Artha Q&A: Handcrafted Homeware and Shopping Sustainably
Artha works with talented artisans from across the globe to bring you handmade homeware and accessories that blend traditional craftsmanship and contemporary design.
We caught up with founders Catherine and Claire, a mother and daughter duo, to find out more about how the brand began and why doing good is at the heart of their business.
What’s the idea behind Artha?
Surely you know the feeling of picking up a handcrafted piece on your travels, it becomes special to you and you will always remember that moment through the piece. With Artha, we want every piece to evoke that feeling.
Artha is a brand that celebrates the incredible quality and beauty of craft while simultaneously creating a source of sustainable income for talented artisans around the world.
How did Artha begin?
Catherine: I lived in Singapore between 2008-2014 and travelled extensively in the Asian region. I spent quite a bit of time in India, including volunteering there.
During this time, and through a series of coincidences, or perhaps fate, I was introduced to an incredible woman, Lalitha. She is the woman who is responsible for helping revive the ancient craft of Lambadi embroidery, the first type of craft we started working with at Artha.
I was so impressed by her dedication and of the other artisans in this community and so inspired by the beauty of their embroidery traditions. I spent more time there, initially buying and re-selling pieces to my friends and at local fairs and then began getting more involved sourcing higher quality fabric and giving design inputs. During one of my many trips to the valley, Claire came along.
Claire: I first travelled to this little village in 2011 while still in my studies, I was amazed by all of the beautiful embroidery the women were doing.
We spent time watching the artisans work and speaking to Lalitha and I really became intrigued by the craft. I thought it would be fun to further work with them on developing our own collections– to choose our own colours and give our design inputs.
But most importantly I wanted to find a way to help these artisans access a larger market, so that they could sell more and earn a living from their craft. I also thought, with all of the mass-produced product out there, how about a company that focused on the handmade qualities and the telling the stories of their makers?
What do you like best about working as a mother and daughter team?
There are many wonderful aspects, but surely one of the most important is that we’re almost always in sync with our thoughts and ideas.
We have similar tastes while at the same time having enough contrasting ideas to keep the design and marketing process interesting!
Why is keeping traditional craftsmanship alive so important to you?
If traditions die out so does an important part of the culture. And in much of the developing world, the traditional craft sector is a huge employer, particularly of women.
Our aim is to have traditional craft recognized and respected as a sustainable means of earning income within those communities where the craft originates, reducing the need to migrate to find work and ensuring that their culture is preserved for future generations.
The gap between what the consumer wants and traditional craft products has grown larger over the years. By adapting traditional designs and techniques to meet the tastes of today’s consumer we hope to make a contribution towards closing this gap.
Do you have a particular home or lifestyle in mind when you are designing?
We design with timelessness and versatility in mind. Though we do introduce a spot of colour here and there, we’ve kept our colour palette classic and adaptable to many different environments.
The Artha home can be rustic or modern, it can be a chalet in the mountains or a cottage by the beach. More than the design, it is the texture of our products that really contribute to a home’s interior.
Most importantly we always keep in mind the traditional designs of the groups we work with as we design, adapting theirs to ours.
Which items are your favourite in the current collection?
Catherine: That’s a difficult one to answer! I love the way our arrow rug harmonises with the triangle cushion covers from our Spring collection, plus the yak wool throws look great together with those pieces.
I use our napkins and placemats daily as they add a special touch to mealtimes and a linen napkin is so much more luxurious and sustainable than using paper napkins.
Claire: The Nyima Shawl – it elevates any outfit and is so warm and soft. It’s also perfect for travelling. Then the Round Blanket Basket because it can be used in many different ways – as a plant pot, to store blankets, as a laundry basket – and because it just adds great texture to any interior.
What are your top tips for someone looking to buy ethical or sustainable homeware?
Catherine: I certainly think that one of the first things to consider is the material used and to try and inform oneself as much as possible about the process behind the product and it’s making. Knowing the provenance and informing oneself about the production processes involved is part of being a responsible consumer.
Fortunately, today more and more brands are beginning to recognise the importance of being transparent in their production and pricing policies and we’re seeing an increasing number of homeware brands adapting to these requirements as well.
Certifications such as the Butterfly Mark provide a great service, helping consumers looking to make an ethical purchasing decision.
Claire: I also think that it is important to look for brands that openly and honestly communicate their relationship with the artisan communities they work with.
Now that it is becoming “trendy” to have artisan made products, artisan communities are also starting to be exploited, usually with larger companies trying to push down the product cost, reducing the artisans’ wages.
We have promised ourselves that we will always have strong relationships with the communities we work with and that we will always ensure that fair wages are paid and that good working conditions for the artisans are maintained.
Click the Butterfly Mark to find out more about Artha’s commitment to people and planet.