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The Story of a Rug Shoot

· Shreya Sarawagi

It’s been one hell of a week. As a freelance industrial and product photographer, I have shot a host of products ranging from diamonds and factories to food and beverages. When I got invited to shoot at Sarawagi, I jumped at the opportunity. Not only because I had never shot a carpet factory before but also because this was my chance to contribute to the family business. So I pack my bags and head to Kathmandu.

Day 01 – We spent the day at the weaving factory in Kathmandu. Surprising as it may sound, the last time I visited this factory I was a little girl. This time was different; I saw everything in frames. What really struck me during the shoot was the number of women the company employs. Turns out 75% of Sarawagi’s weavers are women – a lot of them from underserved communities. I did know that Sarawagi employed a lot of women but when I saw it with my own eyes it was rather moving. It IS true, these women generate income for their families, and use the income for productive purposes, earning the respect of their male counterpart and families.

Did I mention the shoot was in the middle of Spring Break, which could only mean one thing – the weavers’ children (the Sarawagi Scholars) did not have school, and a lot of them were hanging out at the factory with their moms, soaking up the sun or playing about. I had to struggle to keep them from touching my tripod and lights. But they were adorable, and made the shoot all the more fun.

Day 02 – On the second day we shot the dyeing facility. Let me tell you this is not as simple as it looks. The company runs a whole ‘color lab’ mixing and matching to achieve the right colored dye. I was acquainted with the term ‘pot dyeing’, a method of dyeing yarn in a pot.

Day 03 – There was a big shipment due in a few days so a lot of rugs were in the warehouse being sculpted and finished. This really is the essence of a handmade product. The finishing process is so intricate. A specialist spends hours on each rug to ensure that the end product is flawless.

Day 04 – The last day of the shoot, we checked out Sarawagi’s washing facility where both chemical and herbal washes are done. After this we headed to the hand carding and spinning facility. This was the end of the shoot and ironically we were shooting the first step in the process of making a Nepali handmade rug. Raw wool is hand carded (combed) to straighten it up. It is then hand spun to create the yarn which will make beautiful rugs and will be shipped to residences, stores, office spaces and hotels all over the world.

Phew. By Day 05 I am exhausted and all I want to do it relax, along with a hot cup of chiya and a plate of steaming momos. I have had such a great time learning about the entire rug making process, and although I may be biased, I will still go ahead and say it – I am impressed!

The author is a freelance photographer based out of New Delhi, India. She specializes in Product, Industrial and Food photography. Learn more about her on www.shreyasarawagi.com

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