Tag Archives: Decorator’s Notebook

Meet the Maker: Eleanor Pritchard

18 Mar

I met weave designer Eleanor Pritchard at Maison et Objet a couple of years ago and immediately fell for the vibrant colours and intricate patterns of her traditionally-woven Welsh blankets. Joe and I called in on Eleanor and her assistant Holly as they were hard at work on designs for their new collection to explore her South London studio and find out more about the inspirations behind her work.

Tell us what you think of our first video too!

Decorator's Notebook meets Eleanor Pritchard British weave designer

Eleanor Pritchard's weave studio by Decorator's Notebook

Where did you learn your craft?

I initially did a history degree and worked in bookselling and publishing for a while. I went back to college as a mature student and studied weaving for a second degree. I had always loved making things, but going back to college really gave me the skills to develop my own design process as well as the technical grounding in weave. I studied Textile design, specializing in weave at Chelsea and set up my own studio almost as soon as I left college, with a helping hand from the Crafts Council who gave me a grant to buy my first loom. For a number of years I taught at Central St Martins alongside my studio practice, but now work on my weaving business full time. Our blankets are sold in 25 countries, and we have also just launched an upholstery line so there’s plenty to keep us busy.

Talk us through your design process when you work on something new…

I always start by making a storyboard, which can contain anything from postcards and drawings to bits of packaging and postage stamps. Once the ideas come together I begin sampling on the Dobby loom I have here in my studio. I often thread it with different colourways in the warp so we can try several options at once. When I can see what’s working well, I weave a larger sample of the ones I like the look of.

Decorator's Notebook meets Eleanor Pritchard sampling on loom

Decorator's Notebook meets Eleanor Pritchard close up of loom

Decorator's Notebook meets Eleanor Pritchard assistant weaving

The loom looks very complicated! How do all these threads actually become a woven fabric?

Looms work on the principal of binary codes… the first computers were actually based on looms. The woven pattern comes partly from the order you thread the loom up in and partly from the order you lift the warp threads up and down in as the weft passes through. A lot of the planning happens before you even start, and with experience you get to learn what will happen when you thread the loom in a certain way. You need to follow certain rules to make sure that the fabric has a structure that will hold together, but there’s still lots of room to experiment. I enjoy the discipline of working within those parameters.

Do you weave each blanket here, by hand?

Not anymore. I sample the new designs here on my hand-operated loom, then the blankets are woven in a mill in Carmarthenshire in Wales using a power loom. A power loom works the same way but is much quicker. It’s an area where weaving used to be a huge industry – the steep little valleys were filled with hundreds of water-powered mills – but now the mill I use is one of the only ones left.

Eleanor Pritchard's weaving studio by Decorator's Notebook

How important is tradition in your work?

I am very interested in vernacular British textiles – traditional Welsh tapestry blankets are woven using a technique called ‘double cloth’ which are woven with two sets of warp and weft threads so that the front and back are exact opposites of one another. A lot of my blankets are woven using the same principal. The patterns are all my own but the technique is the same one that has been used for hundreds of years.

Decorator's Notebook meets Eleanor Pritchard wool

Eleanor Pritchard studio tour by Decorator's Notebook

Decorator's Notebook meets Eleanor Pritchard view from the studio

Describe your workspace… what can we see from your window?

I have a lovely bright and sunny studio at the top of the Cockpit Arts building in Deptford, South London. I overlook the creek and can see over to the Greenwich Observatory in one direction and Canary Wharf in the other. It’s a fantastic place to come to work each day.

How do you spend your tea breaks?

There are a lot of designer-makers here working in a wide range of disciplines: ceramics, jewellery, wood carving, metalwork. It’s a really nice community and we often call in on each other. Whether you want feedback on a new design or advice on couriering a parcel to Japan, there’s usually someone here who can help.

What sort of wool do you use?

I love yarns that are ‘fleece dyed’ which means that the wool is coloured before it’s spun, then fleece from different batches is blended together during the spinning process. This gives a variety of different tones within each thread, which creates a lovely subtlety and depth of colour. When the yarn is spun first and then dyed the colour is much flatter.

