Focus on Design
"Life is a circle; it wants to show you all of its sides." - Dr. Hugo Maier
There is magic in touch. When people hold our handmade crafts, they feel in a very direct way the love and care that goes into every product we sell.
Often shoppers approach our Aruna Designs craft fair booth with guarded but curious looks. Nobody likes to be trapped by an overzealous sales person, so we step back and allow people to discover for themselves what we have to offer. They draw closer, exclaim at the vibrant color, the quality of the work. They reach out to touch.
Touch one of our bags and feel India, feel the women who have worked with great intensity and dedication to create this silk bag, feel the pride. Touch this woven towel, this hand-sewn elephant, and this brilliantly colored rug. Each piece can tell you about the long journey that began in India months or even years before.
People want to hear that story. Their faces melt and they smile. "These are so beautiful, who makes these?" "Where do they come from?" And we try to explain.
It begins when we travel to South India. Our Indian friends - widows and other women who were destitute when they began working at the handcraft center - greet us warmly when we arrive:
"Look here, we have this new silk weaving, what can you make with it?
And so we get to work. We discuss, we brainstorm, we have samples made that we believe Americans will want to buy. Every detail is considered. The Indian artisans work like crazy to get us what we need: they sew, they weave, they stuff. When we have enough products, or when we finally run out of time, we place an order.
Six months later we are standing here, our crafts spread out around us at a New England craft fair, where we get to see firsthand how people react to what has been so joyfully created.
We're happy when people come up to our table to tell us they remember us from previous years. The dish towels they bought 6 years ago are still going strong. Someone's mother loves the Aruna Bag she received for her birthday. Each shopper responds in his/her own way.
Lily, who is home schooled, checked out our table at the Bedford Multicultural Fair as we were setting up. She wanted to know who made these crafts, and explored how each item felt. We invited her to help set up, and she spent half an hour with us, happily arranging purses in a basket, putting angels into their display and sorting hairbands.
Later in the afternoon a 5 or 6-year-old girl stopped by. She lit up when she saw the angels, and became lost in another world. Latching on to a blonde angel, like herself, she danced around and around, holding the tiny soft sculpture out in front like a partner. Her mother patiently allowed her joyful play, until sometime later when we asked if they'd like to buy the angel. The mother explained she was single, and had told her daughter they were just there to look. We wanted to offer a gift: she could take the little angel home. When the mother hesitated, we explained that our work is not only for the women in India. Tears started streaming down the mother's face. Hugging us, she expressed how much this meant to her. Then the two little angels danced off together, holding mommy's hand.
Sometimes shoppers are moved to participate in our other programs. Over the years we have met people at the fairs who have sponsored a child's education, donated to the Om Shanthi Home for elderly widows, or provided support for the ongoing handcraft development and training in India.
Years ago we made a presentation about the projects of Aruna Partnership to the Women's Committee at the Parish of the Epiphany in Winchester. We had attended their Holiday Goose Fair, where Virginia McDonough was one of the organizers. Virginia signed up to become a school sponsor for Ashiribee and has supported her education right through college. Today Ashiribee is about to graduate with a degree in electronics and communications engineering, and has already been offered a position at Tata Consultancy (see A Closer Look). Starting from a humble beginning, this bright, motivated young woman has been able to grow and blossom through Virginia's compassionate and heartfelt response.
The end of a long day at a fair always feels worthwhile. We've had an opportunity to share the beautiful work and stories of our friends in India. We feel them with us, feel their dedication, their joy, their gratitude for the lifeline that the project gives them.
The handcraft project of Aruna Partnership is thriving because of the many, many people who are ready to reach out and embrace a larger world. We are grateful for everyone we meet.
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