Kavita Chaudhary unravels the sustainable story behind Jaipur Rugs’ products, and discusses the future path. By Gayatri Moodliar
Jaipur Rugs produces some of the most beautiful handcrafted rugs available in the market. And it does so using eco-friendly materials and sustainable methods. The company has made it a point to work directly with artisans in the village who are privy to age-old techniques that have made the rugs the works of art that they are.
We spoke to Kavita Chaudhary, the brand’s creative director, to tell us more about how the artisans are developed, how Jaipur Rugs goes beyond just manufacturing goods and actually helps make a difference in villages, and the destinations around the world that have inspired her.
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You’re someone who’s managed to make a name for herself in the world of sustainability. What was the call-to-action moment that prompted you to do so?
Several years ago, I began travelling to European design shows. I saw many great designers collaborate with manufacturing houses for their collections. Most of these designers did not have direct access to the craftsperson. It was then that I realised that our direct connection and trust with the weavers at Jaipur Rugs was a highly unique situation, and that we had to utilise it very effectively to show the world a new way of collaborating. Soon, we met senior partners of the business consulting company Bain & Company. They brought more clarity to our unique position and the need to deeply expand our essence, to allow more positive transformation to happen through our work. At that point we were expanding in different directions, and their voice really helped us connect back to our work.
Which destination has offered the most amount of inspiration, not only in terms of art, but in other facets?
France, definitely. The sense of utter simplicity emerging from sheer complexity is truly inspiring. From delicate cuisines to robust architecture and poetic countrysides, the country weaves art into that which is generally not seen as such.
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Unfortunately, we’re living in a world where the work of local artisans is getting uprooted by bigger groups. How does Jaipur Rugs protect the integrity of its artists?
Jaipur Rugs began as a little experiment in a small village some 40 years ago. The founder, my father, Nand Kishore Chaudhary, really loved the people there. Following this passion was more important to him than making money. His village team made up of the underprivileged people of society was critical in the co-creation of our unique supply chain, and it allowed more villagers to live a better life through the art of carpet weaving. And, that mindset still lives in our system to care for our people first before the products and profits. It’s a joy to collaborate with the simple and more intuitively connected people of the villages, whose unadulterated minds are ready for authentic solutions. They are our true essence.
Can we expect any destination-focussed influences in future lines?
We are creating a new collection inspired from the Manchaha rugs called the Weaver’s Art Reserve. Since the Manchaha initiative is based in Rajasthan, this collection will very much be a Rajasthan-influenced line that tells hidden tales of its people and their lives.
Which Indian states do you travel to in your quest for raw materials?
What’s on your travel bucket-list?
Do you believe in the concept of slow travel?
Absolutely. It allows more time with my surroundings.
Solo or group travel?
I generally travel with my husband, but I enjoy travelling alone.
How do you not crack under pressure?
We generally take a few months to work on a collection. The approach is to find inspiration and to discover our art in the process. Hence pressure is particularly eased because we work on an extended timeline. Pressure builds up at the last stage of the collection, as time is running out and we worry if we have enough number of rugs that are striking. And at such a time, I like to tell myself: “Whatever happens, happens. We tried our best in the moment.”
Where are you drawing inspiration from for the works?
The mass production world of machine-made carpets that is encroaching on the handmade space is inspiring us to dig deeper into our know-how as a handmade rug industry. And our biggest know-how is, again, our people. Hence, we are co-creating with our weavers to discover together what we still have not.
Do you prefer to plan your trip out beforehand, or take it as it comes?
I’m quite unorganised, so I like to take trips as they come. Also, I don’t like to know too much in advance; it takes away the spontaneity and surprise of real-time discovery.
Tell us about the Manchaha initiative.
The Manchaha initiative is my heartbeat. Our weavers, each with a unique personality, spontaneously weave colours as per the rhythm of their hands and heart directly on the loom. It’s about the process of tapping into themselves, and the physical manifestation is a unique rug—an expression of themselves.
Walk us through the rug-making process.
Rug making is a process which will enlighten you with different cultures and different lands. While we mostly speak about weaving as a single process, there are actually 80 processes involved. The yarn stage is very important as it decides the quality of the final product. After choosing the finest quality of wool, almost 2,000 women get involved in the process of hand spinning to find a way to earn their livelihood. Our finishing is as intense as our weaving process: it starts with the knot counting to ensure rug quality, then, we have various processes related to sheering, sua-birai (segregating each knot), washing, binding, and a few more in between. At the end we give an embossed effect, also called “Gultarash,” to the rug as per the design requirement.
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You have a programme of touring a village. What does the tour shed light on?
Our tour sheds light on connections; it gives an authentic experience based on love and compassion. This experiential tour will provide an opportunity to learn a new craft and to start conversations with practitioners of centuries-old crafts. This unique experience essentially provides an opportunity to discover the hidden talent of rural India.
Could you tell us a little more about your work with the Jaipur Rugs Foundation?
Our work generally revolves around developing weavers—developing leadership and entrepreneurial capabilities in them. We also organise a lot of education and health camps to make them competent from every aspect of human living. I generally experiment with the originality of rural artisans and nurture their creative potential, which many times remains unexplored. For example, we started doing workshops with our artisan community, as a result of which we came up with this innovation called Artisan Originals (Manchaha), which turned out so good that we’re thinking of creating our own Manchaha Museum. This innovation not only instilled confidence in the weavers, but also opened up the global stage for the them.