Our preCOVID adventures... Our JOYN team is willing to do a lot for something we believe in. In this case it meant taking four, 8 hour long buses, 2 flights, an auto rickshaw, about 8 hours in a car and finally a Camel ride to shoot our new Travel Collection, Off the Grid.
We first started this journey based on a conversation with a beautiful lady named Aditi, whose embroidery company, RUAS, works with artisans from the villages in Kutch, Gujarat. Being a team always up for an adventure, we were dying to see how we could collaborate with this brand. The spark in Aditi’s eyes when she was talking about visiting all these villages had us convinced that there was something in this idea that we absolutely needed to explore.
For good measure, we took along with us our JOYN model, Sarah Hambley and our Travel Collection, and started planning a shoot. We also had in tow our production assistant Joseph Saladi, our photographer Sean Tuckey and our new collaborator and volunteer Tash Ritz - co-founder of a high end bag company called ARNA, and - my two year old (teething) daughter, just to keep things interesting.
Our journey, as always started in Rajpur, our hometown. We took an overnight bus to the Capital City where we stayed a few days to collect some camera gear and to get our leather shopping done at the remnant markets. Our first flight was to Ahmedabad, a city famous for its textiles among other things. We landed and after a bit of respite at a beautiful breakfast place, we were met by Aditi and on the road again for our second 8 hour bus ride. We arrived in Bhuj, travel worn and slightly dizzy from the not so glamorous journey. We booked into a run down old guest house that had the stories of many travelers trapped inside its dilapidated walls. I wondered what kind of people came to a place like this, and over the course of the next few days we got to hear some of their stories.
The very next day we woke up early to get ready. One of the artisans that Aditi worked closely with was getting married and kindly allowed our group to attend. It was a sensory gift. All the women were adorned in every colour imaginable, and we crowded into a tiny room to greet the bride. The men and women had to be separated according to the customs of the village so our group split up and enjoyed the different celebrations on either side of the property. It was a long day in the heat, and I sat at the back of the chatting throng of sari-clad women to breastfeed my child, I looked up and found that there was a woman breastfeeding her two year old girl too. We exchanged knowing glances and spoke a mix of Gujarati and Hindi and hand gestures to each other. Language didn’t matter, we had already found a connection.
Later that afternoon we visited some other crafts villages to understand what this place was all about. We learned that art was literally oozing out of every corner of this place, everywhere we went there were weavers, and sellers and embroiderers. This was a hub of creativity. We were humbled to be in the presence of people who for generation after generation had learnt these skills and passed them on. Why didn’t more people know about this?
We had two requirements for our photoshoot - It had to be shot in the famous Raan Utsav desert, and it absolutely had to feature the beautiful desert beast, the camel. The man who gets anything and everything done, Joseph Saladi (aka Jo), had both of these things sorted within an hour. Camel - check. Salt pans - check. We were ready. We traveled another hour and a half into the desert, found a camel named Valam Yogi who Jo would later fall madly in love with and began shooting. The setting couldn’t have been more magical, as the sun set we all had so much warmth in our hearts, it was perfect, this day was perfect.
The next day we went to a village where Aditi was forming relationships with some new embroidery artisans. Her goal is to get their art into markets. Most of the artisans are women, who have very little access to the outside world. Aditi works hard to make their hard work pay off. The village houses were clean and cool and had a charm that is hard to express in words. It was so quiet and quaint and I felt myself longing for the simple things in life. As the lady of the house cooked a meal for us, her husband showed us their product. Later Aditi was able to choose colours for her new collection and put some more orders in for RUAS. We stuffed our faces with the most beautiful food. Our next stop was what we had built this trip on all along; a meeting with Laxmi, an artisan who Aditi has worked with for years, and has a special fondness for. I could immediately see why. This lady was hard working, business savvy, and had an amazing eye for colour. We conceptualised a collection together and she caught on to our ideas immediately and put her spin on them. This was a match made in heaven. We spoke colours and fabric and concept over chai and snacks and went home.
This was our last day in Bhuj.
We were all travel worn and weary and ready to be home in our beds, but all of us shared the same deep gratitude to have had this experience of a lifetime.
We can’t wait to share the outcome of this trip to Gujarat with you, we hope we can make you feel how it felt to be there, in the ancient city, surrounded by creativity, surrounded by history. We want to bring that into your home somehow, if you’ll allow us.
Our Travel Collection has traveled many miles. We’ve worn it in for you, tested it’s capacity and we have the photos to prove it.
Where will you let this Travel Collection take you?