Creating Karma

Working in India and Asia over the years, I have thought along the way about karma—and not just when I was dodging traffic in Jaipur! The idea of karma—your actions coming back to haunt or reward you in your next life—courses through Indian culture and through every Indian religion, so I couldn’t avoid thinking about it even if I wanted to. And I wanted to think about it. As an artist working in textiles for these many years, I have come across opportunities to help individuals, children, artisan groups, and others whom I thought could use a leg up for many different reasons.

I started with Aid to Artisans right when I started my company in my East Village apartment in 2001. They would call me up and say, "We have a project in Zimbabwe to review craft groups and assess their readiness for market. Would you like to fly over for two weeks?" What travel-hungry artist would say no? I jumped in, and got a lot of personal as well as creative fulfillment out of these projects. A few years ago, I decided to rekindle working on my karma, and I started once again to help out in places where I thought I could. As a devoted fan of craft and design—and their makers—around the world, of course I am drawn to artisan groups, but also to schools and orphanages in India and Asia, as well as to charities in the United States where we can help make life a little better for some.

Joybells Orphanage

On a flight back from Delhi, John was seated next to one of the patrons of Joybells, a school and orphanage located at the foothills of the Himalayas at Dehradun, India. The story of the place fascinated him. Horrified by the life of the region’s nomadic children, many of whom often had no access to food, much less education, Althea Joy Singh and her husband, a retired colonel, founded Joybells.

Back to the Loom

Fabric is elemental in how humans have evolved and progressed. However, it seems that its use and production have reached the pinnacle at the expense of traditions. John Robshaw Textiles and Filip + Inna present the Back to the Loom Project. Back to the Loom aims to revive, preserve, and assist the different Philippine indigenous groups in their weaving traditions across the archipelago.

Henry Street

The Henry Street Settlement is a non-profit social service agency on New York City’s Lower East Side, serving around 60,000 people each year. Clients include low-income families and individuals, survivors of domestic violence, youth from two to twenty-one, the mentally challenged, the physically challenged, and senior citizens.

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