Today the Design Museum is launching a new collection of fair trade rugs, curated by children’s book illustrator Chris Haughton. Chris and I share a few mutual friends so I am always keen to see what he is up to. Since publishing A Bit Lost there is no doubt that Chris’s career has gone from strength-to-strength. He has also released Oh No, George! and co-founded Node, a non-profit social business.
Node is latin for ‘knot’ and the company’s objective is to be a connection between fair trade and design. For the Design Museum, Node has teamed 18 well known designers and illustrators with one of Nepal’s founding fair trade groups, the Kumbeshwar Technical School in Kathmandu, and produced a beautiful collection of rugs. The artists chosen are a diverse bunch of children’s authors as well as textile and graphic designers including Sanna Annukka, Jon Klassen, Donna Wilson, Patternity, Beatrice Alemagna and of course, Chris himself.
Kumbeshwar was set up by the Khadgi family in Nepal who are from the lowest possible Nepalese caste. The traditional role of this caste is working as cleaners and waste disposal and the Khadgi family made a fertiliser business from the waste which grew into a large and profitable business. In 1983 the family decided to use their wealth to help the rest of the caste out of poverty and they set up a weaving school, recruiting disadvantaged adults to their adult education and support centre. As well as being given fair wages their weavers are taught literacy and numeracy skills. The profits from the sales of the rugs also support a large school of 260 with well trained and well paid teachers, free books and meals. They also fund an orphanage for 25 children.
Node’s aim is that by selling these rugs they will provide work and education for the makers and their families. Each rug is part of a limited edition of 10, hand signed by the artist, and available from the design museum shop and online.