I have painted on many surfaces over the years: clay, canvas, wood, buildings, streets, sidewalks, fabric, faces. None of this prepared me for painting on elephants. This is definitely something I never even dreamed of doing. I had mixed feelings going into it. I always awed at the beauty of the photographs of painted elephants in magazines and online, but was worried about what all that meant for the elephants. Weren’t they meant to be in the wild? Would these elephants be treated well?
I read all about Elefun before we went. It had good reviews and people had good things to say about how they treated the elephants. Our amazing trip planner, Gouthami, checked in with some of her local connections who also had good things to say about Elefun. Elefun is an elephant village dedicated to creating a safe and natural environment in order to conserve elephants. In Indian culture, elephants are revered, loved, respected and protected.
My first impression was that the elephants were MASSIVE. Being an animal nerd I knew that Indian elephants are one of the smaller varieties, these were anything but small. They introduced us to the elephants, had us pet their trunks. Showed us how to feed them bananas. They ate entire bunches of bananas at once, in what seemed like one giant bite.
Mahamaya in front of the piece she submitted for the National Award.
We had the honor of meeting with the very talented kantha artist Mahamaya Sikdar while we were in Kolkata. Mahaymaya is a President’s Award Winner & National Award Winner in her craft. She was in the middle of a move when we visited and graciously took the time to bring all of her kanthas to us so we could see her work. We got to see the incredible detail, hear about her process and discuss how she is helping pass her craft to younger generations.
Every culture has different traditions surrounding the birth of a little one, each celebration being unique but with a central theme of love and happiness. In the Hindu religion, many Indians practice the ceremony of Naamkaran, in which a new baby is named. In Sanskrit, “naam” means name and “karan” means to create. Traditionally, Naamkaran is held anywhere from the eleventh to twelfth day after the baby is born and before the baby’s first birthday. Family members and friends gather to celebrate the baby and the women are central figures in the ceremony and they carry many of the main rituals. A baby’s name is very important and parents usually take many things into consideration before settling on a name. Some parents look at the day and time of the baby’s birth, or look to astrology, numerology, music and mythology. The purpose of the ceremony is to celebrate the birth of the new baby and to welcome and bless it with a prosperous life. We named many of the pieces in our new collection after traditional Indian names. Learn more about the names of some of our baby and newborn pieces below!
We were thrilled to see bold print and pattern mixing everywhere we went in India. The brightly colored clothing (everything from saris to pavadas!) truly lit up the earth toned streets. Our newest prints give little citizens the freedom to mix and match as they please.
Kantha is a type of Bengali embroidered quilt. The kantha quilts of Bengal are created from fragments of old family garments layered on top of each other. Each kantha tells a story through technique, design and patterns. Women’s voices are heard through the mends, patches and stitches in this living tradition.
As we end one year and make our way into another, we’re taking this chance to look back and explore the places our collections have taken us. Tea has made it to over many different countries, met hundreds of caring people, learned how to sing and dance and say hello in countless languages. Most importantly, we’ve gathered all the inspiration along our way to share with you. Here’s a look at some places we’ve gone over the past few years.