Saturday, September 27, 2014

BUYING FOR RAIN - Rope Hunting in India

Oh I do so love India- the land of opposites and extremes
Beauty and decay, bedlam and peace, filth and fragrance
I am privileged enough to be able to travel to India to buy textiles and yarns for the Rain factory. 
Sadly none of which is manufactured in South Africa and must be brought from a far away land




This rope shop is one of my very favourite haunts. discovered quite by accident while making way for someone to pass me in a tiny Old Delhi alleyway, I stumbled into this Alladins Cave of ropes, strings, twines, wools, yarns.



It is a beguiling store - luring you further and further into it's cavernous depths as you discover little staircases leading up and up , and little passages leading you into further chambers filled with disorderly chaos with every imaginable type of rope and string.



A myriad of tiny rooms are packed floor to ceiling with every conceivable sort of yarn, twine and rope, and  of course there is the fetid odour of rats living side by side with the stock.

The owner is Tarun - the stout gentleman in the picture and alongside him is Prabu - my porter , who can only speak Hindi , but who carries my wares, shields me from rabid beggars, hails the rickshaws and who makes sure I don't get lost in the mayhem




After weighing every bundle and haggling over the prices , the goods are then loaded onto the local rickshaws to be transported .

I retreat to my clean cool calm accommodation with dear friend Bianca -  away from the craziness that is India 



At Rain , we use these ropes to make  window displays, bee skeps, bath mats and the various jutes and strings get crocheted and knitted into shower mitts, back scrubbers, wash gloves and tissue box covers.
Intensively handmade products with beautiful all nature fibres 









Saturday, September 20, 2014

In Sync with the Seasons



Living in harmony with Nature -
that is our credo at Rain

When nature whispers - we listen, when she floods the air with her volatile aromas, we rush to capture them. 
Our jasmine is in full bloom - filling the evening with a sweet floral melody - one which we want to capture for our perfumes. 

We are hard at work each evening , picking the delicate open flowers in order to lay them in palm butter , to perform the ancient french perfumery technique of enfleurage - used to capture the essence of flowers



This is a time consuming task and the flowers need to be replaced every single day for at least 8-12 days. One has to be very sure of a good supply of flowers before beginning 


The Yesterday ,Today and Tomorrow is also blooming at just the same time. this bush is extremely generous with its glorious fragrance and abundant flowers 

The flowers start off deep purple today, then turn lilac tomorrow and are white by the next day


The Palm Butter gently coaxes the aromas from the flowers over time . It is a lesson in patience , respecting time and nature as it gently yields its perfume to the fat medium. 


After loading the fat for as many days as you are able to repeat the process without the fat growing nasty moulds, the fat is scraped into jars to be washed for three weeks with natural sugar cane alcohol.
This washing process entails daily shaking of the bottle to transfer  the fragrance molecules from the fat to the alcohol.
After more than 6 weeks, of daily interaction , this will be ready for use.
No wonder natural perfumes are costly and precious.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Hot Find - a Coal operated Iron

Welcome to Africa 

Sometimes we have electricity and sometimes we don't...... 

The reasons given by the powers that be are complex, but they go something like this :


- somebody stole the cables
- the infrastructure is on the brink of collapse, so we have to share what little power there is ( load shedding )
- the people who run the national electricity provider have stolen all the money and now there is no money to upgrade the networks and conduct maintenance
- the average salary at the national electricty supplier - Eskom-  equals what I earn in three years, but they are idiots and have destroyed a perfectly good infrastructure through corruption, nepotism and sheer incompetence 

Having been warned by people who are " in the know " to get prepared for electricty outages - I am on a mission to do just that . I dont want to be caught short !


My options - buy a bicycle operated washing machine, convert my appliances to gas, diesel, wind, wood fired, anything but electricty and all will be ok.
To this end, I have been keeping my eyes open for solutions to beat my nemesis - the national electricty supplier Eskom.
Then one day recently - while strolling through a kitchen market in Chiang Mai Thailand ........


Eureka ! I found a coal operated iron ! Not even an antique but a real brand new one !

My mind flashed back to a remote Jain temple courtyard in Rajasthan where I had seen one of these in operation by laundry wallahs doing piles and piles of white cotton sheets under a massive fig tree .

Operated with hot coals which have to be replenished from a gently burning wood fire nearby , this style of ironing seemd romantic and slow like the days gone by. I was sure my maid would LOVE me for this.

And so I arrived home with my trophy find in my luggage - my first non electricty dependant appliance. This was a few months back - my maid Samantha just graciously smiled, nodded knowingly and then put the iron on display on the kitchen window sill where it sits today - as yet unused.