“Wow! the socks are gorgeous” Z

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“the socks look cool! is it loose at the ancle? want to buy one!” JY

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“P.S. die Socken sind spitze!” H

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“Muß Dir bzw. Euch ein Kompliment machen. Die Socken allesamt sehen mit ihren farbenfrohen Mustern wunderschön aus und würden bei uns hier ganz gewiß Käufer finden. Die Frage nach der Langlebigkeit des Garns besteht noch. Ich hab mir letztes Jahr handgestrickte, warme, weiche Strümpfe mit Großteil Alpakawolle gekauft. Nach dem ersten Tragen hat sich die Wolle leider schon an der Ferse abgeschabt. Woher bezieht ihr die Wolle, ist es eine Garnmischung (haltbarer) oder wird die Wolle dort vor Ort gesponnen? Bei reiner Wolle würden Stulpen (vielleicht mit passendem Schal) bestimmt längere Zeit Freude bereiten.” U

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“Wow your socks are so cute!!” S

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“woooooooooooooow,…… die sind ja unglaublich hübsch hübsch hübsch…. diese weiss gelb schwarzen…” J


Spending the whole day with local artisans cooperating with De Pamiri is an attempt to tell their story and shed light on their daily routine. Knowing that we are always being perceived as guests, we still believe this is a good method to get an idea of what it means to run a Pamiri household next to being an active artisan. This is therefore a single story rather than a representation of all Pamiri households.

Suchanoro was born in 1972. She lives with her husband, mother in law, daughter and two sons in in Dashtak, around 20 minutes from Chorog. Suhanoro started working with De Pamiri in 2004 when the NGO contacted a group of talented Dashtak artisans in search for possible collaboration. During her teenage years she was taught by her mother and in school how to crochet the typical Pamiri socks. After Suhanoro had convinced De Pamiri co-founder Arnaud Baubil of her talent, she and the other Dashtak women received further trainings in felting techniques. Meanwhile, Suchanoro produces mainly bags, pakols (Pamiri hats) and felted toys to sell it in the De Pamiri shop. She neglects crocheting socks because it takes much more time than knitting other products. Nowadays, she crochets socks almost exclusively for family members or as wedding gifts. For Suchanoro, it is sometimes complicated to find time to do handicrafts. Especially from May to October, women are very busy with working on the fields and running their households.

On September 24th 2010, I spent a whole day in Suchanoro’s house to see what kind of work she has to do. Her day started at 6 o’clock when she had to warm up water for the morning bath. After praying she went milking the cow so that she can prepare shirchoi (Pamiri tea with milk and salt) for her mother in law, her children and herself; then she began to clean the house like Pamiri people use to do every morning.

It took about one hour to sweep the house, the garden and even the street. After this, she did the dishes, picked up apples, brought food to the animals and finally found some time to work on a sock we had ordered one and a half weeks earlier. In the meantime, her husband came back from work and had some time to cut the grass giving Suchanoro time to continue her crochet. At one o’clock, we were invited to eat at a friend’s house and stayed there for two hours.

Back at Suchanoro’s house, she had to prepare shirchoi for her family before she could continue on knitting. Although her fingers were aching after a while, she kept on crocheting socks. After finishing the socks, there is an order of five pakols waiting for her. At five o’clock, she finally decided to stop working. It was also time for me to as public transport is hard to find in the evenings. After I left, Suhanoro still had to milk the cow, look after the animals and prepare dinner for her family.

AAAAAAAAAAARGHHHH!!!!!!!

During our three months stay in Khorog, we had the possibility to meet a lot of different people working in Chorog and GBAO – locals as well as people from abroad. Due to the central location in the City Park and the proximity to PECTA (Pamir Eco Cultural Tourism Association), we also met a lot of tourists. This gave us the chance to collect different opinions about Pamir socks but also to learn about other projects concerning similar objectives. We noticed that a lot of people showed interest in Pamir socks. Dora, for example, came from the United States to Chorog specifically to learn about the way Pamir people crochet socks. The shortage of wool made it impossible for Dora to simply order a pair of socks from the artisans and she therefore proposed to send wool from the United States to Chorog in order to produce what she needs. Will this be a solution? Liba, also from the United States, is working on a four years project to support people to breed angora goats in Ishkashim district. The woman’s organization is planning to export the high quality wool from these goats to the US where it can be sold for a high price. This project also aims at reviving the traditional Pamir crochet technique and patterns in new products suitable for export. As the patterns are not patented this will be fairly easy. Russian fashion designer Lolita, living in Chorog, is also interested in saving old patterns and other Pamir products through marketing. She has designed a range of products that nicely show the diversity of Pamir traditions. For financial reasons Lolita decided to use only synthetic wool. When we were talking to tourists, almost all of them showed interest in the traditional Pamir socks and were sad not to be able to wait until the exemplars were finished. Some of them would have been happy to buy these special socks before leaving the country.

