Flying the ‘weaving’ flag high is a Jaipur-based weaver, Neerja, who hails from a family of weavers from the state of Andhra Pradesh. Running ‘Sutrakaar’ with three weavers and a couple of helpers in her very own studio, she is keeping her family tradition of over 400 years of weaving alive. Sutrakaar ‘s purpose is to encourage experimental hand loom weaving. In fact, not just for promoting the craft of hand loom but to weave with consumer waste in order to promote the skills of local weavers and to encourage craft empowerment; thus working towards zero-waste and a fair trade way of living and doing business.
Sutrakaar – Weaving both paper and yarn
Paper Weaving is traditionally a Japanese technique and there are many legends on how it began. The technique is fascinating and Neerja was keen to emulate it in the Indian context, promoting Indian traditions and creating livelihood opportunities for weavers. Today, paper waste contributes to being one of the third largest pollutants on earth and Neerja’s big focus is to use as much of this waste as is possible to create beautiful products. Sutrakaar makes an effort to follow the four R’s, in all their work: reduce, reuse, recycle and respect. Not long back, we had written about another designer, Raahul of ABCD, who weaves with paper and saves huge amounts of it from going to the landfill or the re-cycling sites. Raahul has created a specific loom for paper weaving, though Sutrakaar uses the same looms for both paper and fabric weaving.
How did Neerja set-up Sutrakaar?
Neerja worked for a couple of decades in various fields related to textiles and then set about making a dream of her lifetime come to fruition. She remembers that it wasn’t easy to find weavers and kaarigars to begin with. She continued her efforts by visiting several villages to search for weavers and also spoke to the weaver’s service centre. She realised that most of the villagers knew about hand loom weaving, infact the painters who helped set up the Sutrakaar studio were weavers themselves but the painting work was paying them more! Finding someone who had the patience and the skill to weave paper was even harder for Neerja, but she continued to persevere and this is what her advise is to up-coming designer-makers too. Once she found the people interested to weave, she trained them in specific techniques and even provided looms to women so that they could create paper yarn in the comfort of their own homes.
‘Continue to follow your dreams and become an expert in your field. Never stop learning, whilst always observing processes, techniques and skills from the experts. Believe in yourself to bring a change in the society and remember to always give back whenever you can’ , says Neerja.
Neeraja wants the young enterprising designer-makers to know that there are several government based schemes that support the young entrepreneurs. She suggests focussing on the business idea and a solid business plan to convince the investors of the business’s potential.
Sutrakaar mainly sells via exhibitions and other events. Anyone who loves this planet and has a love for the hand loom, would want to bring a little bit of ‘Sutrakaar’ into their homes and lives. So do get in touch with them:
Now, for some of these beauties created by weaving paper and fabric:
Support the weavers, save the planet, one weave at a time…Be Notjustashopper!