Ganesh Himal has begun our Artisan Tour in Nepal! Below, Candi Smucker, owner of two fair trade stores in California (Baksheesh) writes about her visit to The Association of Craft Producers.

ACP headquarters are located in the suburbs of Kathmandu down a short, steep driveway that ends in a postage stamp sized parking area. No problems, we have trained, professional van drivers.

The buildings cling to the side of the hillside, multi-leveled and a bit warren-like, beautiful decorated with pieces made from the artisans. There are felted rugs in the bathrooms, blocked curtains at the windows, terracotta light fixtures and colorful paintings on the ceiling.

We met Meera, founder and executive director, in her office. The video equipment was set up and Sarah taped her presentation to us for future use of one sort or anything. Meera loves her work and gave us the history and stories of ACP.

The tour began. We trooped up the stairs, down the stairs, across the walkways and all around to see the many divisions at work. About 80 people work at this complex, we may have met them all. Headquarters houses the administrative offices, a cafeteria, shipping, design and multiple production units, finishing and packaging units.

First stop was at felting, where new samples of  felted jewelry was in process. The first group of women sat in a covered area on the rooftop sudsing the wool and rolling little cylinder beads in a wide array of colors.

Then on to the next set of workrooms where two women where busy making prototypes of potential new products. Next came the ceramic pieces. Back down the stairs and across the wide central court yard. Under this court yard is a massive holding tank for rain water so they can provide much of the water needed for their felting and dyeing processes. The water used is all retained and the sludge removed.

On the other side of the courtyard and into the next building we see the mounds of dyed yarn coming out of the drying ovens and the HUGE roller presses used to dry yards and yards of fabric when it’s too damp to dry outside in the courtyard.

Now, please remember here that I am fully aware that the Baksheesh bags we give away in our stores are made here. I really do know that. But being fully engaged in the moment I had totally forgotten. At the top of the next set of stairs the door opens, I walk into a huge workroom covered, really covered, with silkscreened Baksheesh bags set out to dry. On the floor, all over the work tables, everywhere! Naturally, I had to burst into tears. Four silk screeners didn’t miss a beat while I stood there and cried. Joan took about 102 pictures, no exaggeration there. We namasted all over the place and I thanked them for the bags and they thanked me for the orders and I just cried some more. It was wonderful.