Translated from the Sanskrit language “Artha" means meaning, sense, goal, purpose or essence and these 5 aspects are what we seek to convey through our products and philosophy. Directly reflecting the meaning of the name, our company was created with a goal and purpose: to create unique and authentic home and personal accent pieces while supporting the livelihoods and the craft of artisans in various regions around the globe.
In March 2016 we embarked on our first trip to Cape Town, South Africa. Relatively fresh after an easy overnight trip from Zurich we are excited to meet the group of artisans who’ve been weaving our carpets. Approaching the community center where the women work, what stands out is a large tent-like structure off the side of the main road which leads from Cape Town to points further East. It is here that some of the largest hand-woven carpets in South Africa are created by the weavers of Sir Lowry’s Pass.
A family business with a history going back to the 1970’s the group, mirroring events in South Africa’s history, has gone through many changes over the years. Now employing about 50 people, the 30 weavers are capable of weaving carpets up to 24 square meters in size. The huge looms needed to accommodate such large sizes are very impressive to say the least. Imagine a moveable platform working on a pulley system which raises the weavers along the height of the carpet as it progresses, in a similar way to the window washing platforms outside a tall building. The weavers have participated in an 8-month training program to become weavers and receive regular opportunities to participate in workshops focussed on financial literacy and entrepreneurship. Skills which they can transfer to their daily lives in their communities.
We sit and chat as they work and in our conversations with Lona, Thembisa, Nontlahla, Nazeema, Ethel, Nokwakaand Vellyswa we learn that most have migrated to Cape Town for economic reasons. The radio which they listen to as they work, and the language in which they chat, gossip and laugh in is Xhosa. For most, the Eastern Cape is where they have come from and where they go home to when there are family celebrations or funerals. But many of the people we meet while in Cape Town have migrated from Zimbabwe, including Gabriel who’s been working with the carpet weavers for about a year now. A jack of all trades with a strong work ethic and a ready smile.
While the stories are familiar there are some contrasts with the other groups we’ve been working with. Here many of the women have been forced to leave their home villages in search of opportunities and the weaving community provides them with the space to learn new skills, develop their understanding of what it means to be part of a team as well as giving them a safe, clean environment to come to. The overriding credo is where there’s a will there’s a way and everyone here has shown the will to learn a part of the process. Whether it be spinning, weaving or knotting each skill is essential to the creation of these unique pieces.
In the 4 days spent with the artisans, we are shown all the stages of the production and even have woven a few rows in some of our own designs. Knowing that our work with them will contribute to their development as role models and respected pillars of their communities makes it all so much more significant!