Anyone who knows a little about India, may ask why visit Bhopal. Bhopal is the capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh in India, it is known as the City of Lakes and it is about 40% Muslim, but is not a tourist destination. In fact, while I was there I could count on a few fingers the number of foreigners I saw. An Indian friend who owns a home décor business invited me there. And since I had always wanted to go to India, I replied with a big ”Yes!”. I imagined that my visit would be a great opportunity to source and design products for the fair trade organization I worked for.
My first four days in India were spent in New Delhi getting acclimated to the climate, food and overpopulation. On my fourth day in Delhi, I arrived at the train station at 6:30 am to catch the express train to Bhopal. I was shocked by the smell and by the sight of so many people, young and old, sleeping on the floor. It made me feel terrible. I thanked God for my life, but my sorrows went out to the innocent children, born into this world and forced to sleep on a dirty, hard floor with little or no blanket, and no understanding of the comforts we take for granted.
In Bhopal, the manager of the home décor workshop, Sudhir and his niece, Sanga, were eagerly awaiting my arrival. As the passengers got off, there was a mad rush of people pushing through and trying to get out of the train station. I didn’t understand, if half the people would wait a little bit, the whole transition out of the train station would have been a lot smoother, but that is the way things go in India. There is no order and lots of chaos!
Sanga showing me hand embroidery work Sudhir proudly wearing a New Orleans t-shirt I gave him
Sudhir and Sanga took every precaution to get me out of the train station safely, including telling me exactly where to walk. They were very worried about protecting me and wanted to make sure they were treating me like a princess. In the Hindu religion, it is said that you should treat guest like Gods and that is exactly how I was treated. Sanga, who is a sweet, young girl, likes to dress in modern clothing and speaks only the best English. And even though she does not work in the workshop, she acted as my personal translator during my visit.
When we arrived at the workshop, everyone was eagerly awaiting my arrival. Most of them had never met someone from outside of India. I can only imagine them telling the story to all their friends as “the time a foreigner came to visit the workshop and bought products to be sent back to America!” The next few days were spent getting to know the ethics, values and products that are made by the home décor business.
After visiting parts of South and Central America, Europe, Northern Africa and South East Asia, in the summer of 2012 I had a wonderful opportunity to visit India. I made the trip in order to source and design new products for the fair trade organization I was working for and to see first hand the many benefits of fair trade. I was in India for 5 weeks visiting Delhi, Bhopal, Mcleodganj and Rajasthan.
The arts and culture of India fascinate me, but India has a problem with overpopulation from the crowded streets of Delhi to the mountains in the North. However despite India’s population problems, Indians are always willing to accommodate one more, and India was without a doubt accommodating to me.
In bustling Delhi, I had a list of fair trade stores, but with only their addresses it was a challenge to find them all. Locating the stores was like a scavenger hunt. I would take the metro, get off at the nearest stop, call for an auto rickshaw driver, who didn’t always take me to the right place, and then I sweated profusely in the 105 degree weather as I walked around looking for the right location. I laugh about it now, but when my feet had two layers of dirt on them and I was dehydrated, I wasn’t laughing.
In Bhopal, I visited a friend’s home décor workshop that employs village women with fair wages to do hand embroidery work. And I even got to go to an Indian wedding. Click here to read more.
In the North of India, in Mcleodganj, not only did I see beautiful mountains, but I also visited the Louisiana Himalayan Association, which has helped bridge the gap between US volunteers and Tibetan refugee aid since 1977. There I purchased products made by the Tibetan refugees. The income from the products supports their unimaginably tough journey of relocation from their homeland to India.
In the state of Rajasthan, I visited a rural village that practiced organic farming. In Jaipur, a city in Rajasthan, I enjoyed my favorite part of my trip, learning The Art of Hand Block Printing. It was an amazing trip, please read on about how my visit to Bhopal led me to start my own company.
Passion Lilie did not appear overnight; there has been a succession of events in my life leading up to this moment. Passion Lilie is my destiny.
In high school, when we had to research three careers, my choices were: costume/ fashion designer, boutique owner and interior designer. Then I went to college at UC Irvine where I worked night and day, both in the classroom and in the theater, alongside professionals, teachers and graduate students to soak up all the knowledge I could about costume design. I continued to work in costume design after college in several theaters in California.
During that time, I also took every opportunity that I could to travel around the world, having visited and lived in about 26 different countries. These travels have allowed me to connect with numerous different people and amazing cultures. I’ve learned to appreciate the opportunities given to me, and have cultivated a desire to help others in need.
Throughout my studies as a Master’s student in the South of France I learned about ethical and sustainable fashion. A whole new world opened up for me; it felt like a perfect combination of my passions and values in life.
When I moved to New Orleans, I got a job as the Executive Director of a fair trade organization, where I gained a deep understanding of fair trade from a marketing, production and social stand points.
In the summer of 2012, I went to India to visit a workshop in Bhopal, India where I designed and manufactured dresses for the organization I was working for. After working with Indian artisans, I was invited to visit a poor village where several of them lived. The feelings and emotions I felt when I arrived at the village are virtually indescribable.
The absolute, most amazing experience was when I asked a struggling single mother what she would choose if she could have anything in the world? The woman answered, “Happiness and prosperity for my children”. My heart was truly touched and so I asked the workshop owner if it was appropriate to give her money. He said, “No, they don’t want money. They want jobs.” At that moment, I realized what was to be my mission in life. I went back to New Orleans, put the pieces of the puzzle together and by January of 2013, Passion Lilie started to bloom.
Click here to read more about Passion Lilie.
First the designer creates a design or pattern for the fabric on the computer or paper. A master craftsman then traces the design onto the block and chips away the block to create the design. Creating the block can take 7 to 10 days, depending on the complexity of the design.
The fabric is pre-washed in the river in order to reduce water consumption. It is then bleached or dyed, laid flat on a table and fixed firmly to the table with pins. Four to five basic colors are used that are mixed together to form a multitude of colors. The colors are sometimes made with vegetables or plants in order to create a natural dye. The process of block printing is done from left to right during which the woodenblock is dipped in acolor tray then applied by pressing it hardly on the cloth.
Good printing requires skill and practice in order to create uniformity and clear block printing patterns. The duration and cost for printing depends on the number of colors used i.e. single color printing takes less time and has a lower cost whereas two or more color printing requires more time, hard work and ink.