Ohrna

Pune, 
India
http://www.ohrna.com
  • Booth: 1076

Ohrna’s rustic contemporary designs are organic & traditional-artisanal. Our handcrafted products in jute, a plant fiber combined with ikkat & bandhini are made by women seeking financial freedom.

Our designs: scarves, gift bags, planter holders, totes, pouches, backpacks, laptop bags 

Brands: Ohrna
 Ohrna means 'veil' in Bengali, a language of India's east. 
 With focus on use of plant fibers, a source of livelihood among rural women and packaging in up cycled materials, Ohrna believes in responsible design. Our range of bags, gift packaging, table napkins and much more, all using ikkat and bandhni fabrics combined with jute, which is a plant based sustainable material.


 Press Releases

  • Ohrna is an organization based in India, launched with a dream of helping rural women earn a living making handmade products from organic and sustainable materials. 

    Our goal is to help save the planet while also giving some of its poorest people a source of income, livelihood and pride. 

    Our products are made out of jute – a biodegradable, recyclable natural fiber – and are designed using India’s rich, time-honored handicraft traditions. 

    Ohrna proudly introduces embroidered jute to wider markets and uses jute because it is a natural vegetable fiber. 

    We provide free training and raw materials that enable women to work from home. One of our core objectives is creating financial freedom and self-worth among home-based women. This lets them balance their family and home commitments without needing to leave their villages.  

    Every Ohrna product therefore provides a woman with not just income, but a sense of self-belief.

    The meaning of Ohrna is ‘veil' in Bengali, a language of India's east. For a woman, an ohrna adorns her attire, provides her the grace and comfort she seeks and shields her from the harshness of the sun... 

    Ohrna is just over a year old. When profitable, we plan to turn over profits in benefit of makers and their families.

    So every Ohrna product brings many people – and our earth – closer to a better tomorrow.

    Founder: Jhumkee Iyengar: A people-centered product and experince designer, also a teacher, writer and presenter 

    Inspired by: Sharmila Sen, a fine arts graduate who worked tirelessly with this philosophy of financially empowering rural women for 24 years

    Facilitator: Mann Deshi Foundation, an organization that promotes rural women entrepreneurship

  • Ohrna products are specifically designed to make your life just that little bit easier.

    A tote that lets you keep your shoes or bottles separate from things you don’t want dirty or wet…A laptop sleeve with special pockets for your boarding pass, pen, paper and of course, your phone... A journal cover with an integrated penholder so you never have to worry about where that pen went… 

    Our designs are backed by a studied human-centered design sense and sensitivity that make our products as practical to use, as they are visually appealing.

    Ohrna's objective is to combine traditional crafts and organic materials to make innovative, contemporary products of daily life. 

    We do this while always keeping in mind not just ease of use and beauty for the customer but also the abilities of makers who typically start out not as artisans, but as housewives or farmers, often with very limited sewing or embroidery skills. Understanding their context gives a greater appreciation of the quality of their work, and also helps us design to ensure that quality.

    As all of our products are made by our rural women partners, our designs are not just easy to use – they’re easy to make and easy to teach as well! For example, all our bags are designed for manufacture as a ‘bag-in-a-bag’, to make the finishing so much easier to achieve with in-home sewing machines. 

    We are thus constantly seeking to balance our designs to be useful, practical, visually pleasing, marketable and yet within our makers' abilities that allows us to achieve the best possible handmade quality. 

    Our main design philosophy is that there is much beauty in simplicity! We’re always experimenting with different designs, patterns and colors to express our beliefs through our products...and that is what makes each one of them unique! 

    Considering design as a tool of Inclusion and global outreach, Ohrna presented at the Interaction Designers Association Education Summit in Lyon, France in Feb 2018 on the topic ‘Can Design with a Purpose Inspire the Underserved?’ 

    So an Ohrna product you buy will not just make your life easier… it’ll also make someone else’s life better.

    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. Many of our artisans are from Mann Deshi Foundation. 

  • Ohrna chooses to combine jute, the organic, plant-based fabric of Bengal....with the beautiful kantha style of embroidery from the same region. We patronize jute because it is a natural vegetable fiber, biodegradable, naturally decomposable and strong and durable. It is a wonderful and proven substitute for plastic. And Ohrna proudly introduces embroidered jute to a wider and global audience, using kantha on jute!  

