Meet Our Partner: Tilonia
I was first introduced to Tilonia® when Executive Director, Ellen Fish, reached out to us to help with some of the craft terminology for our website. As a new store that advocates for the preservation of art forms, her insight was invaluable and I was thrilled to explore the handmade textiles Tilonia® creates. I have to admit that it was pretty hard for me to not redecorate every bedroom in my house with Tilonia® bedding and knew that I wanted to include Tilonia® as a partner for our Spring offerings. When our first Tilonia® order arrived I was in a meeting and the package was sitting across the room just calling me to finish the meeting and open it. I was floored when I started to unpack the items; they are beautiful! The colors are vibrant and the fabric is so soft. It is easy to recognize the craftsmanship and care that goes into making each one and we are so honored to have Tilonia® as part of the AMERICAN NOMAD family. We hope you enjoy learning more about their mission and can find a special spot in your house to add their lovely textiles.
Friends of Tilonia, Inc. is a US-based, 501(c)3 non-profit organization which provides marketing and business development assistance to the artisan enterprises affiliated with the Barefoot College, in Tilonia, Rajasthan, India. For more than 40 years, the Barefoot College has been working to address basic needs of the rural poor: water, health, education, energy and employment, while enrolling individuals in the processes that govern their lives. More than 1000 rural artisans earn a living from the production of Tilonia® handcrafted products.
Friends of Tilonia works with the Barefoot College to develop direct sales and marketing channels for the artisans of Tilonia® in the U.S and abroad. Their online store is operated by a team of Barefoot e-commerce managers based in Tilonia in partnership with the Friends of Tilonia, Inc. These Barefoot e-commerce managers are all from the rural communities in India where the Barefoot College works and they are “graduates” of the Barefoot College Night Schools.
The Barefoot College promotes rural craft production to address the lack of employment in rural areas and provide an income for rural women whose husbands have migrated to the cities to seek work. Assistance in improving designs and production techniques, creation of marketing outlets, and access to credit have helped to restore and create new income opportunities for the artisans of Tilonia®. Training and materials provided by the College enable women from traditional communities to work from home, helping them to generate income from their needlework or other handicrafts.
The artisans of Tilonia® produce clothing and accessories, decorative home furnishings, furniture, rugs, textiles, handmade paper products, puppets and other toys, metalwork, and leather goods. Their products are sold in retail outlets in India, Europe and Canada, generating $ 250,000 in annual sales generating income for more than 400 rural artisans in 50 villages who market their crafts in conjunction with the Barefoot College. Artisans earn supplemental income through sewing, needlework, embroidery, tie-dying, block printing and weaving. Designs and production methods draw on Indian craft traditions that are centuries old – but create modern opportunities for these rural women.
The Barefoot College believes the very poor have every right to control, manage and own the most sophisticated of technologies to improve their own lives. Just because they cannot read and write, there is no reason that the very poor cannot be water and solar engineers, designers, communicators, teachers, midwives, dentists, architects and e-commerce entrepreneurs. “Learning by doing” is the philosophy used in training. Practical demonstrations, “hands-on” experience and regular repetition over many months help trainees get familiar with terms, tools, equipment and components used in any of the sophisticated technologies which have been “de-mystified” and “de-centralized” in the Barefoot approach to design, learning and community development.
This approach challenges an assumption associated with technology and learning. It proves that “paper qualifications” are not required to become a Barefoot professional. It also eliminates the dependency on outside aid or assistance as Barefoot professionals working within their communities are self-sufficient and community supported. “The approach challenges an assumption associated with technology and learning.”