Jun 25, 2018

Design Workshop Battles Rain to Produce Our Stunning Products Yet!

SILK SEWERS
SILK SEWERS
here is a saying in Maroantsetra, "if you don't work in the rain, you won't get anything done". We are certainly learning the meaning of that sentiment this spring. As Madagascar emerges from a particularly active cyclone season and heads directly into the orographic (topography-induced) rainy season, the team can't seem to catch a dry day. 

Despite the weather and a challenging political climate, however, we are proud to say that this spring has been one of the busiest and most productive to date. Following an ambitious set of silk orders during cyclone season, the team prepped for a series of visitors, each with a different set of skills to help our project grow. 

The first was Safidy A.....?, a renouned Malagasy photo journalist who came to document the project and highlight the lives, culture, impact and struggle of the farmers and artisans working with our project. You can find a sampling of his beautiful, artistic prints below. We will post his full photo essay on our website soon. 

Linda Cortright, founder and editor of Wild Fibers magazine also spent a few days with the project. During her stay, she interviewed team members and artisans about the project in preparation for a magazine article that she will write this year. Having worked all over the world with unique artisan groups, she brings a valuable perspective on how our project fits into the global market. 

Finally, Docey Lewis, our design consultant and marketing advisor arrived to take the team to the next level and prepare products for the NY NOW gift show. The workshop ran for two weeks and produced tremendous results,  reinvigorating the team with new skills and new momentum. It is something the whole team looks forward to every year and it is the single most valuable resource for learning new skills and refining our craft. 
None of this would be possible without your support! Already this year, we were able to move into a new office, have our third project workshop with Docey Lewis, send orders to Canada, New York and Salt Lake City, and access new sources of cocoons and raffia.
THANK YOU!
SEPALI TEAM
SEPALI TEAM
Beautiful braids
Beautiful braids
raffia mat
raffia mat
Docey Lewis arrives to work with the team!
Docey Lewis arrives to work with the team!
SAFIDY AT WORK
SAFIDY AT WORK
Jun 20, 2018

The vote is in and action is being taken!

Bombyx mori pupae for sale in Tana market
Bombyx mori pupae for sale in Tana market

Last March I requested your input regarding whether we should continue the insects for food program, a program close to my heart.  I greatly appreciate those who responded.  Your consensus was that we should try to continue “insects for food” but only if we could somehow make it separate from the work in which the team is engaged. I can say that the team continues to be almost overwhelmed making textiles – that is a good thing - and the advent of several new partnerships (to be announced in the future) will result in a production scale-up. You suggested that we need a new team that focuses on insects for food alone.  I think that is a great idea and I am working on it. We need to do a bit of background research and that will take time.  

 Here is my idea:  as part of the silk program, we have increased our purchases of cocoons spun by Bombyx mori. Hanta Ravaoarinoro is a new team member who lives in the Tana area and has been working to organize our Bombyx farmers network. My plan is to find someone who is willing to travel with her to visit farmers and ask them if they are willing to share data such as what is the cost of Bombyx pupae sold on local market; how many of the pupae are eaten by farmers and family members; is there a market to sell more Bombyx pupae if production was increased; is the market for pupae more valuable or bigger than the market for silk cocoons. Unforutnately hiring someone new wil requrie more money and our current employees are asking for raises - its a tough life.

Hopefully my next report will have some feedback from farmers nad news about new investments..

 If you have any suggestions or ideas, let me know:  craig@cpali.org

Links:

Mar 29, 2018

Beating the Floods and Pushing Forward

New Color Loom
New Color Loom

The SEPALI team in Madagascar is starting the year off with a big hustle. The word is out about our silks and the orders are coming in back-to-back, creating welcome challenges with regard to scaling our project properly and keeping us on track to reach our goal of a sustainable business model. We’re not there yet, but consistent orders are certainly helping put the pressure on. The team is working to complete orders while sourcing silk from farmer cooperatives, growing the team appropriately, and actively combating the weather.

Battling Cyclone Season

Yes, cyclones are a season in Madagascar. Unfortunately this year has been more active than most. Ava made landfall in early January as a category 2 cyclone, Berguitta swept through in late January as a category 3, then a brief lull was followed by two in a row, category 3 Dumazile in early March and severe tropical storm Eliakim right on its heels. The relentless pummeling is starting to take its toll, but the team is taking the challenges as they come and trying to maintain a sense of normalcy and consistency. They are prioritizing tasks, adapting non-electric equipment during power outages, drying the silk in protected areas and continuing, miraculously, to ship boxes out on time. Best of all, the bridge that we repaired after last year's cyclone season still stands. Thank you donors!

Silk Expansion Packs

One recent marketing change that should help us weather the storms is the development and addition of 5 different species of wild silk to our collection. In addition to Ceranchia open and dense weave, we now feature Bombyx, Borocera, Argema, Antherina, and Deborrea. The new additions have already attracted positive feedback from our customers and we are now producing large repeat orders of paper, art pieces and material. Of course, that work involves expanding our farmer supply networks as well. The team is working on developing consistent, reliable networks for species of silk moths that require different host trees and different habitats. Good thing our director is an entomologist. Mamy has been rearing and studying these species for years and he's up for the task!

Looms and Raffia

Raffia continues to bolster our networks as well. The local raffia weavers make a high-quality, finely-woven raffia on traditional looms and women’s groups from the capital supplement our supply with their own version of wide, large raffia pieces with lots of surface area. We have been in partnership with these groups over the past couple of months to learn their techniques and adapt them to the local communities and products of Maroantsetra. The results are slow, but steady. Our team now has a number of looms that they are training local artisans on and creating beautiful, new designs that are uniquely ours. 

Upcoming Workshop

One of the most exciting parts of the spring is preparing for our annual design workshop with Docey Lewis. She agreed to return to Madagascar this year to teach new designs, refine existing skills, and prepare the team and products for our trade show in August. Her training workshops are always extremely valuable to the team and they look forward to it every year. Not only does it get us organized and give us a big dose of confidence for the year, but it provides our team with a structured opportunity to learn the skills necessary for becoming an independent and sustainable Malagasy business. This is still a significant, but worthwhile investment for us and anything you can do to help is appreciated!

Thank you for all your support!

Artisan weaving on new SEPALI loom
Artisan weaving on new SEPALI loom
Six Species of Wild Silk Papers
Six Species of Wild Silk Papers
New Raffia Design
New Raffia Design
Cyclone floods new SEPALI property
Cyclone floods new SEPALI property
 
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