    We generally use earthy colors in our choice of jute as well as in our other fabrics and in our embroidery, carrying forward the same organic and natural feel even when we combine jute colors in our products. 

    Much of the rustic look of our designs is courtesy beautiful organic jute. 

    Eastern India abounds in water bodies, the natural and unique environment for jute cultivation, hence this part of the world is home to jute plantation. 

    With our allegiance to jute, we also apply our organic philosophy in everything we do. For our journal with penholder for example, the paper is 100% handmade and recycled, originating from cloth and cotton waste and not trees. 

    This year, we also introduce elaborate kantha embroidery using age-old,  traditional tribal motifs, on silk stoles – our attempt at preserving this exquisite but dying tradition.   

    In continuing our organic philosophy and practices from start to end of our workflow, we package our products in up-cycled saris as well and very colorful ones too! We love it, as do our customers. And we have amassed quite a collection from our well-wishers! 

    With beautiful embroideries on jute, a natural vegetable fiber, recyclable and completely biodegradable yet strong and durable, Ohrna products thus promote both empowerment and environment preservation. Made by rural and home-based women, your purchase supports their journey to empowerment, and profits benefit their families.

    Ohrna believes in responsible design. Our focus is use of sustainable materials, employment of rural and home-bound 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. 

  • 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

  • For Seema Satish Chavan one of the defining moments of her 36 years life has been the day her painstakingly hand crafted pouch was bought by a student from New Jersey. Born and raised in a small village four hours from Mumbai, Seema had never heard of New Jersey. But the purchase unlocked for her an opportunity she had only dreamt of till now - the ability to create something with her own hands and have that skill empower her financially. ‘After seeing the global world through Ohrna, I feel awakened’, she says. 

    Ohrna is a story about people through products. In extraordinary efforts towards empowerment, our Makers strive hard for perfection. 

    Jyoti our studio assistant in Pune, was terrified to hold a scissor. She now confidently cuts fabric. She also enjoys drawing instructions on the village kits that replace written ones, empowering also those who cannot read. Jyoti is now her family’s main breadwinner. 

    Lonand and Mhaswad are rustic villages in Western India about 160 kilometers from Mumbai in Maharashtra state, and home to some of the women who make our handmade products. Small temples dot the landscape, their shikhar(steeple) painted in bright colors, arches welcoming visitors to each village, sugarcane fields, bullock-carts, schoolgirls on their very long walk to school and bright colored turbans, all distinguish the hilly and arid surroundings. 

    Hubli in neighbouring Karnataka state where we also work, about 250 miles from Bangalore, is characterized by coconut water vendors, jasmine flowers in women’s hair and rice flour decorations at the entrance to homes.  Ohrna decided to set up a presence there after visiting women in Hubli, who enjoy embroidery and sewing, but are mostly homebound. They wished for opportunities to work from home, and Ohrna believes in enabling and empowering women to earn a living.

    Our artisans from Lonand and Hubli belong to Manndeshi Foundation, an organization that promotes rural women entrepreneurship.

    Ohrna is inspired and has been enriched by its work with these rural women, many of whom are also farmers and feel a real connect with Mother Earth. Sharing not just work, but meals and experiences have led to some cherished bonding moments. 

    Ask Noorjehan Tehsildar, who enjoys Ohrna work a lot, how Ohrna has been transformational for her. “I love to do creative work, to learn new things. I want to do something, to become somebody’. “You come from so far to teach us, it feels very nice. I hope Ohrna grows, and I hope you can keep giving us work”, she adds. 

    Or Vishakha Balkrushna Desai, who works on her own schedule and puts away the entire amount she earns to buy gold ornaments for her daughters’ wedding. 

    That in essence is what inspires Ohrna. Hearing their stories you know that Ohrna is much more than an enterprise. 

    When asked what she did during her days off after the festval holidays, Jyoti said she was in the hills collecting firewood. And happily added that she collected enough for a month.  

    Ohrna salutes the spirit of these women! 

    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

  • India is a land of rich crafts, each state having its own unique embroidery tradition. 

    Kashida of Kashmir, Kutchi of Gujarat, Kantha of Bengal, Chikankari of Uttar Pradesh, Kasuti of Karnataka, Phulkari of Punjab and Peepli of Odisha are some of the popular embroidery styles of India.  