Decorator's Notebook meets Eleanor Pritchard yarns

Decorator's Notebook meets Eleanor Pritchard lamp

Interview with weave designer Eleanor Pritchard by Decorator's Notebook

Tell us a little more about your approach to colour…

I have quite an instinctive approach to colour. I love trying different combinations and responding to what works. I always use a little white in all my designs as I find it lifts the pattern and makes the other colours clearer and more vibrant. I like adding bright and unexpected accents in my palette, and often mix these with ‘grubby’ or chalky shades. I don’t use very sweet, sugary pinks for example. One of the nice things about my business growing is that I’m now able to order enough yarn to have some colours dyed to order. I work with a company in Aberdeen who have revived some of the colour recipes in their archives for me.

Can you explain the inspiration behind a few of your blanket designs?

Easterly’ is a vibrant yellow blanket with a graphic pattern inspired by the wind direction arrows on weather forecast maps, while ‘Northerly’ has the same pattern but in shades of sage, grey and white. These three – ‘405 Line’, ‘625 Line’ and ‘525 Line’ – are all based on the shape of old television screens and the names come from the number of scanning lines per inch in the original black and white, colour and American sets. ‘Signal’ was inspired by the pulse of sound waves and ‘Quail’s Egg’ is a real old favourite, with a small-scale pattern that gives a speckled effect from a distance.

Eleanor Pritchard blankets by Decorator's Notebook

{Photographs and video © Joe John for Decorator’s Notebook}

Find Eleanor’s vibrant ‘Easterly‘ and ‘635 Line‘ blankets at Decorator’s Notebook (free next day UK delivery) and visit her website for her other designs. You can also visit Eleanor’s studio yourself during Cockpit Art’s open studios twice a year – click here for forthcoming dates.

Eleanor Pritchard blankets at Decorator's Notebook UK shop

Decorator's Notebook Shop www decoratorsnotebook.co.uk

Meet the Maker: Ciara McGarrity of Waffle Design

24 Feb

I first met Ciara McGarrity, the Irish designer behind Waffle Design, at HOME last year. The strong graphic quality of her grey and white cushions drew me to her stand and on closer inspection, I loved the intriguing combinations of woollen threads running through the textured cloth. Later, over tea at The Albion, we chatted about Ciara’s childhood in Ireland, a conversation which inspired her to design the Burren Waffle cushion exclusively for Decorator’s Notebook. I recently caught up with Ciara again to talk colour, fabrics and social responsibility.

Scroll down for a special free delivery offer only for blog readers.

Decorator's Notebook meets Waffle Design

Waffle design cushions

When did you first start working with fabrics?

Everything I’ve done has involved fabrics in some way, although I only started Waffle about a year ago. I studied Display Design at the Dublin Institute of Technology and then moved to London to create window displays for retail stores.

Then about 10 years ago I jumped into freelancing and set up my own company specialising in displays for shops, exhibitions and events; everything from windows for Liberty to visual merchandising at the Science Museum. Fabric nearly always played a part… although back then it was usually just fixed with a staple gun!

How did you make the transition from displays to making your own cushions?

I was asked to work on an event for the British Chamber of Commerce, which involved creating a Bedouin tent inside one of the rooms of a listed building on Belgrave Square. There I met a lady who adored the tent and approached me afterwards to recreate something similar in her garden. She became a kind of mentor to me, encouraging me to make curtains and drapes for her super house just around the corner from Harrods.

I taught myself to sew at first, but later went back to college at the Cass Faculty of Art in Whitechapel to learn how to make soft furnishings properly. I now combine making bespoke curtains with my new project, Waffle.

Waffle Design cushions at Decorator's Notebook (720x800)

Roll of fabric Waffle Design at Decorator's Notebook (719x800)

Why the name ‘Waffle’?

It comes from the woven waffle fabric that forms the basis of all my designs. It’s made from organic cotton and produced by a fairtrade community group in Kerala. Hand-weaving in India is a fading industry and I like that I can play a small part in keeping it going. The cushion designs came from playing around with the grey and the white fabrics and exploring the possibilities of the waffle weave.

