Coming from an art school background we were interested in paper as an artists’ material and this remains the focus of what we do.
In the early 1980s we were the first to introduce Indian handmade papers to artists and designers in and around London. We worked closely with papermakers in India, and later in Nepal and Bhutan.
More than twenty years ago we set up our own paper mill in India with our partner, Vasudevan. Vasudevan was previously manager at the Handmade Paper Institute in Pune, a research and training institute for the whole of India. No one in India knows more about making paper and it has been a great opportunity to work with him.
Our mill is just outside the village of Tarihal near Hubli in Karnataka, South India. This is a cotton growing area and Hubli has the biggest open air cotton market in Asia, an amazing sight. Cotton is the raw material of our Indian papers so this is an appropriate place for our mill to be located. Here Vasudevan is joined by his cousin Subbu who had previously worked at the paper mill of TARA (Technology and Action for Rural Advancement) in New Delhi, and his nephew Sreekumar who had also trained at Pune.
Khadi Papers India now directly employs over sixty men and women from local villages and indirectly provides work for printers, technicians and the carpenter, Badagir, who makes our deckles and moulds. We now have our own organic farm, irrigated by run-off water from the paper mill. Here we grow mangoes, bananas and organic vegetables.
In Nepal and Bhutan we have worked with the same papermakers for over twenty years. Milan Bhattarai’s company GET Papers was very small when we started working with him in 1983 and now employs 120 people of whom 60% are women.Milan’s company supports social projects including HIV/Aids education in sixteen districts of Nepal. In Bhutan Norbu Tensin’s Jungshi Paper Company, now run by his son Tshering Dorji, supplies us traditional papers from Trashi Yangste district in the remote east of the country. Tshering also makes beautiful papers for us in his factory in Thimpu.
But it’s not all work … in the last few years we have trekked in the Gauri Shankar region of Nepal with Milan and Subbu from our Indian factory and travelled with Tshering to eastern Bhutan… we’ve had a lot of adventures along the way.