner under the shed on a sunny afternoon and sorting the local wool fibers. He was wearing a plain white kurta and dhoti, a local traditional dress for men and had a sort of zen look on his face. Though other weavers were curious to know more about the visitors and everyone said hello to us, Khimji Bhai was engrossed in his work. He gave us one glance and got back to sorting the wool.

 Couple days passed by and while we were engaged with the other weavers behind the loom, we never got any attention from Khimji Bhai. Tea breaks, lunch breaks, Khimji Bhai was always in his corner doing his work. He rested once in a while but never spoke to any of us. I asked my fellow weaver about him and then we heard something we never though of. 

 Khimji Bhai is 72 years old (I know!) and is the oldest member of the weaving community. He comes to work every single day and works as much as any other weaver! We were pointed towards one pair of slippers which looked unusual to us. These were no ordinary pair of slippers. They belonged to Khimji Bhai. He has been wearing these slippers since last 15 years and were made by his late son for him. He never lets go of these. If anything tears, he repairs them with whatever he finds around him and make them sturdy again. There were bits of old tyres, leather, nails, wood, metal etc. These now weigh more than 3 kgs!!! Every year in March, Vankar community walks to their temple in Rajasthan for 20-25 days continuously covering 700 kms. Khimji Bhai walks every year without fail for 700 km wearing his precious slippers in memory of his late son. He never complains and always has a smile on his face. His source of happiness now is - his grandchild. 

 Fun fact about him - he loves to eat sweets and has them for lunch and dinner while we try and avoid them at half his age!

We can't wait to visit him again! ❤️ Continue reading