CONTENTS Synopsis The Organisation Objective of the projectLocation and the people involved. The Fibre Existing Products. Skills & Processing The Design brief Market Survey Design Development The Colour Workshop The Dyeing Workshop Design prototypes Recommendations
SYNOPSISThis project dealt with developing new products for the involved groupskeeping in mind their resources, skills and the available raw material. Thegroups have been working on sisal products and they have been making thesame type of products as available in jute or Banana fibre.A market survey was done in the southern region to identify the availableproducts and draw a requirement from the market. The survey pointed out theneed for a new range of colours and contemporary designs.Also theinternational market indications showed the need for natural fibre products. A number of sketches were made for concepts along with some samples fortechniques and some of the concepts were taken ahead for prototyping.An understanding of the problems faced during prototyping and designdevelopment enabled us to give a few recommendations which we feel areimportant for smooth functioning of the craft groups
The OrganisationIndo- Dutch Project Management Society was established in theyear 1989 as a part of the co-operation between the NetherlandsGovernment and the Govt. of Karnataka.A not-for-profit organisation with its head office in Bangalore, India has Rural Development as its main objective. Various developmentprogrammes are planned and implemented by the ProgrammeManagement Unit of the the Society. Presently, the Society hastaken up a Rural Small and Micro Enterprises DevelopmentProgramme in two districts of Karnataka State. Special attention isgiven to women in rural areas. The programme Management Unithas over a period of time accumulated valuable expertise and onrequest provides advisory/ consultancy services in the developmentof Rural Small and Micro Enterprises.
The Project Management Unit of the Indo-Dutch ProjectManagement Society (IDPMS) under the Rural Small and MicroEnterprise Development Programme (RSMEDP) in Mysore districtchose to work with Sisal fibre products.In late 1994 the preparatory work was initiatedand actual implementation was initiated andthe actual implementation started in Jan’95.During this period IDPMS staff recruited twowomen trainers from Vimalalayam in Cochin to stay in the villagesand train the women in the basic skill development and the womenover a period of time formed their own association called the SreeDodda Tayee Swa Sahaya. The project to date has been successful inempowering these timid illiterate women who have gone as far asHyderabad,Bangalore and Mysore to participate in melas and markettheir products.
Objective of the projectIn Mysore district, in the villages of Kuderumole, Dasanur and Neralethere are women making Sisal products.This craft was introduced to the women so that they could supplementtheir income. Initially it was a large group of women who weretrained but the numbers dwindled to a handful when orders for thetype of products they were making were not regular or large enoughto ensure constant work for all the women.The Indo-Dutch Project Management Society (IDPMS) thereforeapproached NID to undertake a design intervention project for designdevelopment and for the upgradation of skills.The objective of the project was mainly product development andskill upgradation.
The means to this end was done in five phases; 1. Information collection and market survey 2. Concept development of products with workshops on dyeing, the use of colour and quality control. 3. The development of products that had been conceptualised and created by NID designers. 4. Test marketing of the products at exhibitions and melas for market feedback. 5. Documentation of the project.
Location and the PeopleThe women involved in this project are drawn from the villages ofKuderumole, Dasanur and Nerale which are in Chamrajpet districtand they are about an hour and a half awayfrom Mysore.The people in these villages are illiterateand the women in particular. Most womenof the younger generation have studied onlyupto seventh standard. The main source ofincome is from agricultural activities, wagelabour and in some cases non-farm activities like Sisal rope making,silk cocoon rearing. Women also go out on wage labour duty duringthe agricultural season. The women have no control over the incomethey earn and whatever is earned is handed over to the male who isthe head of the family.
The FibreSisal (Agave sisalana) is one of about 300 species of plants belongingto the Agave family (Agavaceae), all originating in the tropical andsubtropical parts of the Western Hemisphere; they have beenintroduced to other places, including East Africa,the West Indies, Indonesia,and the Philippines.The name sisal comes from the name of the portin the state of Yucatan in Mexico, from which thefibre was first exported. Production. The plantproduces leaves two to six feet (0.6 to 2 meters )in length, tapering off to a sharp thorn-like point. The growth ratedepends on the availability of water, for sisal is a water-storing plant,growing when water supplies are available but stopping to conservewater in times of drought.It may produce six to eight leaves per month during the wet season,and none in the dry season.
