Ohrna’s leadership hails from a design background with an established process of going from concept to prototype to finished product.
However, we had to change many parts of the rulebook when it came to our makers -- our rural women partners, primarily because of a vastly different context. Our simplest designs and assumptions were sometimes not as simple as we had thought!
Yet we learn from them even as we teach - not just about sewing and making but also about life! And they have played a big role in shaping the design journey of our products.
A journey to the village for a Maker’s Workshop™ involves a lot of planning.
First, detailing out our design concept, multiple prototypes and making methods. Then deciding how many of each design we want to make over two or three workshops, and finally cutting jute, our base material accordingly.
Our prepackaged Maker’s Kit™ also involves coordinating fabrics and embroidery thread colors, a part we enjoy immensely, as we mix and match colors and textures to arrive at the right design.
Our training is free and we hand over pre-cut and ready-to-make kits to the ladies at the end of the workshop. There is always a lot of excitement to learn new designs!
The first product we designed was our eco-sunglass case, which we thought would be quite easy to make but was a steep learning curve -- for them and for us. But the effort paid off and we found the perfect first customer – an ophthalmologist!
Our second product in our second workshop was a journal cover with an inbuilt penholder. The ladies first practiced on paper and then on rough cloth before switching to the final materials. Getting the dimension, alignment and overall perfection was quite a challenge, but we got there in the end.
As we ventured into making table runners at our third workshop and then table mats, penholders and even bags, our planning and preparation got more and more elaborate so even detailed products would be easier to make and teach.
Working with artisans in multicultural, multilingual India is fun. Instructions often have to be labeled in various languages and translated, sometimes getting lost in translation too!
But working with our Makers and understanding their needs has helped us make our products not just better and more beautiful but also meaningful for them. This is because we want our products to be made in their village homes and on their own time. ‘Easy to make’ has become one of Ohrna’s key tenets!
Ohrna believes in responsible design. Our focus is use of sustainable materials, employment of rural women, preservation of rich craft traditions and packaging in up cycled materials.
We train for free and often employ women with minimum skills. We design to customers' needs and also constantly adapt our designs for ease of making, for our makers. Most of our artisans are from manndeshifoundation.org