 

Talk us through your design process when you start work on something new…

The inspiration can come from anywhere – an image or a place – but the design process always revolves around combining colour. I spread out lots of samples of fabric and try them with different combinations of yarn. Once I’ve chosen which colours work together I sketch out pattern ideas and embroider small samples. I can easily lose hours testing out colours this way!

Dyed fabric swatches Waffle Design at Decorator's Notebook (533x800)

Pegs with coloured yarn Waffle Design at Decorator's Notebook (748x571)

What colours are you drawn to?

I really enjoy clashing colours and unexpected combinations, but I think part of the appeal of Waffle is that they’re used in quite a restrained way. While I was back at college I worked in the furnishing fabrics department at Liberty for a couple of years. I saw that while people were naturally drawn towards bold colours, more often than not, they would opt for the safer options in the end.

I kept that in mind when creating Waffle – I let people have fun with a little splash of colour but on a neutral, adaptable background they feel comfortable with.

Exclusive Burren Waffle Cushion Decorator's Notebook

Burren Waffle Cushion exclusive to Decorator's Notebook

Tell us about your inspiration for the Burren Waffle cushion (above), which you designed exclusively for Decorator’s Notebook?

I grew up in Ireland and The Burren is somewhere we used to visit on school trips. It’s a vast rocky plateau in the West of Ireland and I remember stepping off the bus and feeling like I was on another planet. The slabs of rock are criss-crossed all over with cracks and all the kids would play jumping over the gaps.

From a distance the landscape looks rather bleak but, if you look more closely, you can see all sorts of rare wild flowers growing inside those cracks. The colours the flowers inspired the embroidery and there’s an echo of the texture and tone of the rock in the fabric.

How did you find wool in exactly the right colours?

I use tapestry wool, which gives me access to a fantastic range of colours. My supplier has just sent me a new shade card with more than 400 options so the colour combinations are almost endless!

Reclaimed carpet yarn Waffle Design at Decorator's Notebook (723x800)

{Photographs Yeshen Venema and Decorator’s Notebook}

What’s your next creative milestone?

I’ve recently started experimenting with other materials for the embroidery, like coarser reclaimed carpet yarn and thin strips of leather. Because the waffle fabric is so versatile there are lots of exciting things I’d like to try. I’ve also begun working with a social enterprise in East London to outsource some of the simpler edge sewing, although I’ll always do the embroidery myself. They employ people suffering from anxiety and depression and help them build their independence by providing non-pressured working environment. It’s hard to let go of any element of what I do, but working with them is going to make it easier for me to grow and keep doing what I love best.

Thank you Ciara for the lovely insight into your designs. You can find Ciara’s Burren Waffle cushion (£60) in the Decorator’s Notebook shop and blog readers can order one with FREE UK DELIVERY* using the code BURREN at the checkout.

* Free Standard UK Delivery (£4.95 discount) when you purchase a Burren Waffle cushion at Decorator’s Notebook. This code must be used at the time of ordering and cannot be used in conjunction with other offers or applied to other products. Usual terms apply – please visit our website.

Thoughts on love and home

14 Feb

Decorator's Notebook - always with love

{Decorator’s Notebook}

Homewares made with love make lovelier homes… the simple philosophy that makes Decorator’s Notebook what it is and all we hope it can become.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone xxx

Meet the maker: Hatchet & Bear

12 Feb

In our shop, we’re really proud to sell products that are made all over the world. The Decorator’s Notebook shop is a gentle, but deliberate, kick against high street shops that search only for the nearest, the easiest and the cheapest. Instead, we choose the most authentic, ethical and lovingly-made pieces to be part of our handpicked collection, a journey that takes us as far as Bangladesh and as close as our home county of Somerset, where our talented producer Hatchet & Bear also lives and works. We caught up with woodswoman EJ Osborne to find out a bit more about Hatchet & Bear and learn how our wooden eating bowls and spoons are made.

Scroll down for a very special 20% discount on Hatchet & Bear at Decorator’s Notebook too!

