Our very first Nkuku product was a recycled cotton notebook handmade in Rajasthan. We spent five weeks working closely with the artisans to produce a collection of stationary that we hoped would sell well in the UK. The entire process was as fascinating to us then as it is today.
Each piece of paper is handmade from recycled cotton fabric waste, which is gathered from the garment industry. The fabric is ground into a pulp using hand turned machinery. The pulp is combined with a binding agent and carefully layered between muslin sheets to set. Once set the muslin is peeled from either side and the sheet is hung on a clothes line to dry in the heat of the Indian sun. Rows and rows of paper are hung out like laundry on a washing line.
Our first journal had beautiful hand torn edges and was hand bound with cotton thread and then wrapped in a soft leather cover. The textures were gorgeous, the soft leather with the cotton paper made the journal such a tactile piece. We then developed additional and complimentary collections, which were handmade from recycled saris, beautiful rich fabrics that are hand embroidered in traditional Indian styles and more simple designs incorporating the famous skeleton Pepal leaf.
The first order was packed
into a container and shipped off to Devon, where several weeks later we guided a
lorry loaded with journals down the bumpy drive to the hay barn we were using
as our warehouse. A group of neighbours had come to help, varying in age from 75 years old through to 4 years. We are still so incredibly grateful for all the
amazing support we received from family and friends, even calling on a local
farmer to pull the lorry out of the Devon mud so that he could get home! There
were some cold months spent in an unheated barn, picking and packing. Woolly
hats and thermals were essential. Our first born baby spent a lot of time in a
makeshift cot made from cardboard boxes layered up under blankets.
Our office started out as our bedroom, then we upgraded to
a garage (thermals also required!), then a bespoke built
office/shed situated in our garden and finally a proper office based at
the old mill in Dartington with a new lifestyle store and cafe opening soon! The Nkuku team
has also grown from the two of us to a vibrant office of over thirty. The
journals were soon joined by photo frames and now offer a selection of homewares and furniture incorporating some of the beautiful pieces that first captured our imaginations all those years ago on our travels.