Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Shoba - Day 2

17th August 2010

Woke this morning to sunlight streaming in through the batik curtains, the violent weather from the previous evening seemed to have disappeared in the night. I made my way to Shoba at 9.30am and sat opposite waiting for someone to arrive. Anusha’s sister walked by and told me that I would have to wait – yes, I thought, that is what I am doing. When Anusha finally turned up it was 10am – luckily the café opposite the Shoba gallery serves the most amazing muesili and espresso coffee, absolute treat.
We set to work, I started to make a folder for them that should be full of perfect examples of jetted pockets and immaculate execution of the invisible zip. We had to do this in my first year of university, at the time I had hated it and found it very boring, now I am glad – thanks Vince! To begin with though, I just wrote out simple instructions on how to insert a plain zip in a seam – neatly, a foreign concept to Anusha. I asked Anusha if she could translate the instructions that I painstakingly wrote out (including pretty amazing drawings) into Singhalese, doubtful.

Zoe had requested that I get a sample of lace made out of her wool. So I showed the wool to the women, they were doubtful – no vision! Anusha gave it to one of the women that make lace at the front of the gallery on show for the tourists, she quickly drew up a pattern on gridded paper and started rolling the wool onto the wooden bobbins. It was great to see it being made out of wool as it made the process a little more visible with the thick yarn. Because of the thicker yarn, she was able to complete the sample in under three hours.

We went into the town outside the fort to buy a clearfile folder and some embroidery threads for the women that sit at the front of the gallery to make little bracelets. Anusha’s sense of colour is very different to mine, I suggested tonal shades and fashionable colours – Anusha suggested green and purple together. We compromised and chose three variations each. On the way back to the gallery I saw an awesome souped up auto complete with car seats.

Back at the gallery, it was time to begin preparing for the afternoon workshop. I cut out seven sets of lining for the womens bags, and gathered samples of lace and buttons from around the shop for their inspiration. After lunch the women began to arrive, when all seven were there, I started to tell the women that I wanted them to design their own bags using the template that I had made yesterday – they did not seem to impressed when Anusha translated for me. So I tried to make them more enthused by showing them different fabric combinations and showed them how striking the lace looked on a plain handwoven background. They began to grab fabrics and soon they were figuring out their own designs – I heard Anusha suggesting to someone to add her favourite ‘sparkles’ (sequins) I almost lost it, but instead I very calmly suggested that no-one was allowed to use ‘sparkles’ unless they could persuade me otherwise – needless to say, no one ended up using ‘sparkles’.

The women were not to make their bags today, they were only cutting out the pieces so they could make them at home. Instead Anusha began to sew the bag step by step so that they could all learn how to do it the correct way – as I had already shown Anusha how to do it, she made the bag very well and even inserted a very satisfactory zip after referring to the instructions. The bag that Anusha made looked great, she had made it from scraps of handloom and jute – but she was talking again about covering it in appliqué and sequins, I couldn’t persuade her otherwise.

By this time it was already 5pm so I had to make a move back towards Colombo, I said goodbye to all the women and Anusha and her sister. Im not as impressed with this group as I had initially thought I would be. I wasn’t sure about their payment methods, they only pay the women after the piece has sold, this is absolutely not Fair Trade and Anusha really didn’t see that. She kept telling me how expensive it is to run the gallery even though it is part of the family house, so it seems that she is letting the workers absorb her cost. Only when she figures out that the workers are more important than the precious gallery will she be able to become Fair Trade.
The bus back to Colombo took almost four hours, but this meant that I could almost finish another crappy novel which always manage to lift my spirits. Back at the apartment, all my lovely comrades were home and it was great to be back, they even put dinner in front of me as soon as I sat down, more of Saida’s amazing cooking!

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