A Day In The Sampling Unit...

  • Michelle Thomas
  • 14 Sep, 2010

My second day of design work in Rajasthan goes like this:

For me – up at 7 AM to watch the sun rise like a ball of fury over the lake. For the first time in years the lakes are full here — rain, rain and more rain has turned this town lush with beautiful shades of green. Breakfast while e-mailing (yes, our dear, dear guest house owner installed wifi for which I am ever so thankful) consists of “egg cheese toast” and a Starbucks coffee travel packet necessary to wake me up. Off to the co-op by 9 AM, running various errands along the way.

For her – the women we work with in the sampling unit do one of two things: 1) Some are trained to use the electric sewing machines and they come in to work at the co-op on a daily basis.

These women stitch sample garments for both domestic (Fab India!) and international (Mata Traders!) customers; their work is complex and the same group of women have been at the sampling unit for over two years now. For most it is their first time working outside their homes, and Manju commented to us that what stitchers like her enjoy most about their work is the professional environment itself and the opportunity to socialize with coworkers.

2) Other women are talented hand embroiderers.

We asked Narabda (see blog post dated 9/10/10) about her morning, which sounds much like any working woman’s morning routine. She rises by 7AM to cook breakfast for her family, prepare her tiffin (to-go lunchbox) and send her children off to school; by 9:30AM she meets with other co-op members to take a shared rickshaw into work, which is a ride of about 1/2 an hour. Indian business hours are 10AM-6PM, and she’s home by 6:30 or 7:00 PM to cook dinner for her family (though living in a joint family, oftentimes a kind mother-in-law will have a warm dinner waiting!). Narubda tells us that today is a bit unusual for her – she normally can do her work from home and only comes to the co-op when she is needed for sampling.

Once Mata designs are finalized in the sampling unit our pieces will move to production, where over 50 different women will stitch our garments. Then, hundreds of additional women come to the production unit from surrounding villages to learn the specific hand embroidery designs we create for each piece. These ladies then take their work home to complete, which is convenient since many care for young children and there are few other ways for them to earn an income in their villages.

So much care and hard work is invested in Mata’s products, not only by us, but more importantly by the Indian women we work with – we feel lucky our design process is so meaningful!  We hope you will enjoy the Spring 2011 collection once it’s ready!

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