For over fifty years, Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, has been known as a creative and innovative hub of high-end contemporary hand-woven rugs. But the city’s booming real estate market combined with increasing international labour migration has put pressure on rug production facilities and led to weaver shortages. The once-thriving handmade carpet industry has become increasingly fragile.
To reduce some of the pressure on Kathmandu’s carpet industry, Artisan Villages are being set up in rural districts like Sarlahi in Province 2 where many of the weavers come from. Fair trade organization Label STEP and the UKaid Skills for Employment (सीप) Programme are supporting the creation of state-of-the-art carpet workshops in these rural areas to help restore balance to Nepal’s carpet industry.
Home-based carpet weaving has taken place in rural Nepal for decades. Many weavers prefer working in their hometown over migrating to cities. The Artisan Village project introduces high-end carpet weaving for international markets to the villages of Nepal. Professionally trained and highly skilled master weavers teach the local weavers and help them to improve.
The Artisan Villages’ weaving workshops are designed and organised to produce high-end rugs for international markets, while keeping in compliance with Label STEP’s strictly audited fair trade standards. With a focus on gender equality and social inclusion, the project improves the livelihoods of marginalized communities, particularly those of women and people with disabilities. The Artisan Villages are a family friendly environment, offering child care facilities for weaver’s children. Financial literacy training is also provided to catalyse local women-led weaving start-ups.
By mid-2021, this project has established 7 weaving workshops, trained 24 master weavers and skilled 466 local weavers. By 2023, the Artisan Villages aim to provide up to 1 500 reliable jobs to carpet industry artisans in rural areas.
High Tech Meets Ancient Craft
Label STEP collaborates with the Kathmandu-based IT company Alternative Technology to incorporate the industry’s state-of-the-art tools, enabling the seamless integration of Artisan Villages with the global interior design markets. Local graphic designers are trained in the use of Alternative Technology’s Galaincha software, which will facilitate creative collaboration with the global design community and allow Artisan Villages carpets to be integrated in digital marketing and customisation tools like exploRug.
Our friends at Alternative Technology have set up a Virtual Exhibition of rugs made at the Artisan Village.
Click here to take a virtual tour of the 3D gallery and discover the endless possibilities for customisation.
Skills for a High-End Luxury Market
Highly skilled artisans are a critical success factor to access the global luxury markets. A key element of this project was the development of a training curriculum in collaboration with governmental authorities, industry representatives and associations, and international experts, which was then followed by the thorough implementation of a vocational training program. The result so far are 500 highly skilled and motivated master weavers, weavers and graphic designers.
Meet the Weavers
“Since I started weaving carpets at the Artisan Village, the financial situation of my family has improved a lot. My earnings do not only pay my son’s school fees, but also enable us to participate at holidays and festivals or afford food and clothing. We can also invest in our farm, buy better seeds and rent a tractor.”Sajana, 25
“I used to do other work, but I enjoy weaving much more. I’m now the main breadwinner in my family. My husband has no permanent job and while I’m weaving he looks after our son and helps with the household chores.”Anita, 21
“I enjoy the ambience at the weaving workshop and how everybody is treated with respect. I’m proud to see that the Artisan Villages contribute to changing people’s attitudes towards women. Nowadays, my neighbours mention me as an example when they say that women are just as capable as men!”Rupa, 21