Counting Flowers in Bhutan and Nepal
2017-04-15 - “Bhutan. Happiness is a place”. This is the tourism slogan of Bhutan, the relatively young kingdom in the Himalayas. In our view this is well-chosen as we feel extremely fortunate to be in this beautiful country, where weaving is fully integrated into the daily life and culture.
The culture of weaving, and the unrivalled quality; how could Bhutan still be lacking in our list of suppliers?!
Bhutan, walhalla for weaving addicts
But where to start searching for that perfect scarf when being surrounded by an overwhelming amount of extraordinary handicraft? It was therefore sheer luck that we met Kelzang and her daughters.
Kelzang is originally from Lhuentse, a province in the northeast of the country, where you’ll find a loom in front of almost every house.
On these looms the women are weaving the most intrinsic and multi-coloured designs in silk or cotton. Often the colours are made from natural dyestuff, created from nuts, flowers and roots. All of this is so sophisticated and labour-intensive, that it can easily take up to a year to complete one piece.
Therefore it is not uncommon that in families where the woman is weaving, her husband takes care of the housekeeping and the children.
Kelzang behind a backstrap loom while daughter Numa explains the complex techniques to Elike
Though now having her shop in Thimpu, the capital of Bhutan, Kelzang has not forgotten her hometown. She designs the kiras (traditional Bhutanese dress made of three handwoven panels) and then puts out part of the weaving to the women in her village.
By doing so, Kelzang contributes to much-needed employment in this remote and economically less developed province.
Kelzang’s little shop is packed with the most beautiful kiras and scarves. Together with daughter Numo she shows us one gorgeous piece after the other, and explains to us all Buddhist and other symbols that can be found on them.
We are very much impressed by the sublime quality of the work and by this very extraordinary and modest woman.
Each scarf is a masterpiece. Difficult to choose! Only after many “Oh’s” and “Ah’s” we return to our hotel with some unique pieces of her precious handwork. We can’t wait until we can show them to you on countingflowers.co.uk!
New acquisitions in Nepal
It was nice to meet again with the weavers of Sana Hastakala, a Fairtrade organisation in Nepal that for already seven years supplies us with the softest cashmere and yak wool scarves and stoles.
As always we feel like being in a candy shop, when they show us their latest designs in their depot. We see special combinations of yak wool, raw silk, and cashmere, in vivid colours and subdued naturals. Plenty of inspiration for the new winter collection!
We were also introduced to Kimdo Pashmina, a group of weavers with whom we had not yet worked before. Its founder, Prakash Kanshakar, is the son of the patron of Nepal’s first social organisation.
Melanie and Elike amidst the women and men of the Kimdo Pashmina weaving group
Like father, like son; in his workshop Prakash works hard to offer employment to as many vulnerable women as possible, with decent labour conditions.
We were introduced to all weavers, and took time to watch them working behind their looms and spinning wheels. At the end we selected their beautiful cashmere paisleys – a design that has always been in high demand but which unfortunately has been out of stock for some time.
While in Nepal we also took the opportunity to go yak spotting. These impressive animals live high up in the Himalayas and possess very warm wool that is also surprisingly soft.
Scarves of yak wool are therefore our personal favourites!
With our backpacks and sturdy shoes (and yak stole ;-) on we hiked seven days through the, often literally, breath-taking Langtang Valley.
Our guide tirelessly alerted us whenever he spotted any yak, but unfortunately each time they were just some unreachable brown dots to us, high up on the mountain slope.
On the fourth day however, when we almost started to loose hope, at an altitude of more than 4,000 meters, we suddenly stood eyeball to eyeball with a group of majestic, calmly ruminating yaks.