The local newspaper of Dehradun, the Garhwal Post, recently asked Maneet to write a piece about her life growing up in Dehradun and what inspires her creatively. Below is the text of the article and there is also a photo of it in the newspaper.
I have had the good fortune of being born and raised in Dehradun. This is where I spent my entire childhood and did my schooling. My very fond memories from my childhood are of playing in the sal forests, cycling to the tea gardens and picking fallen raw mangoes after a storm with my cousins! My sister and I both have been brought up very close to nature and thanks to my grandparents and parents, creativity is in our blood!
Watching my mother work with needles and sewing machine most of the time and wearing the dresses all made by her had a great impact on me. My sister too played a very big part in influencing me. We had a strong bent towards the creative field and with encouragement from our parents we both landed up in a design schools for our higher studies!
I studied Craft Design and specialised in Textiles Design from the Indian Institute of Crafts and design in Jaipur. I was very lucky to spend a good four years in a state like Rajasthan which is the gold mine of crafts and culture of our country. Opportunities are great in a textile hub like Jaipur, but my heart was always in the mountains. That’s when I took up my graduation project in Uttarakhand, with Khadi and worked on the Handwoven blankets called ‘Thulma’ and ‘Chutka’ woven mainly by the bhotia tribes in the upper Himalayan regions like Dharchula and Munsiyari. By then I had made up my mind that I was coming back to my state to work with the abundance of craft skills here and this is where I would make my career.
I started work as a designer with a non profit organisation here in Dehradun working for women empowerment. I worked with a big group of underprivileged women from various villages. They were trained in the crafts of patchwork, appliqué and quilting. I developed an entire range of products in home furnishing and accessories focusing on Kids collection. During my work period of 4 years here we saw a great improvement on quality, designs and the overall growth of the organisation. This gives me immense pleasure and satisfaction of having worked with rural artisans of our state and a sense of achievement in my initial professional life. Through this work I feel I have contributed in giving back to society.
It’s at this juncture when I felt the urge of going back to my roots of textile design and felt that this was the right time to start my own design studio where I could have a brand of my own. And all because of the immense support and encouragement from my husband Marcus, today I have set off on that journey. Our brand is called ‘KURMA’ and I have a website at www.kurma.co.in
The very first project I worked with block printing from Jaipur and then developed a range of products for babies. Although I am very proud of that initial collection it was challenging to be so far from the source of production and it made me realise that I did not want to work with the skills of another state but instead be proud of and work with the opportunities here on my doorstep. This was a Eureka! moment for me and a real turning point for KURMA. Since then my focus has shifted to Uttarakhand and the natural beauty that lies around us all here in Dehradun. I live with my husband in Johri gaon, right next to these massive sal forests and very lucky to be woken up by the lovely bird calls every morning. This is what inspires me!
My current design range is completely inspired by the bird life and trees that I see every day and I am very proud of the work that I am doing. Uttarakhand generally and Dehradun specifically is full of creative people and nature has provided us with every idea we will ever need be it in the actual fabric of the textiles or the designs.
Also I am very lucky to work with some great partner organisations like BAJAJ Institute of learning for hearing impaired who have trained women in the skills of stitching. It’s a whole new experience and a great learning to work with them. They are extremely highly skilled and their work is first class.
Starting your own business is not easy. There are many challenges and setbacks but when things go right there is no feeling like it. Seeing my creative vision become a reality makes everything worthwhile. You just have to get started, that is the main thing. Once you start on a project like this somehow the universe conspires to help you along your journey.