Crafts with a conscience

Published On: July 29, 2016 03:25 AM NPT By: Smriti Dhungana

Sarala Khadgi, 53, has been making Nepali handicrafts since the 1990s. A member of the Association for Craft Producers (ACP), she has been working in the production division for years now. ACP is a local, not for profit, fair trade organization providing design, marketing, management, and technical services to low-income Nepalis craft producers. ACP is a resource to advance and globally distribute their work, for which they receive fair wages and generous benefits.

Khadgi, a single mother, living with her son, daughter-in-law, and grand children, now provides training to newcomers. Specializing mostly in felt products, Khadgi trains other women in the same line and the products made by these women are exported to more than 18 countries. Dhukuti, a handicraft store in Kupondole, Lalitpur, also sells the crafts made by Khadgi and those trained by her.

Blending traditional craft with modern design and technology to suit market trends, the crafts made by Khadgi and her team are not only unique but well made too. Great care is given to design, and stitching, and according to feedback from customers, an item may be modified to create a customized, original product.

In Nepal, the production of handicraft is an age-old practice but keeping the changing market trends in mind, many handicraft manufacturers produce items accordingly. Currently, felt items are popular among tourists and locals alike. Felt is the oldest form of fabric known to mankind. Unlike industrial chemical processing used to make felts, Khadgi and her team use a technique called wet felting where, using friction and soapy water, the natural wool fibers are matted, condensed, and pressed to create the material.

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