Sisal grows in areas where the rainfall and soil conditions areunsuitable for other species of agave, and under a much wider range ofgrowth conditions than henequen. The life processes and activity of theplant depend on soil conditions and climate.There are two growing seasons per year in East Africa, as against onein Mexico, but the plants live through approximately the same numberof growing seasons in both areas, producing fibres at a considerablyhigher rate in East Africa, but with the total yield per lifetimeapproximately the same.Sisal prefers dry, permeable soils, with somelime, but also grows on well drained, black, cotton land. Suckers(rapidly developing shoots) were formerly used for propagationbecause they can be planted immediately after their removal from theparent plant, but the modern practice is to use buds, or bulbils, forpropagation, placing them in nurseries for about 12 to 18 monthsbefore they are planted in the field. Planting of the bulbils is usuallydone during the rainy season. Toward the end of its life, the plant startsto pole , and the pole can reach a height of 20 or more feet (six metersor more), being branched at the last five feet.
After the pole stops growing, the branchesthrow out stems on which the yellow sisalflowers develop, eventually dying andfalling off. The bulbils formed when theflowers die grow to a length of about fourinches, at which size they are easilyremoved. The plant dies after the pole hasdeveloped bulbils, each pole yielding CUT SISAL LEAVESabout 2,000.The time needed before a new sisal plant is ready for cutting dependson the conditions under which it is grown. From two and a half tofour years may be needed .Leaves that are ready for cutting aresevered at their base with a sickle-like knife. Yields of 17 tons perhectare (seven tons per acre) can be obtained from properly cutplants. The leaves weigh between one and one and a half poundseach, and are tied into bundles of 30 leaves, with 70 bundles makingup a task.Each leaf contains about 1,000 individual fibres.
ProcessingMechanical processFibre constitute about 2 to 5 percent ofthe weight of the leaves. Decortificationof the leaves is carried out in large FIBRE EXTRACTION MACHINEstationary machines that crush the leaf,scrape the fibre clean, and wash it to remove the remaining pulppieces. Fibre intended for export is graded and baled. Gradedesignation and bale weight differ widely.Manual processFor producing the fibre, these leaves are first allowed to soak inwater for a week; thereafter they are takenout and beaten on a stoneto remove the non-fibrous chemical substances.
FRESHLY EXTRACTED FIBRE AFTER WASHING DRIED FIBRE
The remaining fibrous content is then collected and this is allowed toremain in the water for a day. Afterwards the fibres are taken out andset up for drying. The fibres have a natural shiny luster and are capableof further treatment with chemicals or natural dyes.Fibre propertiesSisal is a white to yellowish fibre, three to five feet in length. One ofthe coarser hard fibres, it is strong butnot as flexible as abaca. CommercialSisal fibres, consist of strands conta-ining a large number of small indivi-dual fibres held together by naturalgums. The average length of sisalfibres varies from three to four feet(about a metre) or longer. The strandsare usually white and of high lustre. Sisal fibres have good breakingelongation, and high resistance to seawater.
UseSisal is mostly used for the manufacture of binder twine and bailertwine, although efforts are being made to find new uses, such as formatting. A weakness of sisal rope is a tendency to break suddenlywithout warning, in contrast to abaca rope, which show threateningsigns before breaking.World production and consumption. Total annual world production ofSisal was over 600,000 tons in the late 1960’s. Tanzania was thelargest producer, with nearly 33 percent, followed by Brazil withnearly 30 percent, and then by Angola, Kenya, and Uganda. Thelargest importers of sisal were the Commonwealth countries, whichimported 195,000 tons.
