Today I have a super special designer interview to share: Jodie Fried of Bholu. The women who make the Bholu pillows and toys are not just manufacturers, they are true artisans and Jodie has given them the platform and opportunity to make a living in majorly underprivileged areas of India. The products are inspired from children’s drawings AND Jodie has worked to provide these underprivileged and malnourished kids schools, food and incredible care. All of this while following strict Fair Trade practices. Inspiring? Yes, I do think so.
Where does the word Bholu come from?
Bholu was born after I had been living in India for a couple of years. I had gone to India on a scholarship to work as a set & costume designer for a traditional Indian dance company. I had been working there and fell in love with the country and its people. After the devastating Jan 2001 earthquake, which flattened most of Gujarat, I went to assist aid for a traditional village situated in the desert region of Kutchchh, in Western Gujarat, India, near the border of Pakistan. I worked with a NGO (non government organization) based at the Mahatma Ghandi Ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, my job was to help build huts and traditionally decorate them.
I experienced amazing hospitality by these incredibly rural and poor traditional people. I became particularly close with the women, whose beautiful traditional embroidery is only really used for their own clothing. They are amazing women; they have bangles up to their armpits and do their embroidery with a child strapped to their back in low light. Their skill and art amazed me, and I thought immediately, I have to do something with this.
A few years later, I went back with my designs and gave the samples to different village women to see what would happen. I achieved some amazing results, which excited me and started the possibility for production. The women laughed at the lack of sophistication of my designs and thought that their “Bholu” could do better! (Bholu meaning a small child, often a term of endearment to a grandchild). The name stuck and Bholu was born!
The craftswomen in Gujarat traditionally are all skilled in embroidery, it is a skill that is passed form generation to generation. Each village, in each area in each part of the state is known for their particular type of embroidery. This is only done by women. Men are known for their woodcarving. The products they make are only for their own use. They embroidery their own elaborate clothes, their daughter’s dowry, ornamental pieces for their homes, their own bags etc. The community I started with do not do any of this for commercial use.
I sometimes feel like a conductor of a creative orchestra. I love the circle of creativity in which Bholu fosters starting from the children and their creativity and the women and their craft. The products are merely a result and reason for Bholu existing. We end up with a beautiful designed product, which has passed through so many hands and creative processes to end up in our living rooms. The products, part from being useful are also meant to provide inspiration and awareness for ethical consumerism.
India is a crazy, crazy wonderful place. The people made me fall in love with the country. They are such generous, hardworking people where life revolves around family, food, colour and festivities. It is a country of such richness from all walks of life there. The bonds I have formed with the women, their families, the children in our schools and the artisans we work with, inspire me to Read the rest of this entry »