Keep making

As you may know already (just by reading one of my latest posts on Podcasts), yes, I have a special love for the podcasts, and so Aji’s has a podcast channel!

This was the perfect opportunity for me to know more about their work, just by listening to interviews with their talented craftsmen. What we really amazed me about Aji’s is about their vision: providing a craft made by the elderly community in Nepal.  You may sometimes wonder where is this community? Yes, they are at home, but are they still socially active? Are they meeting their friends, sharing, and still working on their passion?  This is how Aji’s got me interested so much at knowing more about them. Later on and due to the lockdown, I contacted via Instagram and was curious to know more about their vision, what they do, how did they start.  Here is the special interview of Aji’s

How did the idea of started Aji’s come to you?

The inspiration for Aji’s came from my own aji (grandmother in Newari). She’s 77 years old and loves knitting socks in her spare time. I noticed her socks piling up so decided to sell them for her so she could feel like her work was being valued. Pretty soon my sister Irina and I were putting up stalls at local markets in Kathmandu, selling products made by my aji and several other ajis who reached out to us for help in selling their handmade goods. Later my husband Pursarth joined and we expanded to sell our products online and internationally.

Is there a special meaning or connection to the name of Aji?

Yes! “Aji” means grandmother in newari language and as mentioned above the inspiration to start Aji’s was my own grandmother.

Tell us the story while building the network of your artisans. How have you been able to meet them and how the collaboration going so far?

The first artisans or makers were just people we knew, our own grandmothers or those of our friends’ and extended families’. As we started to get coverage in the media, we started to get a lot of inbound interest from the general public. We have onboarded 30 makers so far, and we do that by personally visiting them, and learning about their life and work. We heard so many great stories from them that we decided to document via Aji’s Podcast which has received great feedback and has become one of the most popular podcasts in Nepal.

We have so many more makers that are interested in joining our platform. We’re working hard to onboard as many makers as we can while being able to bring meaningful work to them.

While the Aji’s platform is a source of income for the elderly, we are also thrilled to learn from our makers that the benefit they received from our platform is beyond monetary. They’re also able to stay healthy and sharp by staying engaged, and gain self-confidence seeing their work being covered in the media.

Can you name one design that has been created « out of the surprise » or came out as you never expected? If so, tell us about the story!

Every product on our platform has a unique story behind it: the Dhaka Baby Blanket made by 84 years old Dil Hera Tuladhar led to her making her first income at age 83, the Vakra Bangle made by 62 years old Ratna Kaji Tamrakar whose skill as a silversmith has been passed down in his family for 10 generations, and 71 years old Pragya Devi Shakya who makes Dhaka Bhoto Set with a sewing machine that she inherited from her grandfather!

What would your dream for Aji’s?

We want Aji’s to be the platform for elderly empowerment. We want to give a voice to them through our podcast and blog, enable the younger and older generation to connect and exchange ideas, and empower the elderly to contribute to their communities through their work.

A big thank you to Ajis’team for their prompt reply to this interview. I wish all the best to Aji’s great community of home-based workers for more beautiful crafts to come! If you wish to find who are they specifically, their products or listening to the podcast, here is Aji’s website.

Sylvaine for Suti.

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