We owe everything to the grit, hard work and ingenuity of the young people we work with. Their determination to rise above their challenges and express themselves has been channeled into a magical array of products that have wowed discerning buyers and won us a loyal clientele from around the world.
When I was younger, my parents put me in a school in Bodinayakannur, in the foothills of the Western Ghats, while they worked in the tea gardens of Munnar. In 2000, I moved back to Munnar and now I like living here more. The weather, the work, and the people are wonderful. I first worked at Athulya binding books, making greeting cards, and diaries. Then I moved to Aranya where Vicky Ma’am taught me the Shibori technique of dyeing. Now I know it so well, that if someone asks me, I can teach it to them too!
I was watching TV one day and saw a program on the ‘Tree of Life’. I thought to myself that it would be wonderful to create a depiction of it using Shibori with fine stitches and folds. I’m very happy here, but my happiest moment till date was when Vicky Ma’am approved my Tree of Life design. Now my dream is to come up with more and more original Shibori designs.
I’ve been working at Aranya since it started in 1994. My parents work on the tea estates and a Welfare Officer from this area told them I could be trained in vocational skills at DARE. After DARE I came to Aranya where I first learned how to dye fabric and later went through a training program on how to make dyes. I traveled to Phulia and Hyderabad and learned even more at workshops there.
Today I’m an ‘all-rounder’, able to work on every step of the process. But I’m always looking to learn something new. The most exciting moment for me is when I discover a new dye colour. My dream is for Aranya to grow and employ more young people here.
Before I came to Sristhi, I was studying in a Tamil medium school in Kanthaloor, a couple of hours away from Munnar. My family is originally from Kovilpatti in the plains of Tamil Nadu, but for three generations we have come to Munnar to work.
When I came to Munnar after I finished my 10th standard, I first worked at Athulya, the paper unit, for around three years. Then in 1998, I became a part of the Aranya team. I do block printing and sometimes I help with dyeing, but what I enjoy most is printing. I print everything we make; saris, stoles, shirt fabric. I use vegetable dyes and wax print.
My dream is to one day build a house for myself in my hometown of Kovilpatti.
Our range of colors and designs are a source of enormous pride and are a testament to the hard work and expertise of each one of our artisans who come to work every day excited to learn something new.
When a newcomer arrives at Aranya Natural, they are trained by our volunteer trainers for about six months on skills particular to their aptitude and interests. There is work here even for trainees with more severe challenges. They handle lighter processes but soon prove themselves and are eager to master more complex skills.
Aranya Natural’s senior artisans are now experts themselves and involved in training new entrants. Members of our team attend international workshops, symposiums and exhibitions of natural dyes to learn cutting edge techniques and hone their craft.
We also regularly host textile professionals of national and international renown who visit us in misty Munnar and train our artisans. Aranya Natural is fortunate to count internationally acclaimed Japanese textile artist and researcher, Yoshiko Iwamoto Wada, as mentor to our young learners.
Every day at Aranya Natural new colors are born and new patterns take shape. Our team is constantly innovating to keep our work alive and original. Arumugam, a Shibori artist at Aranya Natural designed a new technique in this traditional Japanese art, which Ms Wada named ‘Aru Shibori’ after its creator.