This month, I spent two amazing, awe inspiring, eye opening weeks in India. To say it was a great trip would be an understatement.
I went as part of Ritchie Ace Camp’s Block Printing in Jaipur workshop, and while I was there, I also took an obligatory trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and bookended my stay by visiting my sister-in-law, who lives in Dehli.
I have so much to share from the actual trip, but coming down from this kind of adventure has me in a reflective mood, so I want to share a few things that have been kicking around in my brain.
Since these ideas will definitely influence the future of my brand going forward (in ways that I’m sure I can’t possibly fathom right now) it only seems right to share them here, in no particular order.
The way we dress in America is kind of boring. Ok, let’s just get this one out of the way. For the most part, the clothing we wear here is boring. And don’t even get me started on our accessories. (Or lack there of.) Even though I was in Jaipur as part of a textile workshop, I still managed to make time to rekindle my passion for jewelry. Because, let’s face it, India does jewelry really well. What I’m most drawn to are the boldest expressions of Indian jewelry, including stacks of bangles and tribal jewelry from Rajasthan. I’m so inspired by the layering and piling on of jewelry (not to mention the layering and mixing of pattern).
I’m not advocating that we adopt the dress and style of a completely different culture, but I am advocating we embrace something I’m calling “Bold Accessorizing” which basically means piling on lots of big, bold jewelry (plus maybe a scarf or too), because it’s fun! (But also because I think dressing bold can help us be more bold, which is something I’ll come back to later.)
Even adding an extra accessory or two can change the way we feel about ourselves and it’s time to embrace that it’s ok to have fun and be bold and experimental with the way we dress!
The world is big and diverse and we should see as much of it as possible. When I was fourteen, I went with my mom, sister, and a group of other Americans to Russia. It was 1996, just a few years after the end of Communism. It was also my first trip abroad. While there, we studied the traditional arts and craft still being produced in Russia, and even stayed with the families of artisans there. It was an amazing, awe inspiring, life changing trip, and I felt sure that my trip to India was going to be the same. It did not disappoint.
This trip solidified what I had always sort of believed – that travel is one of the most important things we can do if we want to be informed, empathetic, whole human beings. The act of being somewhere wholly different than the places we are familiar with can only serve to expand our thinking and make us better people. If we want people to get along, we should all make an effort to expose ourselves to as many different cultures as possible.
Since I turned 30 a few years ago, I’ve made a commitment to myself to make travel a priority. It’s not something I want to put off for “someday,” rather it’s something I’m making a conscious effort to do now. But I also realize that not everyone has the means to travel as much as I do. (Though it really doesn’t take as much as people think.) So it’s also really important that we expose ourselves to the the best aspects of other cultures through the tools we all have at our disposal – books, magazines, TV and movies, and the amazingness that is the Internet. (I’m looking at you Pinterest.) And that means those of us who do travel should share as much as we can as often as we can.
Amazing things are being made all over the world. So let me start by saying I LOVED shopping in India. It might be my favorite part of the trip. To be fair, I do love shopping anywhere. But shopping in India was a whole other world, filled with amazing objects and things I just couldn’t resist bringing home.
While I was in Jaipur, I also got to see amazing textiles being made first-hand. I watched master artisans carve wood blocks for printing, and more masters stamping and dyeing and creating beautiful things. There are amazing people in Jaipur and Bagru committed to preserving an ancient craft and doing so in as environmentally sustainable way as possible.
Now here’s where this post might get a little contentious, depending on who is reading it. As I watched these people work, I had to question some of the core ideas around the Made in America movement. I couldn’t help but wonder, why should what I make be deemed better just because I happen to be born in one country rather than another? Shouldn’t we be celebrating amazing things made around the world?
I’m not saying there is merit to things made in American, and I’m not saying we shouldn’t do everything we can to keep crafts traditions alive here. (You don’t get a BFA and MFA in crafts without thinking they’re important.) But what I am saying is that cool products are being made everywhere in the world, and if they’re done in a sustainable way that provides living income for the people making them, what’s wrong with supporting that too?
So while I’ll continue to make jewelry in the US (because I’m here, and my production manager is here, and quite frankly, it’s working) I want to bring a more global focus to my brand as well. Because there are amazing people making amazing things all over the world, and I want to experience and celebrate that. One country is not better than another. We all have amazing strengths and things we do well, and when we recognize that, it makes the whole world better.
Plus, I really liked shopping in India, and wouldn’t it be great to have more of an excuse to do that?