Our Story Begins
... in 1986 when Maiwa was founded by Charllotte Kwon. That one store has grown and changed over the years. We still run a retail store on Granville Island in the heart of Vancouver, but we have also become a School of Textiles, a Foundation, and a substantial online presence. We work primarily with artisans in India. A few themes run through everything we do.
... are more than an ecologically smart way to add colour to yarns and cloth. Natural dyes embody the idea that there is a relationship between creativity, skill, what we make, what we wear, and the natural world. For us, natural dyes are evidence that colour can be a cultural force linking individuals to history and tradition. We work directly with farmers and run a full-time natural dye studio. Our clothing and bedding lines are naturally dyed. We believe in them and use them wherever we can.
We have been making slow clothes for close to thirty years. For us, this means opening up the process to include hand spinners, hand weavers, natural dyers, block printers, embroiderers ... all the artisans who are left behind in the rush to mass produce clothing. Certainly there is more room for creativity when working slowly, but there is also an opportunity to support an ecosystem of production. Such an ecosystem looks to create meaningful work on a human scale. We actively seek to support artisan communities through our clothing. If we have a choice between naturally dyed and undyed cloth, we will choose the dyed cloth. If we have the choice between block printed cloth and a solid colour, we will choose the block printed cloth. The qualities of the most skillfully made cloth are brought out in our designs. We are proud of our clothing and all that is says, not only about us, but about the world of handmade cloth.
Trade with skilled artisans is a way to establish relationships. These relationships go deep. Every artisan dyer working in natural dyes keeps a network of dye farmers active. Hand spinners work directly with herder communities and organic cotton farmers. Everything is connected. A culture of making influences and changes the world. It starts small and it grows. We begin to believe that faster and cheaper are not better, that time, culture and people matter.
We have worked hard to strengthen these relationships. We have brought many of the artisans we work with to Canada to give presentations and lectures. We also bring them to give workshops on their craft at the Maiwa School of Textiles. To share with a larger audience we have produced four documentaries and a number of print publications. We also host exhibitions of artisan work. Daily we actively promote the culture of craft on social media and through our websites.
A Quiet Manifesto
In 2000 Maiwa published A Quiet Manifesto for the Preservation of Craft. In 2016 we celebrated our 30th anniversary revisited those ideas. The results are here: Revisiting A Quiet Manifesto for the Preservation of Craft. It is now in its third printing. Read it on ISSUU or download the PDF.