You’ll know from previous entries in the Style Files series that I love nothing more than discovering a young brand and learning about the creative process that goes into their product. When Swiss based independent homewares label Artha Collections reached out a few months ago, I was taken not only by their range of products but of their story and admirable vision to use modern day commerce to influence the lives of artisans around the globe. Their products are made in small creative communities spanning from Tibet to South Africa, Bengal and beyond and are of exceptional quality. So much so that I used two of their hand woven pieces in this recent bedroom project. It brings me so much joy to be able to work with independent labels in helping them to grow by collaborating together.
Knowing the kind of consciousness and responsibility that is behind the lovely Artha wares, it has been even more of a pleasure working with them these past few weeks to style and photograph their winter campaign. Below, a peek at some of the scenes I created for them in my home using their table linens, pillows and woven baskets.
// What is the story behind Artha Collections and how did it come to be a homewares label?
Artha, despite being only a year old as a brand, actually already has quite a history. We are a mother-daughter team and the whole idea of our label was born several years ago from the initial work that my mother, Catherine was doing with an artisan community in India. She had started working with one artisan group, giving some input on design and fabric choices, and by selling the products at home events or art fairs was able to generate small sums of money to help play a part in supporting the group. She always believed in and loved the craft and was looking for a way to continuously support them. At the time I was still studying, but on one occasion I joined her on her trip to the rural village where these artisans were from and was able to finally discover their world and their craft. It was then that we started to discuss the idea of forming our own company, focused on selling artisan made goods – our customers appreciated the beauty and history of these handmade pieces and we wanted to be able to continuously support this talented artisan group as well as many more that we realized would benefit from the access we could provide to foreign markets.
So we came up with the idea of Artha, a brand that would sell a variety of home goods and accessories by working closely with artisan communities. As important as the craft and the support we could give, was the idea that we would design our own collections, to ensure that we could create our own aesthetic and brand image. We wanted to more than just buy and sell products; we wanted to find a way to celebrate the beauty of hand made in a more modern way. Artha means meaning and purpose and that’s we bring to our customer.
Its been one year that we have been expanding our brand and we continue to focus on creating collections that reflect the traditions and cultures from various regions around the world, while still incorporating our own aesthetic so that our customers can easily use a range of our products to create a beautifully put together home. We are so happy to be on this path – there is really nothing that compares to the feeling, look and quality of hand made and we are always excited to be able to bring this type of product to our customers. And not only do our products have a unique story, we are truly able to continue to grow our social and economic impact on the communities we partner with.
// How would you describe the Artha aesthetic? Which type of interiors do you think your products look best in?
Our pieces are actually quite adaptable and complement many different types of interiors. In a few words, I would say they are timeless, classic, chic and, due to the nature of some the materials, they can look quite rustic as well. They add warmth and texture to almost any interior and you could use individual pieces as small accents or combine several of our products to create a really beautifully styled space. We have photographed our pieces in various setting and we really have something for almost every home style – cottages, chalets, natural interiors, modern, rustic and so on.
// Where, how and by whom are your products made? How did you come to source your makers?
We currently work with 6 different artisan communities across India, Tibet and South Africa, each with a different craft and skillset. All of our pieces are made by very talented artisan communities whom we personally meet and spend time with, understanding their design philosophy, techniques and production process. Usually there have been elders in the community that have passed on the techniques to their children. Having been to some of these very rural villages ourselves, makes us even more intrigued by the finished products we receive, the level of quality and the skill that has been involved in the making of each piece.
We find our artisan communities through a lot of research, through travel or word of mouth. We usually know what the pieces are that we would like to introduce and in what regions we would like to work. After that it’s speaking to local associations and researching until we find a selection of groups with which to start our sampling process. We try to work with smaller communities that really need the support and don’t already have an established market presence.
// Do you have a shop or studio? If so, what is it like and where is it located?
We have an online store where our aim is to be as transparent as possible. There you can read the stories of each of our artisan groups and understand the process behind the making of each of our pieces. We’ve also just recently moved into a new large office space, which also now acts as our little showroom. It’s so great to be able to showcase all of our products in one space. The customers can really get an idea of our “Artha World” and being there surrounded by all of our pieces makes them want to fill their homes with Artha goods. We also get to tell all of our stories about the products and the artisans who made them. We are open Wednesday afternoons every week, but customers can also email us to let us know if they would like to come by on another day. Our location is pretty central, located in the Hottingen neighbourhood in Zurich.
// What does a typical day look like in the Artha studio/showroom?
As we do everything ourselves, from sourcing, to design, to managing production and then also all of our marketing, sales, sometimes photography as well as social media, our days are always quite diverse. Today for example, we worked on putting together a new order for our baskets and rugs. We put together some design and color ideas for both. As our productions can take quite some time, we need to make sure we are always thinking many months in advance. We have our one-year anniversary coming up next week, so we also worked on some finishing touches for the event we are planning, and on some content we would like to publish about our first year in business. We are also working on putting together our planning for next year. We have a lot of projects we would like to work on in 2017, including introducing a few new product ranges. Another day could be much less creative and completely sales focused or focused purely on planning. No matter what though we are always surrounded by our products, so we always have a slightly creative atmosphere!
// What is your best selling product and why?
Our baskets are very popular because they just have such a cool look and feel when you see them in person. The crochet technique used to make them gives them a very unique look and the color variation due to the natural fiber of the banana plant is really special. Right now our Yak wool pieces from Tibet are also popular, they are just so soft and warm. Customers also frequently love to buy our linen sets either as gifts or for themselves. They really have such a beautiful feel to them and make any space seem put together.
// What current trends are you inspired by? How does your inspiration translate to your designs?
Our brand’s aesthetic is pretty timeless and so we actually focus less on visual trends and generally find our inspiration more from different textiles. We are not trying to reinvent the wheel at all in terms of design; our focus is more on changing how things are made, switching from manufactured mass production, to hand made quality and so we place slightly less emphasis on visual trends than other companies might.
When we design, we get our inspiration from the local cultures, ancient craft techniques and the general environment by which the artisan communities are surrounded. We then adapt this inspiration in ways that fit our more toned-down, simple Artha aesthetic.
I guess what’s also important is that we don’t necessarily focus on seasons. Our aim is to be able to support our communities regularly, so that usually means that we produce several smaller collections throughout the year. Because of this, we focus less on seasonal trends as our inspiration and more on the traditional aesthetics of the communities we work with.
Thank you very much Claire and Catherine for sharing your story with us. It is truly inspirational what you are doing, affecting the lives of so many families in a positive way through craft.
I hope you guys enjoyed reading this story and got some cosy winter styling inspiration along the way too! I wanted to let you know also that Artha Collections are currently offering free international shipping until 15 December, so if you’re thinking something from their collection would make a nice Christmas gift for someone special, then hurry because you only have a week to go! View their holiday gift guide, or browse the full collection here.
Credits: Photography and styling: Holly Marder | Avenue, exclusively for Artha Collections | Props: Glassware by Puik Studio, bed linens by House of Baltic Linen (stripe flat sheet), Zara Home (natural linen duvet and pillows), Couleur Locale (dark grey linen pillow slips), textured vase by Hübsch available through Avenue (contact us for info), wooden ladder by Walden Austria (read more about Walden here)