    While our main mission at Ohrna was enabling livelihoods while advocating sustainability, another goal we set out with also is to help preserve the traditional crafts of India. And we focused first on Bengal, the eastern state of India known for its rich artworks and textiles.

    We chose to combine jute, the organic, plant-based fabric native to Bengal with the beautiful kanthastyle of embroidery of the same region.

    The combination of jute fabric and kantha embroidery has become Ohrna’s trademark. Jute’s natural earthy colors, that we have also combined and complemented with various interesting regional fabrics added over time, is turning into the hallmark of our brand. 

    On our visit to the town of Hubli, about 250 miles from Bangalore, we were introduced to the kasuti style of embroidery. Kasuti, the traditional and intricate embroidery of Karnataka, a state on India’s southwestern coast is a combination of backstitch, running stitch, cross stitch and zig-zag running stitch. It creates beautiful patterns and designs.  

    While we have not yet integrated kasuti in its traditional form into Ohrna products, our kasuti artisans of Hubli are applying cross-stitch from among the kasuti stitches to our products. They also embroider the kantha stitch and are now applying it to embroider beautiful silk scarves. 

    With many of our rural women artisans having a limited knowledge of embroidery and design, Ohrna equips them with embroidery and product making skills that are transforming their lives through financial empowerment. 

    This endeavor also fulfills its other aim -- to preserve the rich craft of handmade products that form the fabric of India’s culture. 

    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

  • (Jan 25, 2019)

    Sharmila Sen, an artist who lived and worked in eastern India, has been Ohrna’s beacon. 

    Sharmila began training tribal women in Bengal in the early nineties, running a home-based jute enterprise. Through this initiative, she sold products embroidered by these women, in local exhibitions. The enterprise had an immense impact on their lives, and many women came back with stories of how the income helped educate their children or solved some of their basic monetary problems. 

    It is this empowerment of rural women that Ohrna is trying to take forward, while also promoting sustainable, organic materials like jute. 

    Sharmila’s designs have been embroidery-intensive, using embroidery traditions and skills of the region where she worked by combining jute and wool.  We wished to retain at least one of her original designs at Ohrna, and took it to artisans in Hubli for its application to our intricately embroidered Meditation Cushions. 

    Today Ohrna proudly takes forward Sharmila’s legacy and introduces embroidered jute to wider markets. We are honored to have her as a mentor, and to have her blessings to take her vision forward. 

    "There's no language that can describe how much Ohrna means to me. It makes me so happy”, says Sharmila. 

    “I ran my venture for 24 years but had to give it up for various reasons. It was like a child that I could no longer take care of, but I'm so grateful that my child has found a loving and nurturing home in Ohrna. I pray Ohrna grows to even greater heights" she adds. 

    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. Many of our artisans are from Mann Deshi Foundation. 

  • Empowerment is not just about earning or formal literacy, but about what happens along the way. At Ohrna, inspired voices of the women artisans with whom we work, become our purpose. 

    Jyoti, our studio assistant in Pune, had never held a scissor in her life and was scared to cut scrap paper. She gradually learned to cut fabric confidently, and being able to do so made her feel stronger! She couldn't write but loved to draw; and drawing icon-based product instructions for our ready-to-sew Makers Kits that we send to the village, became her exciting activity. 

    Vinita, one of our artisans in Lonand village, expressed 'फुलनाहीतरपाकळीसही', which means ‘even if it is just a petal and not the whole flower, it is mine. I have earned it and am proud of my accomplishment.’ Born in a typical rural family, Vinita’s education ended after 10th grade. Working mainly on the family farm after marriage, Vinita’s story of grit reflects the self-belief that Ohrna aims to create. 

    Vinita was excited to work with Ohrna - it was not just money but also the art. She has become more courageous and confident, and learned the value of time. She has learned also to be a perfectionist and loves making mats and runners.

    Salma, an artisan from Hubli, brought her son to one of our workshops because she couldn’t leave him at home alone. He only had scraps of cloth, newspaper pieces and chalk to play with throughout the day as she worked on her new mat design but he was just as full of glee at the end of the day as he was at the start!

