Focus on Design
Throughout the stresses and uncertainties of the pandemic, Aruna Designs continues to provide steady work and reliable income for widows in India and joy to storeowners and customers in the USA. Sales have been strong despite the many challenges faced by communities in India and here in the States. Profits from handcraft sales cover all overhead expenses for Aruna Partnership, ensuring that 100% of your charitable contributions will be sent directly to India to the programs you support.
The overwhelming success of this Fair Trade project during such a difficult time feels like a miracle. This is thanks in part to the courage, determination and resilience of the Indian artisans, as well as to the dedication and hard work of the volunteers who staff Aruna Designs. But it is so much more.
For us, Aruna Designs is not just a business. It is our way of engaging with a great circle of Grace that originates in India within the heart of Arunachala and is guided by the vision of the founders of Shanthimalai, Dr. Hugo Maier and his wife Anne Maier, affectionately known as Appa and Amma.
"Shanthimalai" means "Place of Peace". This spirit transforms the work and flows to all of the many people who participate, from the women artisans to the customers all over the world who purchase the products they make, then back again to India, lifting all of us up along the way.
Our aim at Aruna Designs is to approach each task carefully, professionally, and with love. Our work begins when we order products from India. Deborah Cake has a close, daily dialogue with the producers and works with them and with the team here to manage the orders, which are sent from India via ocean and air shipments. Cheerfully negotiating language and cultural differences, she and Kalai regularly review a million tiny considerations like variations in thread color, sequences of weaving patterns, embroidery placement, and quality control. No detail is left unattended.
The next step is to produce a wholesale catalog to send to stores. Celia Jackmauh, a professional graphic designer, offers her talents each year to create a vibrant presentation of Aruna Designs products for storeowners and managers.
Marian McClelland has developed relationships with all of our retail stores and personally fills wholesale orders and then packs and ships them. In the spirit of love that is the essence of the project, it's important to her to be impeccably reliable and responsive to all of our customers, large or small. Jill Detmer, Marian's neighbor, realized Aruna Designs lacked an accessible wholesale storeroom and offered to store our inventory in her spacious walk-in basement. Jill, with her characteristic generosity and sensitivity, has become a vital part of the Aruna Designs team. She helps fill orders, sponsors a child, and models for the catalog.
Robin Walden, Aruna Partnership's School Sponsorship coordinator, steadfastly manages the finances and helps out in every way she can. Alex Berko developed a critically needed online inventory system that allows us to track products, place orders, and create invoices. He always makes himself available to troubleshoot any problem that arises, in spite of having a demanding full-time job and a young child. Martha Daligan, a skilled artisan from Maine, taught the women in India to weave and helped revive this indigenous craft. She orders handcrafts from India through Aruna Designs for her retail business, Featherstone Fibers: https://www.featherstonefibers.com
The Aruna Designs team includes Anne Kress, Usha McClelland, Tim Conant, Joi Gresham, Fred Yen, Greg Jackmauh, and Tom Danforth, all of whom offer their many talents and heartfelt support.
The response to our products has been inspiring. Owners of the high-end kitchen stores and boutiques that showcase Aruna Designs handcrafts report that our products are like small oases of joy to both the seller and the customer. They love the quality, color, and feel of our handwoven linens, block print robes, cotton accessories, and decorative soft sculptures. They also appreciate the fact that each sale helps support widows in India and are pleased that their orders provide reliable income and a supportive community for the women.
As a result, our orders have increased dramatically. The timing could not be better. Since the Europeans were unable to order for much of the year, and the shop at Premalaya has been closed during the lockdown, US orders have been the primary income stream for the artisans.
Often when customers walk into a store and purchase one of our products, they feel tangibly the spirit of the project woven into the very touch of the handcrafts by people involved at every step of the journey.
We are encouraged by Aruna Designs' extraordinary sales during the coronavirus pandemic. It is a joy to know that dedicated, loving efforts in India and here in the USA are bearing fruit, especially now when orders are so needed by the artisans in India. Through all of the challenges, we feel the flow of Grace whispering: "Life is good, life is a blessing".
Stores that carry Aruna Designs Fair Trade Handcrafts
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