When you buy a new book, do you ever bury your nose in between the pages and inhale the scent of mystery, romance, and adventure? That’s what walking into Handcraft’s paper factory is like. But instead of laying your nostrils against the page, your whole body is immersed in the smell. Paper. Freshly made, freshly cut, paper. There are also traces of binder’s glue and fresh rain. Altogether, a pleasant combination.
Handcraft is one of our partners for this project. They produce the gorgeous paper products you can see on our Shop page from raw lokta (a bush-like plant that grows in the Himalayan foothills) collected from Northern Nepal. The plant is harvested, processed into sheets of paper and sent to the workshop where it is transformed into something beautiful.
Not only does the factory smell incredible, it’s visually pleasing and colourful. Sensory overload for sure. From the factory window you can see the traditional architecture of the Kapan Monastery, sitting regally on the crest of a hill and overlooking the small buildings in the valley below. Stacks and piles of rangi-changi (multi-coloured in Nepali) paper and products scatter the workshop.
Also scattered throughout the room are the men and women who work there, equally as colourful with their brilliant kurtas and sarees. When we arrive, they’re folding envelopes for greeting cards. By the time we leave several hours later, they’ve completed at least two other projects, all while laughing and joking with each other, probably about the weird girls with the video cameras.
Luckily, our home is about a 30 second walk away from the Handcraft showroom so we’re very acquainted with the owner and his amazing products. He agrees to sit down with us and share everything he knows about the papermaking business. We interview him for close to two hours, and although the interview takes place in Nepali, we can tell he is an incredible fountain of knowledge. He knows the business inside and out and is proud of what he has built. His wife also works in the factory, making it a family affair.
We also get the chance to interview two women who work at the workshop and watch what a regular production day looks like for them. There’s folding and pasting and cutting and setting and drying and all the other tiny steps it takes to create something handmade and wonderful.
This was our first traceability trip with a partner and seeing what goes into the products we feature was truly enlightening, encouraging and downright fun. It was also a huge learning experience for us and one we are grateful for.