Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Greatest Rickshaw Driver on Earth

We met Ali on one of our first nights in Jaipur, and quickly became friends. He took us to the best shops, gave us tours of the city, and we shared a delicious South Indian meal together. I am sure that Ali is the best rickshaw driver in all of India because:

1) He invited us to his house to meet his entire family, including his adorable baby son and 9-month-pregnant wife.

2) He went with me on a trip to a paper factory to help with negotiations, and when the driver of the car asked for more than a fair price, he offered to pay the difference because he didn’t want me to lose money. I declined the offer, but remembered it as one of the sweetest gestures I have ever encountered.

3) But the biggest one of all: we had set a time for him to pick us up to go to the train station at 9:00pm. He literally LEFT HIS WIFE WHILE SHE WAS IN LABOR so that he didn’t have to cancel. We tried to tell him not to come, but he wouldn’t hear it. The ride to the station was one of the scariest rides of my life; it was like a movie where the taxi driver is taking the pregnant woman to the hospital, except the pregnant woman was already there. He was driving at least 60 mph through Jaipur traffic while we gripped the sides of the rickshaw.

And, baby Tanya was born just 40 minutes after he dropped us off, so that fast driving was worth it! Tanya, we are so glad your dad was there with you and not stuck with us at the Jaipur train station.

If you are ever in Jaipur and are in need of the best tour guide/driver around, let me know and I will give you his number. I don't think there is a better person in the whole city.

Monday, February 27, 2012

This Needs to Go Viral

I have read hundreds of posts on the internet about animals adopting baby animals of other species, but never had I seen it in real life before we stumbled on this: a stray dog taking care of a baby piglet.

They were just lying around, taking an afternoon nap. Of course I had to stop to take a million photos, and the men sitting on the steps nearby thought this was hilariously idiotic. Why would anyone take photos of a sleeping dog and piglet nuzzled together? Obviously they haven't spent much time on the interweb.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Current Occupation: Quilt Shopping

I am holding off until April to show you the textiles I have collected in Jaipur, as they will go on sale once I am back and ready to start shipping. The one exception is this quilt that I bought for myself, which I was too excited about not to share. It's an old quilt from Sindh, from when it was still part of Rajasthan and not Pakistan. It could be almost 100 years old, although there is no way of really knowing. The shopkeeper said it was a bad purchase, as it actually has some pretty sizable holes that you can't see in the photo, but I ignored his advice and bought it anyway.

This particular quilt won't be for sale, but I have lots of other pieces that will be, and I wanted to give you a sneak peek below. Check back in April for the full pictures! Here are just three close ups of what we got, but there is so much more to come:

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Home in the Pink City

We've been calling Jaipur home for the last two weeks, on one of the longest stays in the same city on our trip. Jaipur is known for its textiles, and it has not disappointed. I came to India to research new designs, but also to source new products and suppliers, and Jaipur has had more to offer than I could ever bring back. I have been collecting some antique pieces that will be available as soon as we get back in April (sneak peek coming tomorrow), as well as some exciting new products that will debut at the National Stationery Show in May.

When we aren't sitting in textile shops, we've been walking around the Old City and exploring Jaipur. We've had a love/hate relationship with Jaipur on this trip; I was here for a month in 2007 to study block printing, but this time around it has been completely different. Jaipur sees a lot of tourists just here for a day or two, so people have been shocked to hear that we are here for more than two weeks.

The huge tourist crowds have led a lot of people to see foreigners as walking dollar signs, and some people will do anything to get you into their shop. The most elaborate scam we have encountered was a man who spent an hour talking to us and told at least ten bold-faced lies (including the fact that his friend didn't own a gem shop) to get us into his friend's gem shop. Then on the other end of the spectrum are the friendliest people you could meet, like our rickshaw driver who invited us to come over to his house to meet his entire family and eat sweets, where we spent the evening trying to communicate with his 75 year old grandmother who spoke no English.

Jaipur is a city of polar opposites, and depending on the day we have loved and hated it, but either way we have seen some amazing things. Some days I want to stay forever, and other days I just want to pack up and go home, but I suppose that is the nature of travel and I know I will be back to Jaipur again.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Samode Village

Our first stop in Jaipur was Samode Village, where we spent two nights with my parents who were in India for a conference. It was our first visit to an Indian village on this trip, and as soon as we walked out of the hotel, we were taken under the wing of a local painter who spent the afternoon walking us through the market and alleyways of the village (for the small price of us buying one of his little paintings). We saw lac bangles being made, iron pots and shovels being hammered into shape, goats wearing sweatshirts to protect them from the cold, and hundreds of kids screaming for pens and chocolates.

I used the opportunity to practice some Hindi with our guide, which got some stares as we walked around the village. When we went back to his house for chai, I introduced myself, Joe, and my mom to his sister and niece. When introducing Joe, instead of using the formal term for "husband/(or boyfriend, if you aren't hiding the fact that you aren't married in a conservative country)" I used the slang term, "admi" (meaning man), which I had learned in conversation with someone else. Hearing a slang word come out of my mouth sent screams of laughter around the house as they cried out "Admi! Admiiiiii!" and clutched each other. Imagine a foreigner coming to your house and stammering "Zis...iz....my boo." After their invitation to come and live with them (which I did consider), we headed back to the hotel, miniature painting in tow.  

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Launching...Wedding Invitations!

Minted just launched their new wedding collection, with two of my original designs for sale! You can get Block Printed Tile and Painted Ferns at Minted right now. This is the first time I am officially offering wedding invitations, so if you are getting married, or just need nice party invitations click over and check it out!

All photos from minted.com

Friday, February 17, 2012

Back to Fatehpur Sikri

One of the things I wanted to do most on this trip was revisit Fatehpur Sikri, a palace an hour outside of Agra. It was one of my favorite places when I was studying in India in 2007, and I was enthralled by the carved designs covering every surface of the stone buildings. When I got back to school the next fall, I did a linoleum print of the carving above. This turned into the idea for my senior thesis. For my year-end gallery show, I did an installation with a quilt based on the carvings at Fatehpur Sikri. It was easily the biggest project I have ever worked on: the quilt was 50 feet long and took an entire year to print and sew each square together.

After the show, I started selling some prints to friends, then friends-of-friends, and then to strangers. I branched out to some other items like stationery, and started selling more. Eventually, I couldn't keep up with all the orders while working a full-time job, so I quit to work full-time for myself.

So, the quilt started it all.

On our trip to Agra we went back to Fatehpur Sikri and hunted down all of the designs I had used in the quilt. We found them all, and the carvings all seemed so familiar after spending a year working with them every day. They were just as enthralling the second time as they had been on my first visit, and I spent the morning taking hundreds of pictures, some of which will make their way into my future designs.

All gallery photos © 2009 Katharine Watson
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