    Vishakha hails from India’s lush green Konkan region, known for people who are generous. A heavy workload on the farm forced her to drop out of school in the 12th grade. Longing to work, she was determined to find a path to self-employment that led her to Ohrna. 

    Vishakha feels motivated because the products represent women like her. Among new things she has learnt at Ohrna besides embroidery, were sticking to deadlines and the value of time. Though nervous initially, she is confident now and enjoys the art. A stitch worked is a penny earned and Vishakha puts away her entire earnings to buy gold jewelry for her daughter’s wedding, while working on her own schedule.

    Seema felt ‘there should be more to life than just school, getting married, having children and then going away from this world– is this all what life is about?’ Her deep desire to do something for herself as well as women like her led her on a search for work to the Manndeshi Foundation, which then connected her to Ohrna. ‘After seeing the global world through Ohrna, I feel awakened’, she adds. 

    Seema expects that Ohrna will create the opportunity for her to train more women who will then be able to earn, and the art will also stay alive. ‘In life, we may have less, but it should be satisfying,’ she concludes.

    Ohrna is inspired and enriched by these women, making it much more than an enterprise.  

    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 Mann Deshi Foundation. 

  • The journey of Ohrna from the interiors of rural India to the glittering streets of New York has of course been one paved with challenges. From convincing conservative families, reluctant to have their women acquire financial independence to ensuring the quality of the products to finally finding the right market for them, it’s been an uphill task most of the way.

    But then transformations require time and tenacity. And today, as Ohrna stands here as a testament to that journey, we feel every stumbling block was well worth the effort.

    We’ve mentioned earlier about Ohrna’s goal of helping the environment, empowering rural women and preserving India’s rich craft traditions. But another important objective has been to link people across the globe through our products. Many of our makers, our local women artisans, derive great pride from the fact that their work is being purchased by customers on the other side of the world, in the United States. NY NOW will play a huge role in realizing and furthering this dream of a global link. 

    While Ohrna launched with the philosophy of providing employment to rural Indian women by equipping them with skills that would generate a source of income, we have moved far along beyond that initial objective, through our presence at NY NOW. We have successfully created products that we believe stand for responsible design on all fronts, and we take pride in showcasing them globally at NY NOW. 

    Ohrna attempts to not just train and facilitate the growth of our artisans, but also to be the bridge that connects them as well as our rich traditions in crafts and fabrics with an appreciative market worldwide, where their efforts can find both validation and value.

    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 Mann Deshi Foundation.

  • One of the most interesting things about Ohrna’s work is our presence in India, one of the world’s most multicultural and multilingual countries. 

    For NY NOW this year, we have focused our collection on two fabrics, ikkat and bandhni, combined with our trademark kantha embroidery on jute. 

    Ikkat, isa style of weaving dyed fabrics, that is widespread in southern and eastern India and is rapidly becoming popular globally. 

    And the other is the traditional tie-dye bandhnistyle from India’s western and northwestern desert regions, with its vibrant colors, has made our product line richer and more vibrant!

    Besides our explorations with fabrics, we’ve innovated with our products as well. 

    Last year we debuted our new ‘harmony’ pattern at NY NOW, as a culmination and symbol of who we are. They depict the harmony between trees, birds, animals and people. We had applied this theme and pattern to our set of 4 cushions, using 4 traditional motifs of kantha embroidery. This year we have taken that forward into designing a silk stole with many more motifs, all tribal and traditional that are a hallmark of embroidery from Bengal in India. 

    Be sure to look these up in our booth #1076. 

    Our ethnic backpack combining a kantha-embroidered 2 color jute with the rich ikkat and bandni, and a faux leather strap was selected for the ‘Destination: New’ exhibit at NY NOW. 

    Don’t miss our display at the ‘Sustainability: Design for a Better World’ exhibit! It is our very own upcycled sari packaging that customers asked for and so we made into a product offering this year. 

    We love these vibrant fabrics so much, that we also launched table napkins in the kkat and bandhni fabrics this year, as an alternative to dull monochrome napkins at the table. 

    Besides this, we have added to our product family of pouches, by designing a coin pouch, a pencil pouch, a laptop sleeve and a gift card pouch, which happens to be a collaborative design effort with our client. 

    We hope you will come visit us in New York, to help us continue this conversation and join us on our journey!

    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 Mann Deshi Foundation.

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