At Muezart we believe in creating opportunities where others are not willing or able to. We believe in the creativity of people. In fact, we believe in people. That's who we are – whether it is Chillibreeze, our parent company, or Muezart, it's newly spawned unit which is setting out to create business opportunities in the area of Eri silkworm rearing, spinning, and apparel in the state of Meghalaya. The intention all along has been to discover opportunities in our local land and create a flourishing purpose-driven business.
Rida proudly holding her very first handspun skeins of yarn.
Step into the Muezart Studio and Meet One Local Lady Who is Flourishing
Meet Rida, a new recruit in Muezart – a young girl from a small village who is seeing an opportunity to use her creativity and earn a livelihood.
Rida, short name for Ridapynhunlang Pasi, is from West Jaintia Hills, one of the 11 districts of the state of Meghalaya. She is now a part of the Muezart team, having joined in April 2019. How did she find Muezart? What does she do? Let us find out.
Rida, where are you from?
I’m from a small village called Nangbah in West Jaintia hills. My village is famous for Red Rice. People from my village are hard working. During the summer they work in the fields and in winter they deal with their coal mining business.
Rida and Miranda, Muezart team mates, dancing the traditional Jaintia Plate Dance while at the BOSSMIT event.
I remember my childhood days when my mom would take me to the paddy fields, and I would get so scared and terrified of leeches. But once I put my feet in, I would love the feeling of the soggy soil. I also know how to catch the small fish in the baskets. I used to enjoy collecting greens from the forest to cook with the fish. These leaves are so tasty and healthy.
A Shillong TV channel created a short story about Rida's village of 1,000 plus households. You will see the same rice fields that Rida and her mother harvested rice from before she joined Muezart.
What was your childhood dream?
I always dreamt of becoming a police officer, but then things changed so I gave up on that dream and found new interests.
What are you good at?
I grew up participating in the Sports Authority of India (SAI). Through practice, I ended up becoming a state player in Archery. I also completed a one-year course in beauty/make-up and knitting. I believe that if you do something with passion you can be anything in life. Knitting is something that I love the most.
Rida participating in the Archery Contest at the BOSSMIT event. A cultural event around the old wooden bus of Smit. Muezart participated in the day that highlighted our Khasi traditions.
Any story about something you did that made you feel happy?
I love knitting. So, here’s a little story about it…
After I completed my training in knitting I saw that most of my seniors don’t have a market for their products. That made me sad because they could earn only by knitting at home, getting orders through word of mouth. What should I do was my worry.
One day Miranda from Muezart contacted me asking if I had completed my knitting training and I said yes. She asked me to bring a sample of my creations. I went to the Muezart office the very next day with samples of my work.
I was amazed to see all the yarns and handwoven shawls that Miranda showed me at Muezart, and I couldn’t wait to knit using Eri silk yarn. I saw a new way I could use my interest and talent in Knitting. I had started to think that I would end up like my seniors, depending on orders from home. But things are changing – I see hope! Muezart is helping me explore my creativity in knitting using Eri silk yarn, a yarn that was new to me. I am so excited.
Tell us a little about what you do in Muezart
I work closely with Miranda. She’s the one ideating and planning and I do the knitting. But in my free time, I never stop thinking or sharing my ideas with the team and take their suggestions and okay to go ahead.
Is the work challenging? Are you learning new things? Are you getting to use your talent?
Yes, it’s quite challenging and I love that! Eri silk is totally a new yarn for me and I find it difficult to knit with it, but that only makes me more focused. Knitting is like archery. In archery, you have a target that you need to aim at. It’s the same in knitting. If you lose your focus, you must start all over again.
Where did you train to knit?
I went for training in Meghalaya Department of Commerce & Industries, Shillong for a year. There I learned how to use a hand knitting machine.
Any other interesting story about your day to day work that you want to share?
Yes, there is a story I would like to tell you. I knitted a cap using Eri silk waste! This was super exciting as I had thought of the idea and worked on it from beginning to end! Here is how it went.
Holding the first Zero Waste Eri Silk Beanie, designed and knitted by Rida.
One day I was sitting opposite Sonia (one of our in-house spinner) and while she was spinning I saw a lot of waste cocoon she kept on the side of the table. I wondered what to do with these since they are all hard and lumpy cocoon fibers. I felt I could do something with them. I thought: if I carded and blended them with roving fibers I could extend the use. So, the next morning we had our morning huddle with my team, and I proposed this idea. Everyone was excited and encouraged me to try. I succeeded and here is the Beanie I made. I blended the waste with roving, dyed the blend using natural dyes. I then used the Ashford wheel to hand spin the dyed yarn. Finally, I knitted the cap! So so thrilling!
Does anyone in your village rear Eri silkworms
Yes, there are people rearing Eri silkworms and they sell the cocoons to the sericulture department in Jowai. Now that Muezart is creating yarn, the people of my village have another business to sell their cocoons too.
Do you think people can benefit from rearing eri silkworms? If yes, should they also spin yarn and weave, or only sell as cocoons?
Before joining the Muezart team I didn't know anyone spinning and weaving Eri silk. Since being part of the team I have been on field trips to villages and met so many of the women who spin and weave for Muezart. I was not that exposed to the entire process before joining Muezart. Yes, people can benefit a lot by rearing Eri silkworms. People in my village are selling the cocoons and making extra income for their families.
I think they can earn more if they are given training in processing the cocoons at their home. Learning how to spin will open up even more job opportunities. But Spinning and Weaving is a skill that can be acquired through handwork and lots of practice and that takes hard work. If they are up for that then I believe everyone can do it.
That is it for now. Do you have a question for Rida?
Ask the Muezart team, we are always ready to engage on anything at all – about Eri Silk, or about our villages, our culture. We want to hear from you.
Even better, come on a Cultural Textile Experience the entire ecosystem of Eri silk in Meghalaya.