Existing Products.The existing product range consists of one or two types of shoppingbags, coasters and table mats in two or three sizes and door matsmade of the waste sisal. The Sisal is also converted into rope and thisrope is used as the weft to weave floor coverings and the rope is alsoused to weave the seat of low wooden stools. Many of these productsor similar products are made in jute and other fibres in West Bengal,Andhra, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Skills & ProcessThe women in these centres are skilled in cleaning and separating thefibre and they can make the three strand braid quite efficiently. Alltheir products use the sisal braides as the basic raw material. Thebraide is stitched together to create discs or ovals that are embellishedaround the edge with loops of the same braid and this is the method inwhich they create coasters and placemats. The stitching is done withcotton thread which is usually dyed the same colour that the sisal isdyed. The stitching is quite neat. BRAIDING STITCHING
WASHING THE FIBRE DYEING THE FIBRE STITCHING UP INTO BAGSPREPARING BRAIDS
The Design briefThe Design Brief given was to develop products and productmixes that had a better acceptability in the market. To providesupport by imparting training to the craft persons in the areas ofdyeing, colour usage, quality control and productivity.
Market SurveyThe market survey for Sisal products was conducted in three cities- New Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad. The purpose of the surveywas to check to see what sort of presence sisal products had in thestores that were visited, what sort of fibre products were available, itcould be any fibre and to gauge what sort of products were stockedby the stores which could be made or reinvented if necessary insisal.NEW DELHIIn New Delhi the place visited as part of the market survey was TheInternational Gift Fair organised by the Export Promotion Councilof Handicrafts; this was a forum to examine the needs of theinternational market.
The International Gift Fair was organizedby the Export Promotion Council forHandicrafts. This was an ideal opportunityto discover what fibre products were onoffer for export. There was a dearth of fibreproducts although participants were gettinginquiries for large and small containers and bags for variouspurposes. The products most in demand were shopping bags ofvarious sizes and shapes. Delhi Haat which is an open air craft bazaar where groups of craftspersons or individuals rent a space and sell their products. They are there for a short period of time for about two to three weeks at a time so non of the stalls there are permanent.
State government emporiums and the CottageIndustries emporiums are platforms for eachstate to display and sell the crafts from its state.In a place like Delhi one gets to sample all thecrafts from all over the country within a smallarea. Dastakar is a non government organisation that encourages the crafts and is really trying to give the crafts person a fair deal in trying to cut out the middle man.Delhi Haat has a number of crafts people coming to sell their wares from all over the country. There were some jute products but not of sisal.
The Cottage Industries Emporium is the largest craftoutlet in the city but it contained stocks of sisalcoasters and tablemats. The same products are beingmade by IDPMS. There seems to be no significantpresence of Sisal in any of the State governmentemporia except for jute in some. Dastakar is quitea well known non government organisation thatpromotes crafts through Dastakar retail outlets.There were some fibre products and almost nothingmade of sisal.HYDERABADThe shops visited in Hyderabad were Contem-porary Arts and Crafts, Cottage IndustriesEmporium, Kalanjali,35 Park Lane andLepakshi.
Contemporary Arts and Crafts is store that hascoasters, tablemats and door mats made of sisalbut they are not displayed to advantage. BANGALORE Bangalore has a number of craft outlets and they stock a wide variety of craft products from all over the country. These outlets are Industree, Sabha, Cauvery, Raaga, Sasha and Fab India. Industree promotes handicrafts from all over the country and is actively involved in designing and producing contemporary products using traditional craft skills so that many a craft gets a new lease of life.
Industree stocks and displays a number of fibreproducts but sisal products form a minisculeportion.Sabha is a craft outlet promoted by Action Aidand the shop displays a variety of crafts but amajority of them are from the north and west ofIndia.They do not have any fibre products.The Cauvery handicrafts emporium is Karnataka’sstate handicraft emporium which attracts a numberof tourists The Emporia does not have sisal fibreproducts. Raaga is a small gift shop attached to the Casa Picola chain of restaurants which are very popular with the college crowd who shop here for gifts. Here too there are no sisal products. Sasha is yet another craft shop in Bangalore. Sasha has a number of jute products made in Bengal.
A large percentage of Sasha’s products are from the east but Sashahas no sisal products. Fab India is a store for garments, furnishing fabrics and made ups which are all craft based. They do have a few products outside these three categories such as ceramics in the form of crockery, leather bags etc. but they don’t have any sisal products. GOA It was seen that Goa being a tourist place sells a good number of Sisal products.The products are well taken and there is a demand for innovative products.
