Meet Vaidesh - An Honest Interview with a talented artisan

April 29, 2020

Hand embroidery by artha collections



Planning designs for artha collections


An interview with Vaidesh - An artisan working for the association, The Hand Embroiderers of Tamil Nadu

(This interview was translated from Tamil and transcripted by Sangheeta)

When we received our latest order from The Hand Embroiderers of Tamil Nadu we were really happy with the clean and efficient way in which it was done. We learned that Vaidesh, a young artisan slowly taking on more and more responsibilities within the association had led the production from start to finish. We wanted to sit down with her and ask some questions about her life within and beyond the community.

How long have you been working with the assocciation?

It has been 7 years so far. I joined when my elder son was 9 months old, now he is in 3rd grade.

When you first started what were your responsibilities?

Initially, I was not involved in product design. My work was to connect with the artisans. I had to send them clothes for embroidery and collect them back after work is done. 

What does a typical work day look like for you? Do you work mostly from the community center or from home? How do you travel to work and how long does it take you?  When you are not working what does your day look like? 

It usually differs based on upcoming exhibitions. I’m involved in production – both product design and connecting with the artisans. We work from 9-5 except on Sundays. My work is from community center only. I have my own scooter which I ride from my home with my kids. My kids go to school in Sittilingi. At home on holidays, it will be only household work. Since I come for work everyday, there are a lot of pending work that gets piled up at home. My Sundays are usually about finishing those. 

Could you tell me what the process is once you receive an order from a client. What processes do you have to ensure everyone finishes their work on time.

Once an order is placed, we as a team sit together and talk about the feasibility of the timeline the buyer asks. Once timeline is set, we think about sampling. New designs need sampling, but old designs can be just repeated with some changes. After sampling, the artisans are chosen, based on their time and specific skill set (some designs are done only by specific artisans). They will be informed about the details and the timeline.
I make phone calls often, almost everyday to check the embroidery progress at the village. After I get back home, I make sure that I ask them in person as well. 
Do you do any embroidery work?

I do. That’s the best part of the work I like. I have been doing embroidery for more than 5 years by now.

How do you find that you developed personally within the organization and who were the people who guided you. What skills have you learned along the way?

I have changed a lot in the past five years. I used to be very scared to talk to people. But since my work demands constant negotiation, I feel I have become better now. Now just in way of talking and getting the work done, but also to understand people’s situation from their shoes. It has been a great learning that way. Many things which I feel I’m good now cannot be put into words. The communication skills we learn is quite helpful in the family also, to deal with things in a better way.

Does Porgai work with other groups in the THI family and learn from each other? What process do you use to exchange ideas?

We had very good time with THI (Tribal Health Initiative - read more here) team in the previous campus. After we moved into this new place, we don’t have much time to interact with others. It would be great to all of us if we find ways to do it.

How often do you meet with the other artisans to discuss issues related to the association?

Every month we have a meeting. Otherwise, the center is open all the time to listen to and sort out any other issues. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?
Doing embroidery, that’s what I love the most about this job.

What aspects of your job do you wish you could improve?

Time management. We are still working on how to stick to the time we promise our clients. With a rural background, it is indeed difficult. The communication, transportation, even seasons - harvest time, artisans will be working in fields - and other dynamics. But I hope we somehow master this specific skill of sticking to time.

Which additional responsibilities if any, would you like to be able to take on? What skills would you like to work on?

I can’t say one specific responsibility. Any new skill, I’m eager to learn and work on it. 

How has working with Porgai helped you financially and personally?

Financially, I’m able save and handle money by myself now. I got my own scooter, I pay my children’s school fees. And Porgai work is not just about money. I did only household work before. Now I do embroidery, I do production, I interact with more people and I have responsibilities for myself. That itself is great I feel.
Tell me a little bit about yourself. Have you always lived in Sittilingi?  How many children do you have, how old are they?  Do they go to school nearby?

I was born in Poyampalli Thanda in Thiruvanamalai district. My husband is from A.K.Thanda of Sittilingi valley. I have three children. The elder two boys go to school. They are 8 and 5 years old. The youngest is a girl. She lives with my mom now.

Do you stay in the same tanda (village) as your or your husband's family?  Does the family help with the household chores and the children?  

Yes I stay in Thanda only. I come to Sittilingi everyday. Household work, only I do, like any other family.

Do you have a favorite food?  Do you have favorite music and a favorite TV show?

I love to eat sweet pongal. I don’t watch TV. I listen to random songs while working but not very often.