I was privileged to travel with the first group of Ambassadors heading on Noonday’s inaugural Ambassador Trip to India in early 2020. The whole trip was a whirlwind—the people, the food, the colors, the traffic, the environment—it’s hard to shape into words what the experience was like! Over a year later, as I reflect on what that trip felt like and what it meant, I see that this trip, like Noonday trips tend to be, was a humbling reminder that no matter where you are and what your lot in life has been, we are so much more alike than different.
SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES IN ACTION
Over the course of the trip, it was exciting and informative to see that many of our Artisan Business Partners take the environment into such serious account in their work—something I most certainly took for granted. For example, we got to witness the vegetable tanning process for our leather bags in Delhi.
This process conserves water (the barrels of tannins and water can be reused to tan hides a couple times over) and uses organic materials to tan the leather (which is what causes the color to patina over time). The total time involved for tanning alone is five days for these leather goods—a process which could easily cut down the time to a few hours should the workshop have elected to use a chemical tanning process.
We took a trip to a workshop in Sanganer, a paper and textile-making district in Jaipur. As we entered this area, the sides of the road were lined with streams of rainbow-colored water—blue, pink, yellow, green—that fed into a larger waterway around the edge of the district.
The color and chemical pollution were juxtaposed with the setup at the paper workshop, where the group assembled a nifty water-conserving tank under the building which allows them to harvest and reuse the hundreds of gallons required to manufacture 100% cotton paper for products like our Sisterhood Journal.
Getting to experience the care these groups put into protecting their environments really moved me. It was important to them to conserve for the sake of yes, living up to fair trade standards, but also to be responsible for leaving their children with the safest world possible. The Noonday Home Office team and the Ambassador community strive to build a flourishing world so that we, too, can be in action to leave the next global generation the safest world possible. We are more alike than different.
A FIRST-HAND LOOK AT OUR IMPACT
In Delhi, we spent time visiting multiple smaller workshops as well. Many of the smaller groups under our Artisan Business Partners’ umbrellas live and work in communities that are hours away from Delhi and traveled to Delhi to spend a few hours with us and to show us their work. The energy and the pride of the many makers we met were palpable and contagious.
We got to see and attempt to make pieces such as the Bliss Hoops and other styles—I had not understood what it meant for something to be truly handcrafted until I got to try coiling raffia thread into a perfect pattern (a feat at which I very much failed). What a gift to get to be present with these talented Artisans and to honor their work!
It was so evident that when you purchase a handmade good, you are not only supporting a livelihood and a community but are validating the dignity that we, as humanity, strive for. While stateside we may not be hand threading hundreds of beads into a wrap bracelet, we are picking up the phone, asking people to partner with us as a Hostess and customer, to join us as an Ambassador, to believe in us.
The joy and satisfaction we feel with each sale, or as we see sales results from the previous month, mean so much more than just the numbers. They are validation that what we are doing matters. We are more alike than different.
With each Artisan Partner visit we attended on our trip, we were greeted with fresh flower garlands and showered with flower petals, food, and gifts. It was welcoming hospitality that filled us with gratitude and overwhelming appreciation. A Noonday Hostess opens her home and invites her community in for a few hours of storytelling, shopping, and connection. How wonderful that through hosting and welcoming, she has the power to make others feel seen and appreciated through her invitation.
How wonderful that her the guests get to experience her warm hospitality! How wonderful that Noonday provides those opportunities for genuine connection.
At each of the visits we made to various workshops, I got to observe the many conversations going on around me between Artisans and Ambassadors (many people spoke English, and all of the workshop leaders were available to help us translate). “Thank you for coming and meeting us! Thank you for loving and selling our product!” was met with, “Thank you for making these beautiful products and sharing your stories! We can’t do what we do without you!”
Not only are we more alike than different—we have created a beautifully symbiotic relationship in which our success uplifts and relies upon the success of these thousands of hands and hearts that we love and partner with.
As we watched the world be brought to its knees with the spread of the coronavirus, I’ve often thought back to our Artisan friends halfway across the globe. Throughout 2020 and in 2021 thus far, the Noonday community has continued to work hard to keep Hostesses gathering their friends to shop and to provide new products that customers love, and we know our Artisan Partners in India and beyond are working hard to work safely however possible, to keep their products and processes relevant, and to ensure their families are fed and safe.
We may all be in different places of our lives, in different places of presumed privilege, in different financial situations, and yet this virus has again reminded me: we are more alike than different.
Meet Karen Vilches
Karen Vilches is the Executive Assistant and Office Manager at Noonday Collection. She lives in Austin, TX.