Decorator's Notebook meets EJ Osborne of Hatchet and Bear

Decorator's Notebook meets maker Hatchet & Bear

Can you remember the moment you discovered woodworking?

My earliest memory of carving wood is being nine years old and using a penknife to shave bark from a stick in the garden. It took another 20 odd years and a lot of strange shapes, before I started turning wood.

How did you learn your craft?

I have always been a maker of things… I spent many years being a Jack of all crafts and makery. I studied Arboriculture with the Royal Forestry Society, then I studied Product & Furniture Design at university. I still had no idea where I was going. The turning point was when I caught flu and was bed ridden. I was delirious, got out of bed, ran to the garden, snapped off a tree branch and took to it with a Stanley knife, exclaiming that I needed to carve a spoon. That day ended with a cut finger, but it was also the start of something good for me. I took it as a calling, put everything together and here we are.

What’s the meaning behind the name Hatchet & Bear?

A Hatchet is a small axe, something I use every day, and Bear is my middle name.

Carving a wooden eating spoon step by step Hatchet and Bear

Hatchet and Bear eating spoons for Decorator's Notebook shop

Hatchet and Bear spoons Decorator's Notebook shop

Talk us through your design process when you begin work on something new…

An idea will come to me and I’ll write it down on the ideas list. The ideas list is actually called ‘Woodstuff’. It’s called Woodstuff, to remind me not to go too far with other materials. Wood must be the primary material at all times. Woodstuff is a very long list. Ideas for products get moved up and down the list for many different reasons. An idea at the top of the list will be sketched and prototyped until I’m happy with it – then I’ll test it. Testing it means I’ll use it in my world to determine if it works, how pleasurable it is to use, how lovely it is to look at. The test will end with me trying to break it.

Is it important to you to follow tradition in your tools and methods?

Tradition is very important to me. I use it to learn about tools, techniques, materials and design. Tradition is the foundation of your learning. Once you understand it you can use it as a springboard, bounce off it into the air and then come crashing down on all of it and break it up – create new things, in new ways.

Hatchet and Bear woodcarving Decorator's Notebook

Describe your workspace…

It’s tidy: everything has its place. I spent a considerable amount of time stripping the walls back to Victorian red brick. I don’t understand plaster on brick. It just seems very unnecessary. There is an open fireplace and in the cold months I burn all the shavings and scraps to keep warm. I have an enormous, canvas map of the world on one wall, a large desk, various machines and tools – all concerned with working wood in some form or another. There’s almost always wood shavings on the floor. It can get quite deep. My dog lounges about, napping amongst them.

How do you get to work?

My workshop is located downstairs in my house, so it’s an easy journey to make.

Hatchet and Bear workshop

Hatchet and Bear wooden bowls Decorator's Notebook

paw

Fireplace in Hatchet and Bear workshop Decorator's Notebook

How would you describe the Hatchet & Bear look?

Honest and Useful. It’s about simplicity by design and allowing the wood to do the work. Really, I just take parts of a tree and shape them into useful things. It’s all about the wood.

Hatchet and Bear carving a spoon Decorator's Notebook

Spoon carving by Hatchet and Bear Decorator's Notebook

What’s the most satisfying part of your work?

A new product being ready to go into the online shop feels good. Sending a product off and knowing it’s going out into the real world to be used by someone is great. But nothing beats the feeling of carving fresh green wood, with a razorsharp knife.

What makes a piece of wood good for you to use?

The wood I use comes from a managed, ancient forest in Frome, Somerset. I use the wood from hardwood trees that are native to the British Isles – ensuring incredibly strong and very characterful utensils and bowls. I only really know what a particular piece of wood is good for after I start cutting it up. I work with the wood – using and exploiting natural curves, bends and grain direction, to get the very best design out of it.

What’s your favourite type of wood?

I love them all. Beech, Birch, Lime, Ash, Sycamore, Wild Cherry and Walnut are all ones that are readily available to me. All make amazing bowls and utensils.

