One of the experts on the W3 group, Mr. Madhu Palaniyandi, had shared this a couple of weeks back. I have taken his permission to repost this verbatim. Please read and make sure that you make an effort to buy handloom always. Trendy clothes are also being made with handwoven cloth and you can always get them stitched in any style you want.. Remember, every time you buy a handloom product, you are putting food on the table for a weaver’s family and giving him or her a glimmer of hope to continue weaving magic. Handloom is inexpensive art that you can own, wear and enjoy everyday…. why miss the opportunity ?
Birth of a Handloom saree: By Madhu Palaniyandi
A saree is first conceived by a designer. After survey the market, after knowing the customers’ taste, after studying the trend he or she designed the saree. (S)he decided how it should be, how it should look, what should be the designs in the body, in the borders, in the palloo and what will be the colors. It is predetermined and then the concept is handed over to pattern maker.
The pattern maker then gives the shape to the idea by arranging the design patterns; whether it is plain, stripes, checks or mixed one or whether it is a figured motif or floral one and whether the designs are to be arranged by simple treadle weaving, dobby or Jacquard or by any other means. He finalize the type of yarns to be employed to bring out the product as per the design and the concept.
It is the weaver who finally weaves and brings out the product by his or her incomparable labour by maintaining all the parameters fixed by designer and pattern maker.
Unfortunately, in our country, more than 90% Handloom weavers’ societies or clusters or individual weavers don’t have any designated designer or pattern maker as they don’t know there are such facilities available in the industry or simply they are unable to afford to that.
Then who designed those saris? Believe me or not, it is designed, patterned and woven all by the weavers only. At least, this has been the practice in our handloom industry. By doing so, if everything comes off very well, their products will fetch money from the market. Otherwise, unsaleable! So, everything is at their risk. Including their livelihood.
Let us see how they fix the price for their products. In other words, how costing is done when it is woven and ready for marketing. It is a critical situation they are in always.
Firstly, they never have the courage to charge for their designing and pattern making talent. If we ask them about it a smile with shyness will appear on their faces.
Then, the charges for assistance in sizing, pirn winding etc. that are mandatory jobs of household wife or school going children are easily forgotten. Any wastage of yarn, accessories, mistakes or damages caused by untoward circumstances will not be allowed to count. So, when the costing is done, the price of their products will be calculated by taking all following factors in consideration.
The cost of total yarn in warp & weft which depends on the type and count of the yarns used (silk and linen are costlier than cotton and then again finer yarns are costlier than coarser cotton yarns), construction of the fabric, charges for preparatory works like bleaching, dyeing, bobbin winding, warp preparation, starch application etc.(all are by outsourcing and the charges for them keep increasing), loom setting for designs making like healds, design cards, dobby or Jacquard arrangement (new design means new settings of the loom which normally takes a few days at cost of weaver’s income), then weaving charges, finishing charges, if any, marketing charges, establishment charges and finally profit, if any one dares to make it.
The pity is, if the price fixed by taking all the above in to consideration is accepted by a customer, it is well and good. Otherwise, the price will start de-escalating and we have witnessed many a time the saree is sold off for a loss.
Why should they sell for a loss? People may ask. Because, the weaver should realise whatever he can from the investment he did for the whole warp of some 40 – 50 pcs of saris, so that he can reinvest again for something new with a faint hope of making profit. The loss he incurred will be adjusted from his wages, because it is not a fixed one like others. Even an assistant to a mason is assured about his income but not a weaver.
So, it is quite justifiable if a weaver switches over to some other profession. At least, he wishes his son or daughter should not be a weaver. When a weaver is working under a master weaver(mahajan) he is always kept indebted to him so that he can’t come out of his claws. At the same time he is paid less irrespective of his skill and capacity. On the contrary, the weaver is responsible for the success of his designs and the marketability. In the event of success the weaver is paid only the wages but not any share from the profit. If the design fails, he will be paid but very late and far less.
So, is it about the designs? Not always. Because all designs may not able to be woven. And all weavers may not have the loom arrangement with requisite accessories. And they may need skill upgradation training to successfully work on them.
So, friends, this is the present situation of our weavers who struggle to find a square meal daily for his family but left with no other options.
Development Commissioner for Handlooms, MOT, Govt. of India has instructed us during his recent visit to Kolkata on 8th June that a handloom saree should be priced by including a minimum daily wages of Rs.250/- to handloom weavers.
We really are wondering how feasible it is practically in the current marketing scenario of handloom fabrics. We, in handloom industry, trying our best to lift the morale of the weavers in all possible ways.
Of course, with the enduring support of you.