We have just returned from a wonderful trip to Bangladesh, where we visited many of the talented artisans who handcraft our collections of natural baskets, rugs, wall hangings and bags. We typically visit every year in March and April however this trip was long overdue with Covid and life events affecting our ability to travel there since 2019. It was a truly inspiring and highly productive experience, albeit during a 40+ degree heatwave for most of the trip.
While we have great relationships with all of our producer partner groups as a result of working with them for 12-15 years, there’s nothing quite like the experience of spending time together in person. There is always so much to learn from one another and having face-to-face conversations helps to break down language and cultural barriers to further facilitate better understanding and strengthen our partnerships. They also take us to visit the artisans in their communities where they translate our questions and appreciation to them.
Immersing ourselves in the artisans workspaces and villages is always the most enjoyable part of our visits and this is when we have the opportunity to see and learn what is happening with our own eyes. We took delight in meeting their families and children, whose faces lit up with joy when we gave balloons and stickers to them. These immersive experiences provided the greatest inspiration and reminded us of our core purpose as a business: to empower women artisans out of poverty through good design and Fair Trade.
This time together is also ideal for problem solving, learning and sharing ideas. There were moments where we gained knowledge about the challenges the artisans were facing with developing some of our designs. Together, we brainstormed how we can work around the issue, whether that be changing the design, the raw materials or a weaving technique. We were excited to discover techniques and fibres that we haven’t seen before (or we noticed them with fresh eyes), which sparked new ideas and got our creative juices flowing. Often, simply watching and observing the artisans practicing a technique in their home environment will ignite an ah-ha moment.
Importantly, we listened about the impacts of Covid and the global economic downturn on the artisans and how our non-profit producer partners have all supported them during leaner times. It was heartwarming to hear about how our donations over recent years have helped to distribute food and hygiene packages when the artisans were unable to work, and how we have contributed to education and life-saving medical operations. We also talked about any potential health implications such as arthritis or eye conditions that might develop from stitching and weaving every day and we were happy to learn that this is closely monitored and managed by our producer partners.
We were also thrilled to learn about artisans being able to build new homes or send their children to university thanks to being paid fairly over many years for their skills and time. The artisans we partner with hail from some of the poorest and most disadvantaged communities in Bangladesh, so seeing them improving their standard of living, partly as a result of the work we provide to them, is truly fulfilling and drives our motivation in our nineteenth year of business.
Ultimately The Dharma Door was created with the artisans at the centre of everything we do - from our purpose, to our philosophy, to the way we design our products. We have returned to Australia with renewed enthusiasm, inspired more than ever to find new and interesting ways to continue providing employment and support for the talented women who make our collections. With many new product developments underway, we look forward to sharing what we’ve been working on with you over the coming year.
We hope you enjoy these images of our time with our artisan partners. We regularly share videos on our socials, so be sure to be following us @thedharmadoor.
Shannon & Mick xx
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