All hands on bobbins...
Our first visit of the day was Selyn handloom, which is World Fair Trade Organisation certified. We were first shown the dye facilities, which was about 15 minutes away from the outlet shop and looms. We wound through tropical roads and parked outside a small holding which appeared to us to be in the middle of nowhere. The dye house did not use natural or organic dyes, nor organic cotton fibre. We were not given much more information than that the dyes come from Germany on the environmental standards of the dye. We were assured that the effluent was treated to a safe level before being used in agricultural cultivation, however it is not processed to a drinking water standard. All the information was a little hazy and we left with questions not fully answered.
We then visited their handloom workroom, which was an awash with brightly coloured yarns, being woven by senior ladies who were very welcoming, the room was also filled with the cadence of rhythmic clatter from the looms. This workshop is where they weave the fabric that is used for clothing and craft. It was interesting to note that most of the women weaving were over 45, due to their experience and the reluctance of younger women to hand weave. Kate bravely decided to have a go and quickly mastered the rhythm, and managed to weave 14cm in about 15 minutes – and managed to make a couple of friends at the same time, while the rest of us got distracted by the beautiful products in the shop.
Next a quick stop at a handmade soft toy factory to see the production line, where they used the same fabric from the Selyn handloom. An interesting point of note from the toy factory was the use of either synthetic or Kapok stuffing. Kapok is a natural fibre, which is cotton wool like spores from the Kapok tree. The choice comes down to the buyer and Kapok is more expensive, unfortunately resulting in this not being the favorable choice.
Next stop was Ena De Silva, which took a while to find as it was hidden way up in the hills in a beautiful setting. It was a haven of tranquility and creativity, with a warm smell of wax from the batik. We walked down the path into the work room which was an open sided corrugated shed, with women creating detailed batiks, and 5 women hand embroidering intricate cushion covers. This is not an indigenous technique but an adaptation of appliqué and needle work developed by Ena and the workers. It was fascinating to watch these skilled crafts women at work. Some had worked there for 45 years, these women are the batik masters and the younger generation generally works on the embroidery. After being fascinated by the work that was going on around us we had a walk around the premises which was an array of tropical flowers and cascading views of the surrounding hills. Then of course a visit to the tiny shop could not be resisted where we indulged ourselves and each bought an embroidered elephant.
A two hour drive found ourselves in the lovely city of Kandy, where we settled ourselves in our hotel (nowhere nice as our chalets from the previous nights)! (and there wasn’t a giant cockroach on Zoe and Beths bed)!!!.....
We went to a pub for dinner with Dr Nirmali, we had salads, shandy’s and complementary cheese cake. We chanced upon two very interesting American anthropologists currently working in Sri Lanka, who gave us some excellent references for reading on women and globalisation.
We again fell into a bed exhausted after a LONG day.