During the lockdown in March and April 2020 the MESH team contacted each of our producer groups to find out how they were managing and how we might be able to help them. When we spoke to Danish from Khadim Handicrafts Welfare Association he told us that he was thinking they should start making masks. We were surprised as their usual products are fair trade handicrafts like jewellery and home decor items made of horn, bone and resin and they work with lathes, cutters and noisy polishing machines, not sewing machines. But we are always glad to hear about producer groups ready to adapt to new situations so when we decided that we could order masks from any groups that could make them sitting at home, we invited Khadim to join the programme.
They made 2000 masks for MESH, first of all taking the specifications and sewing instructions from MESH Designer then sending pictures of their first samples to her for feedback and suggestions for improvement. The lock down ended eventually but Khadim decided that they could grow their new sewing efforts and they contacted MESH for more sewing orders. By then MESH was in a position to give them more work including this soap saver (below) and so they added a motor to their one treadle sewing machine and bought two more.
Waseem was in MESH office a week or so ago and he told us that the artisans agreed together to learn new skills and between them they divide up the work, so that young men who earlier worked on light engineering machines may now be involved in cutting, sewing or finishing all kinds of different stitched products.
Waseem told us that in the whole of last year they had only about one month worth of orders for their traditional horn, bone and resin work and six months worth of sewing orders. Their diversification meant income for artisans who would otherwise have been without work or income for most of last year. So this has been good for the artisans and the producer group is stronger as a result.