When I was small, we volunteered. Often, it was in support of local artists, potters, jewelers and musicians in our community.
My childhood was rich with the music of my Orchestra Conductor Father, and the vast gardens of my piano teacher Mother.
I was surrounded by the lush rainwashed mountains and seaside landscapes of British Columbia, Canada, and antiques that my parents collected in the house they built.
My parents motto was ‘Want something? Make it yourself!’
We grew our own vegetables, raised chickens, studied music, and built things. I learned to sew, knit and crochet, and spent my childhood playing in the forest next to our house, industriously crafting things out of scraps, plant matter and fabric.
I loved to dig through the multitude of wooden chests filled with heirloom textiles stitched and hand embroidered by generations past, and I delighted in stories of how our family had grown, spun and woven flax by hand to make linen cloth.
My appreciation for and dedication to the magic of making things by hand continued into adulthood; cooking from scratch, spinning, knitting, sewing, gardening and building.
Sarah is responsible for coordinating orders, initiating and maintaining collaborations, providing design support for our artisan partners, photography, social media, and the overall idea generation and running of RANI & REINE.
A community of makers...
In August 2019, I sat with a group of 9 women artisans, in the small village community of Naggar, in the forested mountains of Himachal Pradesh. Knitting, spinning, weaving, chatting, learning and laughing together, we shared the craft traditions that they, like me, had learned from their mothers and grandmothers.
Far from home, yet familiar, we'd travelled to Himachal on a whim, hoping to set up a collaboration with the artisans of Kullvi WHIMS.
Mountains, forests, rivers, and wool.
This time together, combined with a multitude of emails, whatsapp conversations, video calls and sample orders has culminated in the launch of our first collection, Deodar, named after the lofty cedar trees (cedrus deodara) surrounding Naggar.
A collection of artisan made handspun and handknit wool accessories and homewares, made with local indigenous pure wool.
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"To come together and share skills in community, create a vision and craft something of unique value by hand, narrate the story of its creation and then send it out into the world to be worn and loved is something special."
I grew up moving from place to place - a result of my father's job in the State Bank of India. Shillong, Agartala, Guwahati, Patna, Imphal - amidst the mist and lush green hills and valleys of North East India.
I can hear the echoes of the slow dripping of rainfall on our tin roof, and remember the joy of running, drenched by the heavy monsoon rains.
I remember the feeling of the crisp starched cotton, as I helped my Mother to create knife edge pleats in her woven sarees and, during vacations, my maternal Grandmother's sarees, gossamer soft with age, as she dried my face with the patterned edge.
I remember the red checkered gamchas (cotton towels) my Father would collect and use, always handwoven, from Bengal or Bangladesh.
The warm sun and the fragrance of oranges - my Grandmother and Mother, sitting in the sun in winters on the terrace or verandah, knitting sweaters for us.
It seemed so magical - my mother's fingers, moving to and fro - patterns and textures emerging from her needles across the hours.
Handmade textiles were woven into the fabric of our everyday lives - it is only now, as I reflect on what we took for granted, that I begin to understand the greater significance of cloth and the connection to farmer and maker.
When he isn’t working at his full time job as a neuroscientist at our local University, Arindam is responsible for photography and the post-processing of our images for online platforms and is responsible for computer and other technical aspects of the business. A multi-linguist, apart from English and German, he is fluent in Hindi, Bengali and Assamese, and he translates with the artisans and collaborators who do not speak English. Last, but definitely not least, and integral to running a business with a young family, he often takes care of the kids during India trips or when Sarah is trying to squeeze in a few hours of work at home during the weekends.