Simply put, Beastly Threads exists thanks to the extraordinary talent and effort of many people, several of whom live in Jaipur, India. A few years ago, I started working with Sonia Jain who helps brands like Beastly get their products developed by the amazing artisans in India. Along with being a wonderful person, Sonia's help in coordinating the block-printing and sewing of the latest Beastly sarongs was invaluable. And wow are those sarongs beautiful! I recently asked Sonia to give us a better sense of the block-printing community in India. Enjoy!
Torrey: Block-printing has been around for thousands of years. Why do you think this tradition has stood the test of time and remains so fresh and current in today’s style?
Sonia: Block printing is an excellent way to produce something that is truly handmade and can be very easily replicated. It is manually produced and not factory made where thousands of meters are printed in a day, all exactly the same way. The beauty of this art is that no two printed pieces will ever be the same because of the simple fact that they are done by hand.
It is also one of the easiest printing methods to get started with. The materials needed to start are relatively inexpensive and the printing does not require a lot of equipment.
Block printing is also popular because of the bold and simple designs that can be created with an enormous number of colors and patterns.
Torrey: What part of your job do you love the most?
Sonia: The direct positive impact on artisans is the best part of my job. Giving them exposure to international work and empowering them are the things that give me real happiness.
Besides this, on the most basic level, I just enjoy talking with people. My job provides me an opportunity to put that basic urge to use for a purpose. I am a very social person, and love to listen and talk with others, either with clients from different cultures around the world or artisans who are artists but not businesspeople.
Torrey: What is the most challenging aspect of bringing such textiles to life?
Sonia: My job requires communicating the designs to the artisans, who are quite used to conventional Indian designs with leaves and flowers in bright colours. Foreign clients are looking to print more geometric and abstract designs and also print with more pastel colours. Creating an understanding between both parties is the most interesting and challenging part of my job and it comes with every new client I work with.
Torrey: Can you tell us about the women who are working on the Beastly sarongs?
Sonia: The artisans we work with are both men and women. The majority of women artisans come from the same printing background and are doing the work to help their families. Although few of them got the chance to go to school in their childhood, most of the women are determined for their kids to get a good education.
Torrey: If someone were to visit Jaipur and Bagru, where should they go? What are your 2-3 favorite spots?
Sonia: Jaipur is the capital of Rajasthan state and also called Pink City for its trademark building color. The most visited places are Jalmahal (water palace), Hawamahal, Amer fort, Nahargarh fort, and Albert hall.
Visit the Market in the city centre in the evening and experience the color, the sights, and the smells. Bapu bazaar and Johri bazaar are the most famous ones.
Bagru is a small village located 35 kilometers from Jaipur. It is famous for traditional hand block printing like indigo and Dabu as well as bagru print. One can see the printing art and meet the artisans.
My favorite place is Jawahar kala Kendra, which is a multi-arts centre located in Jaipur. It was built by the Rajasthan government with the purpose of preserving Rajasthani arts and crafts.
2017 was a year of extraordinary challenges, to put it mildly. Looking back and surveying the damage leaves you queasy and certainly questioning whether this is a hole without a bottom. From the senseless violence in Las Vegas to the hatred in Charlottesville to the state-mandated discrimination at the airports to the collapse of American leadership in the fight to save our planet to the abandonment of Puerto Rican citizens in their time of need to the attack on transgender members of the military to the pathetic sparring of two nuclear-armed frontal-lobe-deficient adolescents should be enough to make anyone start drinking heavily to numb the pain. Then you add Mother Nature’s fury in the form of wildfires, hurricanes, and earthquakes and one really wonders if this is actually the beginning of the end.
I have certainly found 2017 to be brutal, disheartening, and relentless in its continuous blows against all that I value as a woman, a mom, an American, and a member of humanity.
BUT it has also been a year of amazing accomplishments, resistance, and hope. The lows of 2017 were really, really low but wow, were the highs high!
Finding inspiration while running on the hamster wheel of life – going from one task to the next, always in a rush, never with enough time to stop and see all of the amazing things happening around the world - is tough.
Or is it?
Maybe we are just looking in the wrong places. Maybe we don’t need TEDTalks, Instagram, and Anderson Cooper to find the energy and hope we are seeking. Because really, the greatest place to find inspiration is in the brilliance and creativity and generosity of our friends. When I take the time to look, I find that I am utterly surrounded by awesomeness.
Sign up to receive updates on new Beastly products, animals, organizations, and sales. Enjoy!