Upcycling - A Story of Reincarnation.

I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times...
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
My spellbound heart has made and remade the necklace of songs,
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms.
In life after life, in age after age, forever.
— Rabindranath Tagore
 

A few days ago I came across this poem written by revered Bengali poet and artist, Rabindranath Tagore. Transforming Bengali literature, he became the first non-European to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913.

The poem named "Unending Love" speaks about love, time and its universal truth. But what struck me was that for some reason it reminded me of the journey of upcycling our saris go through before they end up as necklaces and scarves. For me, the words resonate a rebirth, a perpetual cycle of reincarnation. There's a feeling of timelessness, of the past and present.

You see, the process of upcycling feels almost like reincarnation itself. It's a continuous rebirth of old saris, worn countless times that have lived out their purpose and been transformed into something totally new, through a greater awareness.  The result is an evolutionary journey of a scarf or necklace. It's purchase has a karmic effect that trickles through into the lives of rural artisans, empowering their lives with positive change. Even their stories are retold, over and over by so many people. By you. So, after reading this poem, I'm inspired to share how our upcycling process is a story of reincarnation.

 
 Sari Trader

Sari Trader

 

The journey starts with sourcing pre-loved sari's. These are sourced from sari traders in Delhi who in turn buy them off a network of bhandiwali's or utensil sellers. They travel all over India buying and bartering utensils from home to home, in exchange for vintage saris. It's an amazing system that's been around for generations. So many stories are woven into these sari's. Were they given as gifts, worn at weddings and religious festivals? Who knows? What I do know is that they have lived previous lives and this is what makes them so special. The saris are carefully selected for their beautiful colours, textures, quality and designs.

 
 Sari being cut to size to make sari necklaces

Sari being cut to size to make sari necklaces

 

Next, the saris are quality checked for defects, cleaned and cut into sizes for scarves or shawls. The whole process is time intensive but necessary in terms of quality control and the end result. Any saris with too many defects are still reused to make sari bead necklaces. They are then paired with the reverse side and appropriate colour thread for stitching and sent to West Bengal where the Kantha artisans will work their Kantha magic on each scarf.

 
 All Kantha stitching is carried out using high quality cotton thread

All Kantha stitching is carried out using high quality cotton thread

 
 Kantha Artisan

Kantha Artisan

It can take up to two weeks to stitch a Kantha scarf. It's labour intensive and requires a keen eye for detail as well as a lot of patience!  The quality of our Kantha scarves is of the highest on the market. You won't find anything as beautifully stitched as ours. 

 
 Communal groups of Kantha Artisans

Communal groups of Kantha Artisans

 
 
 Kantha Stitch

Kantha Stitch

 
 
 Finished Kantha Scarf

Finished Kantha Scarf

 

Once the scarves are ready, they are returned to Delhi where they are quality checked. Any Kantha scarves that are returned unfit to sell are once again upcycled into sari necklaces. Vibrant full and half sari's are selected for our statement necklaces that require a lot of material. Smaller pieces of sari are used to make our six string, Banjara and single bead necklaces.

 
 Sari Necklaces

Sari Necklaces

 
 
 Meauring sari beads for the right necklaces

Meauring sari beads for the right necklaces

 

Many cooperatives are involved in the process of upcycling with even the smallest pieces of sari used to ensure there is zero waste. From a Self Help Group of 400 women in Himalayan villages to the Self Employed Women's Association. Every piece of fabric is turned into something beautiful and functional.

You may think that's the end of the upcycled story of our Kantha scarves and sari bead necklaces. I like to think of it as the beginning of the end. Because the story continues with you. Every Kantha scarf or sari bead necklace you purchase makes such a difference to the lives of the artisans, creating a karmic cycle of positive change.

Perhaps it's fitting that our Kantha artisans also share the same homeland as Rabindranath Tagore. West Bengal is the heartland of Kantha stitching and it's history and culture is rich and diverse. It truly is a treasure and that's how we see our Kantha scarves and necklaces.

Timeless treasures that tell their own universal stories of the past and present.

As Tagore said "In life after life, in age after age, forever".