MEET THE MAKER SERIES: GINGER SPARROW
#Designinthetimeofcorona has given me the opportunity to step back and connect with several artists and creatives that I have personally worked with to build my business or for client work. This week we have a very special company Ginger Sparrow. Ginger Sparrow is a handcrafted textile and modern home decor brand telling the story of incredible artistry through their hand blocked textiles, grass baskets and throws.
jmi : Tell us the story of how Ginger Sparrow began!
gs: Growing up in India, it was not unusual to have a neighborhood tailor, embroiderer or fabric dyer (commonly known as a karigar ) for all our clothing needs. Often, I accompanied my mother on trips to local workshops that she patronized. From made-to-order outfits to custom upholstery we had our go-to workshops and local craftsmen within a few miles of our home. These excursions were everything to me as a little girl and sparked my love of fabric.
In the alley behind our home was a traditional hand printing workshop. I spent a summer learning batik dyeing and hand block printing as an apprentice to Ramana, a master printer at the workshop. Every season he would participate in a local artisan fair and surprise us with his creativity and passion for the craft. Visiting these fairs was a much-awaited outing for mom and me. Makers from several villages would gather to showcase their crafts and we would wait for the opportunity to discover new fabrics and return with more excitement every season.
Over the years of watching and learning, interest turned into passion. We started Ginger Sparrow with the belief that these crafts will resonate timelessly in our modern, well-traveled homes. We can’t wait to share the voices and stories behind such incredible artistry with all of you.
jmi: How do you find your inspiration for your textiles?
gs: In the journey of life, we are all travelers. Wandering the world on different paths before we return home to where the heart is. We believe our homes should be inspired by the journeys we make and the stories we carry back into our lives along the way.
Our inspiration for our textiles comes from our journey around India, a land that rejoices in its vibrant crafts. Vast yet varied, every village and every tribe has a distinct culture, style and symbolism that is passed on through their crafts.
Historical monuments with intricate patterns, the beautiful colors of the open village landscape, sand-dunes, clay pots and bricks are all an endless source of inspiration for our motifs and color palettes.
We blend these ideas with the light and airy aesthetic of western homes to create the perfect fusion of cultures that our textiles embody.
jmi: We would love to learn more about the artisans behind the wonderful products at Ginger Sparrow?
gs: We have partnered with the best handcrafting collectives and artisan families across nine different villages in India. The one thing they all have in common is the patience and passion they pour into their craft. It is not just a source of income but central to their way of life in the village. In the mornings the narrow alleys echo with the clickety-clack of the looms and in the evening families gather to share a cup of tea and talk about their work for the day.
One of our most vivid memories from a visit to an artisan family home was of an old traditional wooden loom set into the ground right in the central courtyard of the home. Flanked by a bedroom on one side and the kitchen on the other it was the main gathering place in their home. From the minute we stepped in we knew we were somewhere very special. We sat around their loom with a hot cup of tea as though we were a part of their family.
The craftsmen learn skills taught to them by their parents and grandparents. The entire family is part of the process and each member contributes while mastering their special role. They support each other while weaving as a community and sharing resources available in the village.
Within the first hour of watching Shantibhai we were fascinated by his talent . We watched in awe as his hands moved so quickly making the complex technique seem almost effortless.
He shared stories about his village and about a time when there was one such loom in every home. Reminiscing Shanti Bhai says “I want to bring back that time.”
jmi: How are your textiles woven?
gs: All our textiles are handwoven on traditional wooden looms by crafting collectives and artisan families. From start to finish, every step in the process, from spinning the yarn to dyeing, and warping to weaving is done by hand using locally sourced materials. Some of our textiles have been woven on a backstrap loom, one of the oldest kinds of handlooms in India. Unlike other looms, weaving on the backstrap loom is done without a template. All the motifs are embroidered from memory using bamboo sticks. No drafts and guiding patterns here!
Through a combination of time-tested techniques blended with modern style we collaborate to produce the finest materials. In some cases, it can take up to four days to weave just one yard of fabric.
The subtle nuances of the crafts are rooted in tradition, carefully mastered, and handed down generation after generation.Every weaver has their signature and their handicrafts are expressions of their personalities and their cultural roots.
jmi: You just started making some hand blocked prints, tell us about the new collection!
gs: I’m really glad you asked! We’ve been excited to unveil our first set of hand block-printed textiles that we’ve been working on for the last few months.
Hand block prints are the perfect complement to stripes which have been a mainstay in our handwoven textile collections. Our prints are inspired by the soft colors of the desert which are characteristic of the landscape of Rajasthan, and the intricate designs of its iconic palaces. Our artisans are masters of color mixing and made sure to get the color right shade after shade.
These hand block printed textiles are available as yardage for custom home décor and interior design projects, upholstery refreshes or for a special decorative accent pillow to bring a global flair to your space. You can shop the collection here.
All dyes are made by hand at the workshop and it takes one full day to hand block three yards of textile.
jmi Choosing the right textile for a project can be hard, any tips?
gs: Fabric is the heart and soul of any room. From the couch and ottoman to pillows and curtains it plays a pivotal role in setting the mood for a space. Choosing the right textiles and combining them in a way that works for the space can seem daunting at first, but these simple tips have helped us along the way.
Color - I like to begin with the color palette and a few inspiration images for the space you are looking to design. Pinterest and Canva are my go-to resources to create mood-boards using those images and colors. As you pin together your favorites you will notice the color families you are naturally drawn to. From the mood-board pick out the neutrals that form a strong primary palette for your space. Also choose a complementary color in a darker tone to add depth.
This is when physical swatches come into the picture. We love looking at all our options in place to get a feel for what the colors and textures look like together. Its also important to keep reference swatches of any existing material that’s already part of the space to create a cohesive look. Make sure to look at the swatches in natural light and in the space at different times of the day to understand how the colors play out in the space.
Pattern and Texture – We love patterns and our thumb rule here is - Play with patterns, keep base colors similar. Two different patterns but no more than three work well in most rooms to create a sophisticated and layered look without feeling overdone. Even playing with the scale of similar patterns adds visual interest while creating a cohesive and well-balanced look. What’s worked for us - We love pairing stripes of different scales in similar colors or using florals to break the monotony of stripes.
Material and Weight – Not all fabrics are made equal and durability is just as important as appearance. Choosing between heavier weight and lighter fabric depends on the application. Heavier weight fabric such as wool, acrylic, polyester or velvet is great for high utility upholstery and anchors large furniture pieces. Lightweight fabric such as cotton, muslin, and linen are our absolute favorites to incorporate movement and lend an airy vibe to a space in the form of pillows, curtains, window treatments and shades. Very often we find ourselves combining heavy and lightweight textiles to give the room more balance between a casual and lived-in yet sophisticated and elegant feel. If you love the feel of soft cotton as much as we do, you can also try lining your pillows or ottomans with a layer of muslin or cotton for added strength and durability not to mention that extra lush feel.
jmi: Anything else we should know about Ginger Sparrow?
gs: All our collections are exclusively hand-crafted in small batches, from start to finish in a fair-trade environment. We invest 10% of the proceeds back into the artisan communities to help preserve their craft.
We love collaborating with interior designers and décor shops to create custom textiles, and furniture collections for projects. You can join our journey through our trade program.
This is what we do and what we love and can’t wait to share more of our stories with you. We would love to hear from your readers and what they would like us to create for them.