I left the house at 10AM this morning with Jharna (the textile expert that works with Deepa) and we headed back to the factory to give the colors for the custom prints as well as the 60 meters of cotton satin we had bought for them. I thought it was going to be a drop and run sort of excursion but it turned into a day I will never forget.
I had sent these designs for the Inn to D a few months back and had no idea that it could actually come to fruition-no way hose b (for you K80). The leaf actually came from the snapdragon itself so they really are custom for our Inn. I thought it would amazing if we could get one done but look what we did! First let me set the scene, as I do.
When we arrived at the factory, we were taken into the owner's office. He was a rotund Indian man, dressed all in white with a gold chain peeking through. From this point on, I had NO idea what was going on and felt more like I was in the Hindu Sopranos and less like I was at a printing mill and fabric was just their "cover business". I started feeling quite tense and I put my head down and pretended to be busy writing this, "Obviously everything has to be passed by this dude and I really can't tell if he is ok or wants to kill me. Honestly, I have no stinking idea. The least I can do is drink the coffee they just put in front of me. Ouch, I just burned my tongue-uh oh. Oh, here comes another one. The room keeps filling with more men that look like "the son", "the brother", "the cousin" and then "the manager". It's like they are trying to decide what to do with a brother who has ratted them out to the FBI but I am pretty sure they are actually just talking about fabric--or not?"
Finally, "the boss" looks up and says "ok" and hints at a smile and we are over to "the son's" office who was wearing extremely pointy black dress shoes with the accompanying black shirt, black pants, undone down to his mid chest with gold chain. Awesome. Obviously, the son has up in the factory and will one day take over. I have no idea why we went into his office but calls were made and we moved over to "the manager's office" who actually seemed like quite a nice man and wrote up our order in a simple notebook and made a copy on a blank piece of white paper and just like that, we were official and up to the printing tables.
We got their a bit late and so they had already made their project plan for the day but stopped that and fit us in. As we made it up to the pigment printing tables I could see my two screens, "the leaf" and "the snapdragon" in the corner and my stomach actually dropped a bit in the sense that this is actually happening. I had given over some thread colors for them to match and they did just that and we had our colors. It was a fascinating/insightful to spend the entire day (8 hours) in this hot, dirty, ink splattered space but I loved it. There were about 6-8 men working in the area, one who had been there for 50 years. They all knew Jharna and that she likes to be hands on so didn't mind that we were there watching their every move.
I watched the whole process (8 times) and she was there to keep things moving along. She said that if we had not been there, it wouldn't have gotten done before I left.We went with the table printing because I was doing such small quantities (like eensy weensy as they usually do orders around 20-70,000 meters, I was doing 15 meters of each color) and it was the cheapest for me. They mixed the inks, often by hand, in what looked like old plastic milk containers on the ground but were absolutely spot on. They did a sample of the colors using "the leaf" and it just looked amazing. I can't really articulate how it felt to see my design actualized. There was a energy and perfection going on with everyone and it was so exciting.
So print after print I watched them pin down the fabric, carefully move the screen across the fabric and then back to make the repeats complete, and hang it to dry. Going with this method certainly wasn't the quickest and each print took about 45 minutes to complete with drying, although as the day wore on they picked it up so we could get out of there.
When they started the beige leaf I watched in utter awe of what was happening and then the yellow leaf and the teal leaf and my mind was spinning with what I saw and what these could made into. I was spinning inside. They hung all of the leaf designs above the tables to dry and started on the Snap dragon designs which I can see as tablecloths, pillows, napkin, aprons, table mats, laundry bags, and on and on and on. So Snapfamily, we have our own customized snapdragon fabric in 4 colors now and I have a feeling this is just the beginning!
Finally, we worked on a stripe using 5 of the colors and oh my oh my does it look gorgeous. Since that is 5 colors (all the others were just one) it had 5 screens and watching that one being printed was thrilling as it was pieced together color after color. I watched them do several other prints today that were incredibly complicated and beautiful. Of course, because it is done by hand there is a hand made quality which I love- the odd speck and ever so slightly off pattern matching. Next time I am hoping to do the minimum of 300 meters so i can use the rotary printing but for now I would take whatever I could get.
My head is whirling with what we can do with them and how to mix and match them. I am thrilled with the way they turned out, especially the leaf and stripe which I think can be more commercial than the snapdragon--but that was meant to be specific for the inn. I felt elated and giddy today but overwhelmed at the same time and needing to act like "the buyer" again so tried not to do anything too Chris but Jharna was so excited as well and loved they way they were turning out. But we waited around to check the stripe screen and colors and then collected the leaf prints which had already gone through the curing process (to set the color) and brought those home but we will collect the rest tomorrow.
I just can't believe this. Of course none of this would have been possible without the crew here in India who I am going to do something really amazing as a token and I think it is going to involve a filmed Bollywood dance. We are so far off getting a nice gift, this has to be straight from the heart so get ready folks, I am bringing back a handful of DVDs. I am glad that I took this risk and came and just did it and thank my family (especially Mike) for supporting me in this venture. I think these prints will add such a unique element to the Inn.
Where it goes from here, I don't know but I do know; this is just the beginning.