Besides preserving and reviving a traditional Pamir product, all this interest in the Pamir socks gives De Pamiri the chance to be the first on the market. Using natural wool as well as natural dyes will further strengthen De Pamiri’s competitive advantage and place them in a leading position. If De Pamiri does not act soon, however, there will be people from abroad using the patterns and technique for their own products and mainly for export. We would like to support De Pamiri to get artisans interested in producing traditional Pamir socks from naturally dyed wool. Unfortunately, pricing, lack of personnel and especially shortage of woollen yarn has made it close to impossible to continue work. If the situation does not improve soon, it will be impossible for us to find a solution in our remaining two weeks in Chorog…

When De Pamiri started its work, the founders defined some goals that should go along with the project. The most important of these principles are:

• revive tradtional folk handicraft

• preserve and develop the specific culture of Pamiri people

• improve the life condition of its partners

• promote livelihood opportunities using available local resources that are sustainable and responsive to market demand

• foster the exchange of the knowledge and skills of the handicraft producers

Although De Pamiri is doing great work, it is not easy to completely follow these principles all the time. Nowadays in the De Pamiri shop, you also can find products that are not related to Pamiri culture at all, but which are the result of trying to copy western designs. We understand very well that the artisans are happy to sell their products through the De Pamiri shops and that this is the aim of this project. But in the meantime, some artisans bring products that are made from oddments or synthetic yarn.

These products are not marketable at all, neither for tourists nor for the local market. We believe that De Pamiri should stop accepting products which are not in accordance with the project’s aims. This brings us to the next problem: in the staff of De Pamiri there is nobody who could afford to reject unsuitable or low quality products. The De Pamiri depends on the artisans’ willingness to produce (traditional) handicrafts and fears that rejecting products may result in the loss of cooperating artisans. We therefore suggest that De Pamiri should rethink their goals and maybe employ one person from outside who could work together with artisans to improve product quality.

Another problem – one we have already mentioned several times – is how to deal with money and the selling prices. Some artisans were discontent when they compared their earning with the final sales price in the De Pamiri shop. They complained about the price difference and wondered why they gain less money than the sales price.

“The artisans don’t care about culture, they are only interested in money. If you want them to produce something, you should think about the prices. It’s all about money!” (De Pamiri about artisans)

Maybe for some artisans, it is difficult to understand the necessity of De Pamiri’s work and why the project need the surplus of money. Since 2010, De Pamiri does not get any money from previous donors and is financially self-sustainable.

YIPPIEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!

After we had to send back the first model Gulsifad because it was incomplete and had wrong measures we finally received the improved model today. The result is really great.

“Foster local design” is the second of our three principles. Instead of ordering socks according to exact drawings and instructions we therefore decided to organize a seminar that would engage the creativity of the artisans themselves. The aim was to sensibilize the artisans for new colours and colour combinations, to motivate them to try out new patterns as well as revive ancient patterns and to find out the best fitting shape of socks according to more modern standards. Please meet our participants:

At the beginning of our workshop we asked the artisans to compare traditional Pamir socks with the socks that are sold in the De Pamiri shop at the moment. Each artisan chose their favourite pair and started to explain why they favoured them – be it the shape, pattern, colour or quality to keep warm. Then we poured out our bag of dyed woollen yarn and asked the participants to sort out the naturally dyed wool from the chemically dyed wool. Both methods proved to be successful in engaging the participants, supporting the communication among the artisans and therefore spreading the existing knowledge.

For our first session we then scratched together all the wool we could get and played a small game about colours. We had prepared cards showing different words, such as love, home, children, nature, Pamirs and each participant chose one card. The task was then to choose four to five colours, which in their mind expressed the feeling they had when thinking about the word they had chosen. Here are some examples:

“I chose these similar greens for friendship, because I believe friends have a lot in common.”

“I chose white for belief, because it is something enlightening. I also chose black, because sometimes believing means simply trusting – even in the dark. These bright colours represent the reward you receive when you believe.”

The second session dealt with patterns. From the De Pamiri booklet Falling Star, a collection of patterns from throughout the Pamirs, and from photographs of traditional Pamir socks, the artisans then chose their favourite patterns and started drawing up instructions on how to crochet these. They combined their chosen colour combinations with these patterns and started making a plan on how their pair of socks would look like. While some chose to copy pattern and colours exactly from a sample picture, others were rather experimental.

Because of lack of woollen yarn, we then had to select five participants who would receive the order to produce a pair of socks according to the colour combinations and patterns they had chosen. With the help of all participants we sorted the wool in order to find enough for the four pairs of long socks and one pair of leggings according to the artisans’ wishes. We then discussed the shape, length and sizes of the socks and finished the contracts stating the appearance of the ordered socks, the payment and terms of delivery. Finally, at the end of the seminar, we had placed five orders. Here is what we were expecting: