Every producer presents new challenges but our aim is always to identify potential for developing independence and growth at every level. Without that spark of innate motivation on their side, our efforts fail.
Since 2007, Lanka Kade had struggled to secure a continual source of quality handloom fabrics for our soft toy range. Many attempts were made to work with weaving groups around the country, including in the Eastern conflict zone. Sadly the quality of colour, weave and supply remained elusive. We followed so many leads that inevitably lead us to dead ends.
In 2010, we stumbled upon two highly skilled weavers off the beaten track. Both exceeded retirement age, but continued to work for minimal financial reward. They had skills we wanted, and we had work that their skills warranted.
The building was in need of repair, as was the toilet, the roof and the looms. There was no access to clean water or electricity, and the pair lacked basic literacy skills. Despite their age, these artisans were clearly ambitious and committed to their craft.
In 2011, Upul met with the Government Handloom Authority, the building owners. Would the authorities accept our proposal to provide long-term work direct to the weavers? Would they allow them to take on a lease agreement with financial responsibility for building repair and maintenance?
Unfortunately, the weavers lacked any form or history of financial security and the authorities would only agree to Lanka Kade taking on the lease. It was at least a starting point...
The first tentative steps were taken; once they had woven samples that achieved our quality, Diane and Upul visited Sri Lanka to discuss at length the mountain of issues remaining. There were no simple solutions, but the weavers' honest enthusiasm, close teamwork and immense traditional skill could not go to waste. Lanka Kade had to find a way...
Once the weaving began, Lanka Kade helped the weavers create a structure for handling the financial responsibilities. It was mutually agreed that a percentage of their payment was deposited into a separate business account to cover their lease and other business expenses. Instantly, the weavers' take home pay had tripled, due to the continuity of work and a higher rate per metre.
Our counterpart in Sri Lanka continues to help the weavers maintain their accounts. The latest news is that word has spread and Lanka Kade is now working with five fantastic weavers!
It's not as simple as flicking the kettle on out there. However, the weavers now have access to clean water following our workshop improvement program, and you can see Rajapaksha treating Jason to a cup of Sri Lankan tea.
Please contact us if you wish to purchase bolts of beautiful, bright, cotton handloom fabric.
tel: +44 (0) 1858 463850
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Registered address: Lanka Kade (UK) Ltd, Unit C, Riverside End, Market Harborough, Leicestershire, LE16 7PU.
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Company No: 03994705
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