Launching next week at the Design Museum, London, is a collection of 18 handmade fair trade rugs, designed by 18 artists. The project is the brainchild of Chris Haughton, children's book author and illustrator who has worked in fair trade for the past 9 years. He set up Node in 2010, a non-profit, social business producing rugs.
Chris worked with the Kumbeshwar Technical School in Kathmandu, Nepal, to produce the hand-knotted rugs. KTS was founded by Siddhi Bahadur Khadgi in 1983. Khadgi was appalled by the fate of members of the "Podee", the lowest caste in Nepal (also referred to as "untouchables") whose role in the local community is to clean the streets before dawn, lest others catch sight of them, which is considered bad luck. The family studied how to work with the "podees" and set about using their wealth to help them out of poverty, by setting up a weaving school for adults.
As well as fair wages, the adult weavers are given an education. The profits from the sales of their rugs support a school for 260 children, and an orphanage.
The collection of rugs will sell from the Design Museum shop and online. The artists were chosen for the diversity of their design work, and its graphic suitability to rug-making. They include Donna Wilson - Elle Decoration's British Designer of the Year 2011; Sanna Annukka - the Finnish artist well known for her prints and textile designs for Marimekko; Jon Klassen, illustrator and author of the New York Times bestseller "I want my hat back", and graphic design studio Neasden Control Centre.
The rugs are produced using a traditional Tibetan hand-knotting technique. Pure Tibetan wool is hand spun and hand dyed with natural, non-polluting dyes. Each design is made in a limited edition of 10. Node will also make one-off rugs.
Stitch by Stitch is honoured to have been invited to talk at the Pecha Kucha x Fair Trade talk on 4 March at the Design Museum. Speakers include some of the artists who worked on the Node project, and others, like ourselves, working in a sustainable way and in the spirit of fair trade.