Hatchet and Bear wooden bowls and spoons outdoor

Hatchet and Bear eating spoon Decorator's Notebook

If someone hasn’t eaten with a wooden bowl and spoon before, what would you tell them?

You haven’t lived! Ok. Maybe you have, but your life would be so much nicer if you ate a meal from a wooden bowl, with a wooden spoon. It’s quieter. It’s a lovely sound. When we put our wooden plates and bowls away after washing up, there is no awful noise. The same at breakfast time. I like the thought of my child eating from something that is directly from our earth, having undergone the most minimal process.

What’s your next creative milestone?

My spoon carving courses, starting in spring. It will be a big creative milestone – inventing different ways to teach new skills so others can go and make their own utensils.

Decorator's Notebook meets Hatchet and Bear

{all photographs Hatchet & Bear}

Thanks so much to EJ for the fantastic insight into her craft. To help you experience the joy of eating from a wooden bowl and spoon for yourself (we’re already converted) we’ve added a very special 20% Hatchet & Bear discount at the Decorator’s Notebook shop.

Choose either a Walnut Eating Spoon or Birch Eating Bowl and Spoon Set and enter code HBDN20 at the checkout until Friday 28th February. Feel free to share the code and picture below with your friends and followers.

Hatchet and Bear sale discount 20% at Decorator's Notebook Shop

Meet the maker: Merrick Angle (aka Double Merrick)

23 Jan

It was a strange set of coincidences that first led me to discover the work of Merrick Angle, a British born illustrator living and working in a renovated farmhouse in France. Several years later, when Joe and I were choosing designers to work with on products for Decorator’s Notebook, I knew straight away that Merrick was the perfect person to create a screen print that would capture our nostalgic love of the great outdoors. And so our exclusive Campfire Screen Print was born!

We caught up with Merrick to find out more about his life in France, his passion for retro advertising and why one in ten of his designs stays shut in a drawer.

Merrick Angle

Campfire screen print from Decorator's Notebook

How did you come to be an Englishman living in France?

By accident really. I met my wife when she was studying in Paris. After a whirlwind courtship we got married, lived in Yorkshire for a bit, then Paris. Finally, we ended up in The Limousin because she was offered a job down here. Ten years and two kids later we are still here!

double merrick house in france

double merrick house france design sponge

Can you remember the moment you discovered illustration?

I think it has always been there. I’ve been lucky enough to grow up always surrounded by art and interesting things. I was always drawing and collecting as a kid.

Where did you learn your craft?

I’d like to say Art College, but I only really went there to meet girls. Everything useful I have ever learnt about the creative process came from my Mother, who is an abstract painter. The business side of things pretty much comes from one year I spent working for my Dad in the early noughties. My Dad is basically like Alexi Sayle crossed with Tony Soprano, but he is a sales genius. It was a crazy year, but everything I know about negotiation and running my own business can be traced back to that time.

Double Merrick kitchen design sponge

piano double merrick design sponge

How would you describe the Double Merrick look?

I usually say, scuzzy pop art. Something from an advertising hording that got propped up against a wall in a barn. It got forgotten about, all mildewed up, doesn’t really make sense in the way it was meant to anymore. Bam! You have the essence of Double Merrick.

Talk us through your design process when you work on something new…

Most of the time it starts with a ‘find’. I spend a good deal of time going round trocs and brocantes. Some things just strike a chord with you, most of the time you don’t know why, and the print is often the by-product of trying to work out “why”? I take it back home, scan it, mess around with it. When I finally get something I will put to one side for a few weeks until I can view it again with fresh eyes. This time spent “shut in a drawer” generally decides if something is worth putting out. Because my style is quite simple, it doesn’t really take me very long to complete something. Yet, I have to generate a lot of ideas to find the good stuff. For every ten pieces I do only one or two will get saved.

double merrick house in france detail

double merrick bathroom

How has living in France influenced your designs?

I was thinking about this the other day. Would it be the same if I lived anywhere else? I am not sure, really. I would still like the things that I like. Be inspired by the eras and objects that inspire me. Yet, there is something romantic and compelling about the French visual culture of the 20th century and a little of that seeps through into Double Merrick.

