2019

The Community of Patchwork Artisans

Dastkari Haat Samiti

Patchwork

Patchwork: Community, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Purkal Youth Development Society School in Purkal
Purkal is a small village in the hill state of Uttarakhand. Located on the outskirts of the capital town of Dehra Dun, it is surrounded on all sides by hills dotted with small towns and villages. A retired couple, Mr GK Ramaswamy and his wife Chinny, who moved here from Mumbai in 1998 with a desire to do social work, began by setting up a modest school for needy village children.
Patchwork: Environment, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Purkal is a small village in the hill state of Uttarakhand.

Located on the outskirts of the capital town of Dehra Dun, it is surrounded on all sides by hills dotted with small towns and villages

Patchwork: Organisation, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

A modest hand painted sign board guides visitors through a quiet street to the Purkal Stree Shakti Samiti workplace and showroom.

Patchwork: Organisation, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The Ramaswamys began their stay in the village by setting up the Purkal Youth Development Society which runs a school for local children.

Patchwork: Community, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The children attending the Purkal Youth Development Society school get ready to mount their bus to school.

Patchwork: Community, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

G.K.Ramaswamy and his wife Chinny, moved from Mumbai to Uttarakhand and took up a completely unknown vocation of social work after retiring from government service.

Patchwork: Environment, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The school is clean, bright and serves the families of the embroiderers as well as communities from adjoining villages.

Patchwork: Environment, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Children at the school get education, uniforms, a mid-morning snack and lunch provided free.

Patchwork: Environment, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Two students at the Purkal school confer in a private corner.

Patchwork: Environment, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

A simple nourishing lunch is served to the children by school staff.

Patchwork: Environment, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The class room for younger students is a big and welcoming area for creativity and play.

When children are well-cared for, mothers feel free to give their full attention to doing their patchwork embroidery which is now well acclaimed.

Patchwork: Process, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
Laying the foundation for Purkal Stree Shakti Samiti
In the process of setting up the school, the Ramaswamys met many village women who brought their children to enroll in the school. They shared their desire to work to earn some money to supplement their family incomes. Chinny Ramaswamy felt she had no talent but cooking so, in 2002 she taught them to prepare and package salty snacks to sell. Sadly, for various reasons, they could not sustain this activity for too long.
Patchwork: Process, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Since an increasing number of women in rural areas across India aspire to earn something extra on their own, they offer their home-taught occupation of embroidery which is generally considered a simple leisure activity.

The talent for anyone assisting such women is to combine their simple existing skills with training, design, quality enhancement and effective marketing.

The women in Purkal said they could embroider and sew. They also possessed sewing machines as these are commonly given to brides in traditional societies as part of their trousseau.

With careful and meticulous training, today, unskilled householders have become masters of their craft. An organization called Purkal Stree Shakti Samiti (Purkal Women’s Power Association) was formed.

Patchwork: Process, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Work areas allow women, especially with small children, maximum stress-free informality and comfort.

Patchwork: Process, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Workspaces at Purkal Stree Shakti Samiti are both formally and informally arranged according to the work at hand.

Sewing machines are of high quality and allow the users deftness and variety in tailoring.

Patchwork: Process, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Groups of embroiderers enjoy the freedom of sitting anywhere in comfort

Patchwork: Team, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti
The Way forward
An organization called Purkal Stree Shakti Samiti (Purkal Women’s Power Association) was formed by Ramaswamys. Together they demonstrate the power of women which is the main goal of their organization. The excellence in skill, good organizational practices and transparent, humane operational methods make them a model to be followed.
Patchwork: Environment, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The interior of the home of a Purkal Stree Shakti embroiderer is a vast improvement over what their living conditions were before they began work at the centre.

Patchwork: Environment, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

The family home of a patchwork embroiderer no longer reflects the earlier underprivileged status of its occupants.

Patchwork: Environment, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Purkal streets where the women and their families live are clean and quiet. They demonstrate how opportunities for better earnings empowers the entire community.

Patchwork: Team, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Chinny Ramaswamy, with a stark white hair, and her group of women from Purkal village in Uttarakhand hold up a masterpiece of hand embroidery and patchwork.

Patchwork: Team, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

They are the core of the Purkal Stree Shakti Samiti that emerged after the school was established.

Patchwork: Product, 2019-03, From the collection of: Dastkari Haat Samiti

Read more about patchwork here.
-Process
-A Range of Products
- Store & Marketing

Dastkari Haat Samiti
Credits: Story

Text: Jaya Jaitly and Charu Verma
Photography: Chirodeep Chaudhuri, Charu Verma
Artisans: Purkal Stree Shakti
Ground Facilitator: Charu Verma
Documentary Video: Chirodeep Chaudhuri
Curation: Ruchira Verma

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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