About Our Artisan Partners
KERALA WOMEN EMPOWERMENT SOCIETY
Kerala Women Empowerment Society, was established in 1988. There are more than 5,000 women artisans crafting hand-made traditional products. This movement has been successful in improving the lives of many women and their families. It has also kept the traditional, unique handicraft techniques alive, even in contemporary times.
The products they create range from jewellery to handlooms to spices. The greatest challenge faced by these women has been finding a market to sell their products for a reasonable price. Here’s where the Society Store (Spice Market) in Cochin comes to help. With no mediators in the process, the artisans can get better prices for their goods, and sometimes become profitable.
The women in the society come from households where they have always been financially dependent. Earning their own money has not only improved their lifestyle but also their self-respect and mental health. Their income supports their children’s education, creating long lasting positive change.
Spice Market and Kerala Women Empowerment Society started from a very humble beginning. Today, they are a close-knit family, where women work and support each other. Ambarya is proud to partner with Kerala Women Empowerment Society . Not only because of the amazing handmade products but to support the women behind the crafts to live a respectful and successful life.
Run by a family of leather artisans, Karan Handicraft is an age-old, craft business in Kutch, India. Kutch is known for its rich, creative handicrafts, including weaving, dyeing, printing, bandhani (tie-dye), embroidery, leather work, pottery, woodwork, and metalwork.
Leather craft is one of the non – textile crafts that has been practiced in Kutch for generations. The Marwada Meghwal tribe who migrated from Sindh and Rajasthan to Kutch brought exquisite leather craft with them. They worked closely with the cattle herders (Maldhari community) of Kutch. When cattle died, these herders supplied the Meghwals with raw hides which were made into leather. This created a process in harmony with nature. The tanning and other pre-processes were done in the village.
Traditionally these leather artisans handcrafted products out of leather for village locals. But as cheaper products flooded the market, only a few artisans continued to make a living from this centuries-old handicraft.
The unique characteristic of Kutch leather craft comes from it's intricate handcrafted details. These are simple yet generation-old techniques of slicing, hand stitching, punching and braiding. Two of the main techniques used are Jaari Kaam and Torni. In Jari Kaam, a silver and golden Jaari is used to decorate and create designs on leather goods. Traditionally it was used to decorate horseback riding gear. Today Jari Kaam is used to design products like shoes and bags. Torni involves interlacing, stitching and cutting colourful threads to create designs, especially on the border of leather products. Kutch embroidery is a signature art tradition. Young girls are taught Kutch embroidery by their mothers at an early age, and the art is passed down from generation to generation.
Modern technologies and the emergence of artificial materials mean surviving as an artisan is a struggle. But those at Karan Handicraft have chosen to follow their own traditional method, finding a sense of pride in their skills and hard work. There are 20-25 artisans who earn their living though making these stunning products. With a Certificate of Excellence-2019, Karan and his artisans are still going strong. Ambarya is committed to working with artisans like Karan Handicraft. Showcasing their beautiful products and keeping their craft alive.
Kottapuram Integrated Development Society (KIDS)
KIDS (Kottapuram Integrated Development Society) is a charity that was established in 1987. They strive for the total development of the community, especially the poor and marginalized.
KIDS have set up technical institutions, schools, health projects and community development programmes for people in Kerala.
KIDS’ Natural Fibre Craft Department is one of these programmes. It is a certified fair trade organization that makes a range of products from Water Hyacinth and Screw Pine. The aim of the department is to promote the craft and help rural poor artisans to earn a sustainable income.
Screw pine weaving of mats is one of the oldest crafts practiced by the women in Kerala. Screw pine are small spreading, evergreen plants that grow up to 6m high. Screw pine leaves are known for their social conservation properties. They're considered to be one of the finest natural fibres in the world. They have been used to make bed mats for centuries.
Water Hyacinth are aquatic herbs that float freely on the surface of water. These plants were considered aquatic weeds but now they’re used to make various eco-friendly, unique products.
The Government of India registered screw pine with the GIR (Geographical Indication Registry). This provides legal protection to screw pine products crafted in Kerala. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has also classified screw pine as a healthy alternative to plastic.
Apart from being eco-friendly, these products have helped thousands of women artisans in Kerala. Women who started out as unemployed and dependent are now leaders, fluent orators, managers and skilled workers. KIDS also supports weavers and craftspeople who are differently-abled. They have also gone from being dependent at home to making beautifully handcrafted products from natural fibres. Ambarya is dedicated to supporting these stories of transformation. Promoting natural fibre craft and the skillful artisans who make these products.