Describe your workspace…

My studio/office is the old dining room in our house. I was in what was the old toilet upstairs, but I ran out of space quite quickly, so I graduated to a proper office. In it there are a couple of desks (one for my computer, one for packaging up orders) an armchair for the dog, a bookshelf with all my finds on, and a notorious tin box in which I keep my stock.

What can we see from your window?

As views go, it isn’t bad. I look out over fields and a couple of cows.

Double Merrick workspace 1

Double merrick workspace 2

What’s the most satisfying part of your work?

There are loads of satisfying parts to what I do, but I’d have to say people parting with their hard earned cash to live with something I have designed. I thought it would be a feeling I would get used to, but I never have. I consider it to be the ultimate compliment… someone making the decision to make your work a part of their everyday lives.

Double_Merrick_screen_print_60_Decorator_s_Notebook_1024x1024

Merrick’s A2 Campfire Screen Print ‘Feux de Camp’ costs £60 and is exclusively available at Decorator’s Notebook.

{Room photographs ©Merrick Angle / Product photographs ©Decorator’s Notebook}

Our gingerbread tags in Sunday Times Style!

17 Dec

Hope you’ve enjoyed having a go at your own gingerbread tags and garlands… I’ve just got my hands on the page in Sunday Times Style where they were featured so thought I’d pop it up here so you can have a look!

Decorator's Notebook in Sunday Times Style

Decorator's Notebook featured in Sunday Times Style

{© Sunday Times Style}

Meet the maker: Basha kantha blankets

10 Dec

The stories our makers share are always inspiring, but the story of Basha – the organisation that makes our beautiful new Kantha Bedspreads – is so powerful that it actually took my breath away. Last week I interviewed Robin Seyfert, Basha’s founder, to find out more about the lives of the women she employs and the change that investing in one of their blankets can bring.

Kanthas handmade in Bangladesh Decorator's Notebook

What is Basha and how did you come to found it?

Basha is a social enterprise based in Bangladesh which provides long term employment to women at risk and survivors of trafficking. I came here in 2006 with the Mennonite Central Committee to promote HIV awareness and met many women working as prostitutes. I was shocked at how the overwhelming majority had been sold, coerced, or forced into sex work. You hear so much about cross-border trafficking but here it was happening right in the heart of their own community.  They were so painfully ashamed of their lives and desperate for options.

We started a job training program which provided women with a stipend to stay out of prostitution and to develop work skills for one year. We accepted 26 women, expecting half to drop out, but all 26 completed and went on to work for MCC projects. However, while it became clear that candidates were without limit, appropriate employment opportunities at the end of their training were sparse.  When I finished my MCC contract, I spent six months preparing to open Basha in May 2011 with 15 women and now employ 50.

kantha stitching blanket Basha Decorator's Notebook

Can you share some of the stories you hear from women you work with?

Vulnerability is the common theme – being poor, widowed, orphaned, abandoned – followed by someone stepping in to ‘help’ who leads them into lives with deep shame and little hope of redemption. In Bangladesh, once someone’s reputation is compromised, she is considered ‘ruined’ in the eyes of society and it is very difficult to be accepted again.  Here are a couple examples [names have been changed]:

“Madiha” was abused in her village when she was about 13 years old and after an aborted pregnancy, followed a neighbour to Dhaka to work in a garment factory.  After three months work, yet receiving no salary, she went to the Mazar (a religious site where many vulnerable people go for refuge) where she was approached and offered domestic work. Instead, was taken to brothel and sold. She was there for five months until a client helped her escape over the wall, but her family rejected her. Alone in Dhaka, she became a floating sex worker until she was imprisoned in a vagrants home for two years. Now Madiha is just completing her training and recently started to sew at Basha.

“Joya” married when she was young and gave birth to a son, but two years later her husband died. She married again but her second husband beat her and didn’t support her family. Joya started cooking at a house where several men lived, but the men there abused her and she was eventually led into prostitution. Joya’s son drowned when he was six years old but she continues to work hard to improve life for her two daughters. Joya wants her to get a good education so that she can support herself even if she marries a poor man. She would like to move to Basha’s new office with her youngest daughter when it opens next year.

handmade kantha blankets from Decorator's Notebook by Basha uk

How do women make the transition from the streets to a job at Basha?