OBSERVATIONS • The presence of Sisal in the market is negligible. • There is a demand for utilitarian products such as bags, storage containers which can be made of sisal especially for the export market. • Doormats, tablemats, coasters and a few bags made of sisal have become cliched. The discerning customer today wants something different everyday. • Products which could be developed using sisal - floor coverings, space dividers, footwear, furniture, and home accessories.
Design DevelopmentThe Initial concepts were developed based on the informationgathered during the market survey. Certain types of products werechosen to be developed. This existing method of braiding andstitching is quite limiting. Therefore it was important to introduceother simple skills such as creating multiple strand braids, or asimple weaving of sisal rope with the aid of sticks.It was decided that concepts for floor coverings, bags, storagecontainers, would be the main focus but there were some otherproducts that were conceptualised such as footwear, ladders andswings, lamp shades and so on.In the process of conceptualising on one hand the products developedwere such that sisal would be the only fibre or material used and onthe other hand there was a conscious effort to combine more than onematerial.
This effort to combine more than one material in one product wasdone for three reasons : • One to use the properties of one material to offset the lack of those particular properties in another material and therefore compliment each other. An example would be the containers developed with sisal rope and bamboo. The bamboo gave the container a stable form and the sisal rope was pliable enough to bend around the bamboo strips so a basket could be woven which was sturdy, novel and an object of simple beauty· • Two, to use the skills of more than one type of crafts person and combine them in one product. • Three, to make the sisal fibre more suitable for just about any category of product.A presentation of these initial concepts or ideas was made to the staffof IDPMS for their feedback before the prototypes were begun.
The Colour WorkshopColour is extremely important and more often than not a product sellsbecause the colour is right. Colour and the theories of colour arecomplex subjects that require a great deal of study and experience tobe able to make the right choices. Therefore to teach a group ofwomen enough about colour in a week’s time so that it would make adifference to the products they made was quite a challenge..To introduce then to the subject of colour we gave them a warm upexercise. large selection of coloured papercut into squares of one standard size wasgiven to them and they were asked tochoose any number of squares of anyof the colours and stick them down ona sheet of paper such that a large squarecomposed of seven rows and seven columnswas created. This was composition 1.
Next a few magazines were given to them and they were asked tochoose one picture or image and observe how many different coloursthere were and the placement in the picture.Next they were asked to choose square bitsof coloured paper and recreate the pictureonly in terms of the proportion of colour asthey were in the picture and in terms of thecolour placement. This was composition 2.Once this was done the two compositionswere compared. This exercise was done to make the women aware of the proportionof colour and how these proportions were vital in making a pleasantand balanced composition. It was also pointed out that a picture thatthey took a liking to for its use of colour could be translated in thisfashion.
They were introduced to the colour wheel, the three primary coloursand how two primaries when mixed in equal quantities would resultin a secondary colour.This was explained by asking them to colour thesame patch on a piece of paper with felt pens of any two primarycolours . In this manner all the women mixed the primaries red andblue to get the secondary colour purple, blue and yellow to get greenand red and yellow to get orange.They were introduced to analogous colours and they were told thatusing analogous colours was a safe choice because analogous coloursare harmonious and work well togetherirrespective of the proportion in whichthey are used. They also did an exercisewhere they chose a set of analogouscolours and created a composition.To use colour successfully requirespractice and there are individuals whoare naturally better at choosing colours and it would be suggested thatsuch a person should then be given the task of choosing and matchingcolours
The Dyeing WorkshopThe dyeing workshop was held in Chamrajnagar one of the townswhere the women make sisal fibre products. For the dyeingworkshop Direct dyes were chosen because• they are suitable for dyeing sisal which is a cellulosic material• direct dyes are relatively inexpensive and readily available• the colours are bright• there are a number of shades which are available• the method or process of dyeing is a simple one and requires simple calculations which the women can cope with.• not many chemicals are required and those which are required are readily available and do not require to be stored under special conditions.
