MarketPlace: Handwork of India

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MarketPlace: Handwork of India works with over 400 artisans, most of whom are women, who are organized into 13 independent cooperatives in India. Four of these cooperatives are Fabric Artisans, who dye our custom fabrics using an array of traditional techniques including hand block printing, ikat, batik and tie-dye. The other nine are the Artisan Cooperatives, where the fabric is cut, sewn and hand embroidered to complete the products.

The artisan cooperatives are the center of the MarketPlace model of development. In a cooperative environment, each artisan is supported in her quest for economic security and personal fulfillment in an atmosphere of mutual support and acceptance. The artisans are involved in all aspects of running their businesses, from learning stitches to managing finances and making decisions about the future of the group. Artisans can advance to more responsible roles inside of their cooperative, and leadership positions rotate so that different women can have the experience of being in charge.

In monthly meetings, the member artisans discuss such things as quality control, delivery schedules, and production planning and resolve any issues as a group. Representatives of the different cooperatives also meet, and often more established groups help newer, smaller groups with training or advice or other assistance. In addition, the fabric supplier cooperatives get together with the producer cooperatives every other month to review fabric quality, delivery and payment arrangements. They visit each others’ workshops so they can understand the processes as well as so that they can meet and talk with one another.

This regular interaction helps tie the different groups together in the larger MarketPlace community. The cooperatives also sometimes collaborate to plan and carry out Social Programs aimed at improving life in their communities. The supportive relationships both within each cooperative and between the various groups are important for the artisans as they deal with the changes and uncertainties of life. MarketPlace is known for its use of hand-dyed cotton that incorporates traditional Indian techniques and motifs in more contemporary fabric designs. We work closely with our fabric artisans using their traditional skills to develop our unique fabrics. The embroidery artisans are involved at the design development stage and contribute their talents and art. The result is a line of garments that are unusual, sometimes dramatic and much appreciated by the American customer who values handmade works of art.

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