Basha partners with two training programs that provide a year or more of rehabilitation and training. Pobitra primarily targets women in street based prostitution and the Children’s Uplift Programme works with mothers living on the streets. Both programmes provide financial support which allows the women to find suitable housing and walk away from their pimps or brokers. They receive counselling, literacy training, life skill development, and support to get their children into education. Once their lives have stabilised they are interviewed by Basha and begin work here for a few hours each week, until they eventually become full time.

Employing women recovering from such difficult lives must present challenges day-to-day?

It’s difficult to find a balance between being sensitive to the women who are still recovering and continue to face huge challenges, and yet also helping them rise above their past. Some women face abuse from their husbands and come to work in pain, while others struggle with depression or angry outbursts. We try to instill in them a sense of ownership in Basha and encourage them into leadership roles, so they aspire to new heights, for themselves and their children.

How do the women feel about making such a dramatic change?

One of my favourite responses is when they reach out to help others out of bad situations. We brought a woman off the streets once who had suffered a mental breakdown. She kicked her colleagues, spat on them, interrupted their work, but they stuck by her until she recovered. They continue to bring in others to the training programmes and have they found several who were in the process of being trafficked, taking women and children into their homes until they could get help. One of my biggest dreams is for them to be lights in their communities, so when I see these things, I’m most proud of them.

Kantha blankets from Decorator's Notebook made by women from Basha

Describe a typical day at Basha…

The women drop their children off at daycare and start the morning with a prayer. Everyone then gets busy with their work until they have snacks around 10am.  They have classes between 11-12am where they continue their Bangla literacy training, learn basic English, life skills, health education, and other topics. They go to the daycare and feed their children at lunchtime and there’s another break in the afternoon to do some stretching exercises. The day finishes at 5pm and they can do some work at home as well to increase their income.

child attending Basha daycare

How does the working environment at Basha differ from other places women might be employed in Dhaka?

Basha’s aim is to run more like a cooperative, so from the first day they arrive, women are told that Basha is our business; not the shareholders’ or directors’. Each person is responsible for making it work and we all have our part to play. We keep managers’ salaries at a reasonable ratio to those in production and pay a day rate for attendance plus a piece rate for each kantha they make. As women learn to work faster, they receive higher wages and almost all the earn well over the local minimum wage: some earn as much as a manager would in a garment factory. Last year we made a profit for the first time and all the women working in production received a share.

While the women are working we provide full-time daycare for all their children, support their schooling and provide food supplements throughout the day. We pay 75% of their medical expenses and in a few cases, provide psychiatric care too. Women are paid to participate in classes and counselling so they are not stressed about lost wages as they take part. The women here never have to worry about working in a dangerous place, being mistreated, not receiving their pay or working abusive hours, which are all too common in the local garments industry.

Kantha blankets made by Basha at Decorator's Notebook uk

Tell us a little about the kantha tradition and why you chose this product to make at Basha?

Kantha is a long tradition of stitching layers of discarded sari cloth together to create a blanket. Bangladeshis use these to wrap newborns, to cover a bed, to provide warmth in the winter, and so many other uses. It’s such a humble item of day-to-day life here, most Bangladeshis are surprised by the broad appeal internationally. We also realised it was a good product for our employees to make as it is familiar to them, even though they probably hadn’t made them to our standards and specifications before coming to Basha. The picture of something beautiful being created from something previously discarded also symbolises the change we see in women’s lives so perfectly.

How is a kantha blanket made?

Saris are purchased, washed, and matched with a coordinating sari.  A double kantha, such as Decorator’s Notebook sells, takes about 47 hours to make by hand. The cloth is cut and machine stitched side by side, then layered and held tautly with bricks on the corners. The edges are basted by hand while they are still stretched by the bricks. The women then start stitching the neat careful rows, also all by hand and finally they attach a label embroidered with their name. They are really proud of the work they do and that the products they make are going all over the world.