The recipe for the preparation of the dye solution andthe salt and soda solutions were given.So by this method they just have to prepare the dyesolution and refer to the shade card and if it is ShadeNo: 20 that they want to achieve they need to combine5ml of Brown with 5ml of Green.This also allowedthem to dye a greater number of shades because byvarying the proportions a whole number of tonalvariations can be achieved.THE DYEING PROCEDUREPrepare the dyebath and heat it till it reaches a temperature of 40C.Add the requisite amount of Soda solution and then put the materialinto the dye bath. Raise the temperature of the dyebath until it is 80C.All the while care should be taken to see that the material in thedyebath is stirred from time to time so that the dyeing is even. Oncethe dyebath reaches 80C add the salt solution to the dyebath in threeequal installments at 10 minute intervals. .
Continue to stir the material in the dyebath from time to time. Afterthe last installment of salt allow the material to remain in the dyebathfor a further 30 minutesOnce the 30 minute period is over remove the material from thedyebath and wash the material in water and dry in the shade. A simple shade card was prepared toserve as reference in the future and alsohelp to standardise colours so that thewomen could refer to the shade card andreproduce exactly the same colour shouldthere be a repeat order for one of theproducts. The women who attended the workshop were introduced tothe concept of a shade card and the importance of achieving a standardcolour. The women dyed a number of colours as well as dyeing variousquantities of the sisal fibre so that they could tackle the simplemathematics involved in calculating the amount of dye, salt and soda solutions required for a particular quantity of Sisal fibre.
The dyeing workshop was a good idea and a goodexperience for the women because they did get to puttheir learning into practice soon after when they gotan order for sisal shopping bags from Industree andthere were two to three colours that the sisal had to bedyed.What was important was that the entire quantity ofsisal which had to be dyed a particular colour couldnot be dyed in one lot. Instead they had to be dyed ina few smaller lots but the colour had to remain thesame and the women managed to do that successfully.TO MAKE SODA SOLUTIONWeigh 10gms of Soda Ash and dissolve it in 400ml ofwater and stir well until it is completely dissolved.
THE AMOUNT OF SOLUTION TO BE TAKEN ON THEWEIGHT OF THE MATERIALDye: 1.5% = 15ml of dye solutionSoda: 1.0% = 10ml of soda solutionSalt: 12.0% = 12ml of salt solutionThe most significant point of this dyeing workshop was that thewomen did not have to work with calculations that involvedworking out the percentage of dye- stuff to the quantity of fibreto be dyed. Instead a method that involved proportions wasdeveloped because women understand proportions as they usethem daily in their cooking and therefore could relate to thisconcept easily.
TO MAKE DYE SOLUTIONTo make 400ml of dye solution:Weigh 10gms of dyestuff and make into a paste with 50ml of lukewarm water.To the paste add 350ml of water to make the dye solution.Stir the solution well until the dye is completely dissolved.TO MAKE SALT SOLUTIONWeigh 80 gms of common salt and dissolve it in 400ml of water andstir well until it is completely dissolved.
RecommendationsUnderstanding gained during the various stages of Designdevelopment has enabled us to make a few recommendations for goodand smooth working of the craft groups . • The craftpersons should be actively involved in the selling and developing new products. • An interaction and exposure programme should be built-up for the groups so that they can learn new techniques from the other groups who are making fibre products.The craft groups should be exposed from time to time to the international fibre requirements and the products. • There is a need of research and development in the field of fibre extraction and processing. Some mechanisms should be organised for these functions.
AcknowledgementsWe would like to thank Mr. Aditya H.R.(IDPMS) for his active participation andcooperation at every stage, Mr. Sadananda (IDPMS) and his team for extendingtheir help throughout the project.We also would like to acknowledge the help and cooperation extended to us by Mr.Anath Panth, Mr. Varchasvi Manapure, Mr. Tippesh, Mr. Manjunath, and the rest ofthe fieldstaff on the project.We are also thankful to Rani Vincent and Rajeshwari of YMCA Kanyakumari fortheir contribution in making of the prototypes.we are thankful to RDTDC, EPCH, and INDUSTREE Bangalore for extendingtheir help.We would like to thank specially the women from the workgroups in Nerale,Kuderumole and Dsanur who worked with us to make the project a success.We also acknowledge the support and feedback from the faculty members of NID.