We were quite certain that our packaging would be as beautiful as the product, but we wanted to work on finer aspects. We know that every time we buy something from an outlet or online, we come back with bags and packets that either need to thrown away instantly or have limited life. We wanted to not create the same problem for our buyers. Our packing had to be:
- long lasting
Also, we felt that our packaging can be a very good way of sharing the handicrafts of Agra, or the rest of the state, Uttar Pradesh with a larger audience. The handicrafts of U.P. are world famous and loved all over the country as well. However, the artisans are mostly disenchanted given the low wages, decreasing interest in the locals. What they don’t talk about mostly is the need for recognition and advancement when they are struggling to just about make ends meet.
We decided to start exploring from our own city, famous for its inlay work and zardozi world wide. But the present generations in the city, especially those with buying capacity are either unaware or disinterest in the crafts. One of the reasons is perhaps having seen that work around for too long and hence taking it for granted. Further, the accessibility to other forms and works and coming in of brands does create a very complex situation. While the crafts happen at mass scale, the locals have little to do with, unless directly involved in the trade or in export.
It seemed like the perfect thing to bring these crafts into our packaging. We started with stone boxes in inlay and hard board boxes covered in fabric with Zardozi or Reshamdozi (embroidery with fine wire or thread).We played turned things around a little by using velvet with thread and raw silk for wire embroidery as opposed to the traditional work of wire on velvet. Details about the inlay work as well as Zardozi as a form merit another long post, which we will share soon.
We tried working with soft stone boxes with inlay work and while they caught the eye and fancies of many we were encountering two issues: it is heavy, and easily breakable. After a year, we decided to move on to something different. And we came up with the idea of working with wooden boxes. We source the wooden box from local vendors in Saharanpur. The box made in Mango wood is eco-friendly, reusable and sturdy. We have been experimenting with pastel colours and silver foil scratch work for these boxes and thus far they have been loved with everyone who has seen them.
We do not charge extra for the packaging, but we do have different packaging for orders worth different amount, so as to be able to keep it sustainable for ourselves. The packaging is a gift for our customer that would perhaps encourage them to work towards recycling, reuse and renew an interest in the local handicrafts. We also hope that some others in the industry will join hands with us and switch to long lasting packaging made by local artisans, thus working both towards the growing of the craft and lesser damage to the environment.
We have a few other interesting elements to our packaging.
- We have pouches made from old saarees. Initially we started using the bulk of unused old saaress of our mothers and grandmothers which were very close to our hearts and difficult to simply throw away. This kind of upcycling and reuse thrilled us. Later, some of our friends and relatives too have been giving away saarees to us so that we can make these pouches. We go to a local woman for getting these pouches stitched and she really enjoys it since she cannot step out to work with a little kid to take care of. Each time a pouch as this reaches you, you have something of a dear one from one of our families.
- We use seed paper wherever we must use paper. Brochures, visiting cards, wedding cards, all these things lay haunting, adding to the bulk of waste in our lives. A lot of us struggle to figure out a good way to dispose them. We have been resisting the temptation to make a visiting card. And most of our material is online or we share it on phone. But in case we must use paper, we try and stick to seed paper. Seed paper is recycled paper made with seeds inside it. So if you throw the paper in soil and water it, a plant with grow.
- We realized we need to buy some plastic covers for the purpose of couriering. So we have chosen recycle grade plastic. Also, the plastic cover can actually be used to out a plant in- so you have the seed paper and the plastic bag to put it in.