Abdul Salam doesn't even remember- the day when he first started weaving Pashminas. He says that he was just 8-9 years old when he started with the handloom. "My father, my grandfather, my grandmother, all were associated with Pashmina making. Some would spin the yarn, some would weave it while others would take the responsibility of getting the shawls and stoles embroidered. Hence we lived for and because of Pashmina, and it was all we could and wanted to do", says Salam while weaving a Pashmina handkerchief. When Pashmina was at its zenith, artisans would engage their children with the same art and ask them to even quit studies and learn Pashmina art fully so as to become masters of it. Hence if the head of the family was a weaver, his wife would be a spinner and children would learn from their parents. The legacy of artisans would continue for centuries even, and none of the family members would ever think to switch. "Pashmina weaving or spinning with hand would bring peace to us. It was a job, a hobby and a skill with which we were emotionally attached. But the power loom changed it all", said Salam. It is unbelievable that the craft which is revered by Salam and hundreds of artisans like him, is about to become a thing of the past. The conception of machine-made Pashmina has become the greatest threat to the livelihood of the local artisans who have been spinning or weaving Pashmina since ages. The advent of machine is the second blow to the artisans, after the ban on Shahtoos wool in 2000. It is believed that almost 95 per cent of Pashmina in Kashmir at present is now processed through power looms because they offer a better margin of profit as well as greater quantity. Even though, looms are not registered for making Pashmina they influential traders manage to operate them illegally. Machine-made Pashmina has ruined the craft of its purity because it needs to be mixed with nylon in order to bear the strain of the machine. These impure shawls when sold in the name of Pure Pashmina only brings a bad name to the overall industry. Salam like other artisans who were true patrons and saviors of the craft is really concerned not only about the livelihood of artisans about also the reputation of Pashmina. He wants a ban on power looms as well as the proper marketing of handmade shawls, which is why we approached Salam, who right now is hopeless, devastated and living a life full of hardships.
Salam and Pashmina.com
Salam appreciates the way we work with our artisans and the way we make them feel how worthy they are. Artisans have lost self respect and work as laborers at some factories owned by rich and influential traders, who pay them meager amounts as salaries. Pashmina.com gets rid of supply chains and pays artisans well deserved salaries per month. Salam is happy with the way we have worked with him since one year now, and we are delighted at how immensely talented these artisans from the past are.
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