Our talented team of designers and artisans work together to create the handmade rugs that make up Enkay’s collections. With the Pacific Ocean and thousands of miles dividing them in their daily life, there is a shared love of high quality rugs that unites our team.
We are proud to be a positive example of international social responsibility. In addition to artisans and designers, we have a large network that provides raw materials, product transport, and international importing - along with all the logistics that come with a global partnership. We’re most proud of the human elements of Enkay, as the bonds among our team are some of the most beautiful byproducts of our mission.
Enkay’s Designer, Kate de Para, recently took a trip to Rajasthan, India. She visited some of our artisans, absorbed their way of life, and connected with them over their shared goal of beautiful handknotted rugs. Upon her return, we took a few minutes to connect with Kate to reflect on her most recent experience.
Enkay: How many trips have you taken to Rajasthan? What is the purpose of your trip?
Kate: I’ve been traveling back and forth to India for about six years - usually three times a year for two weeks at a time. I go to Jaipur, the main city of Rajasthan, and I take daytrips out to see the artisans and visit their homes and looms.
The goal of each trip is primarily to connect with the artisans, show our commitment as a company, and better understand my capabilities as a designer. I’ll learn something with each trip about how they knot and how the loom works which will inevitably expand what the next seasons’ rugs will look like. Seeing a rug mid-process helps me stay very in touch with the subtly of each design, the pile, the intricacies, etc. For example, things I learned and drew inspiration from on this trip will be evident in the Spring and Summer 2023 collection.
Enkay: Tell us your day-to-day experience while visiting each village?
Kate: I’ll leave Jaipur with a field person, a translator, and a documentarian. We’ll have fruits on the road for breakfast, and usually visit four or five looms a day. Each setup is different but generally I’ll spend most of my time in the home’s common space where the upright loom is located. The fact that we provide looms in their homes means they get to see their families and remain in their community while earning income which can be literally life changing. If it is a big 8x10 rug then there are multiple people knotting, which can be very lively and social.
The love with which these women welcome us into their homes is otherworldly. They pass me their young ones as they pump water from the well to pour over my hands as I wash them. We have no other shared language but the language of weaving – knowing how it feels to make material from nothing but plants and animals fibers spun into yarn, the intoxicating trance that comes from repetitive acts like performing the same knot thousands of times over.
Aside from knotting rugs the days are filled with threshing grain, milking buffalo to make fresh cream, gathering and repurposing agricultural waste to use for fuel at home, tending the farm, all the while sharing resources with surrounding families to support a self-sustaining community.
Enkay: What is something that stuck with you after this trip?
Kate: I really noticed how communal life is, and how far away from that mindset I feel when I am in America. I think the communal way is so beautiful. Everything is on a share and barter system within each village. They are primarily farmers, but one person might grow the vegetables while one grows the fruit and another grows the grains - they work together so everyone is fed and cared for.
We have set up our partnership with Enkay in the same communal way. The weavers of a particular style rug will all be in the same area of Rajasthan so that if someone needs something - extra wool, a specific tool - they can lean on each other locally rather than wait days or weeks for outside help.
Enkay: Outside of these personal connections, is there anything about your trips that leave you inspired?
Kate: It is both inspiring and humbling to see things that come directly from the earth. The plates, the cups, the tools - these things are all made at home, by hand. They are firing their own cups and building their own farming tools, and they are beautiful and practical. In the homes, rooms are sometime partitioned by curtains and the sun is on your skin.
The natural elements are much more present in daily life, and I carry those desert elements with me in my memory for a long time after I return.
Enkay: What part of your time in India would you like to share with others?
Kate: Maybe it comes with age, but every time I return home from India I increasingly value the tasks that get lost with our access to conveniences. At my best I’ll shed a convenience or two, and feel the spirit of these women in Rajasthan guiding me toward a simpler, happier way of life. If I could bottle up that experience for everyone and pass it on I would, but for now I’ll continue to make rugs in this time honored tradition and share my experience the best I can with you all.
We’ve put a lot of thought into our business model to ensure that Enkay is so much more than a lifestyle brand. We offer fair wages to our weavers and deliver all the materials to their front door. We provide primary care, pediatric care, women’s healthcare, and vision care. We even pick up the handmade rugs when they are complete, so artisans can spend more time with their families and less time traveling to larger towns to deliver their goods.
To see the handmade rugs made by the artisans in Kate’s photos and travels, click here.