Kantha blankets uk Decorator's Notebook

What are your hopes for the future?

Basha currently has a steady stream of new women joining us from two training programs in two areas of Bangladesh. In a country of 162,000,000 people, we know there are thousands of women trapped in lives they are deeply ashamed of. Basha wants to be a brand that is respected and known as selling beautiful high quality products, so we can continue to grow to provide more jobs, freedom and dignity to thousands of women.

Thank you for this wonderful insight Robin… we are so proud to be the only UK stockist of Kantha bedspreads handmade by the brave women at Basha. Each one is unique and costs £165 (with free UK delivery) from the Decorator’s Notebook shop. We hope you love them as much as we do!

employee at Basha

{Photographs courtesy of Basha / Decorator’s Notebook}

New arrivals in the shop!

6 Dec

We’ve been busy bees adding more beautiful items to our virtual shelves… what do you think of the things we’ve picked? Enamel billy can from Decorator's Notebook First up is our classic Enamel Billy Can, guaranteed to make you feel like your favourite member of the Famous Five whether you’re camping, hiking or on the allotment. A bargain at £15 and ergonomically designed to slip into a stocking! Shoreline plates from Decorator's Notebook I picked these Shoreline Plates because they’re just so effortlessly stylish. They’re made from fine moulded clay and have a lovely rippled surface that’s really organic and tactile. Green Glass Bottle Vases from Decorator's Notebook These Green Glass Bottles are the newest addition to our range of fairtrade products. They’re all individually blown using age old techniques by artisans in India, and each one has a unique pattern of bubbles and natural impurities in the glass. They’re just £7.95 each and the two shapes look lovely as a pair or group. Tiny hanging picture frames from Decorator's Notebook Obviously I love everything in our Collection but these Tiny Hanging Picture Frames are one of my favourites. They’re an exact miniature of our popular Double Sided Picture Frames with a sari hanging ribbon that makes them perfect as personalised tree decorations, placenames or wedding favours. They’re just so cute! ribbons and twine from Decorator's Notebook Finally there are some lovely new arrivals in our Styling Toolkit range to help you put the finishing touches to your Christmas gift wrapping, including luxury Sari Ribbon (£12.95), Braided Cord (£12.95) and a Coloured Twine Trio (£9.95) all wound on reusable vintage wood bobbins. And of course, they’ll all go brilliantly with our free printable gift tags!

You’ll find all these and so many more lovely gift ideas in the Decorator’s Notebook shop – we’re looking forward to seeing you!

Decorator's Notebook Shop www decoratorsnotebook.co.uk

Free printable! Illustrated holiday gift tags

21 Nov

This is the first time I’ve reblogged an archive post (I won’t be making a habit of it) but I thought it would be good to share our free gift tags with you a second time because we posted them a bit too late last year and I know a lot of you missed the chance to use them.

So, last Christmas I designed this lovely set of hand-drawn Christmas / holiday gift tags as a little present for you to download and print at home. Joe and I are already busy designing this year’s set which will be available soon, but in the meantime, here’s another chance to grab the 2012 design.

free printable holiday gift tags

free printable christmas gift tags

16 free gift tags to download and print

{© Decorator’s Notebook / Photographs Joe John}

There are 16 different designs which are easy to download and print on whatever card you like. We used A4 kraft (from eBay) but some readers got really creative with these last year and even got their kids involved colouring in the pictures.

They’re free for everyone… all we ask is that you share a link via Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or Facebook. You’re also welcome to include them on your own blog too, but please enter into the Christmas spirit and share a link to this post rather than pinching the download link!

PLEASE SHARE THIS POST then click here to download your free gift tags PDF

 

Visit Decorator's Notebook Shop www.decoratorsnotebook.co.uk

15% off at Decorator’s Notebook ends tomorrow!

9 Nov

dipped terracotta discount

Simply click this link to LIKE US ON FACEBOOK and CLAIM YOUR DISCOUNT

Happy shopping! www.decoratorsnotebook.co.uk

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