Honest Lessons But A Very Real Joy

It has been 10 weeks since we welcomed our first two mothers into the AMMA workshop. Next week we move down the street to open 'workshop 2', so it felt like a fitting time to share some thoughts, lessons & disasters that have influenced the beginning of AMMA. 

I (Josie) work daily with the mothers and oversee the running of AMMA along with my husband Warren. Our names don't sound very Sri Lankan (because we're not), but I'll save our story for another time.

Sewing in the AMMA workshop.

Perfectionism Lives Around the Corner.

During the first week I was so overwhelmed by having to teach two mothers, that just to get through the morning felt like an achievement. The ability to think on my feet had gone, and brain freeze became an annoying companion. For our second week in the workshop, I arrived with detailed lists of each and every job that needed doing, in order, with a space to be ticked off once completed. I am still doing this at week 10 although not quite as obsessively. 

When Nature doesn't Play Ball. 

We have been really privileged to be working on jobs since the start. This has silenced our cash flow worries but has meant we have some quick learning to do. This whole social enterprise / natural dye stuff has a way of bringing all your insecurities to the surface, and when nature doesn't play ball there is nobody to blame but yourself. I was confident in the colours we could achieve, but scaling that up to dye 2.5m worth of cotton fabric in each vat was all a big experiment that was very hit and miss to put it kindly. Thankfully art school taught me how to handle disappointment and to not give up when you experience it. Actually this whole journey is like working on my final degree show every single day, except this time the purpose makes it worth the pain. 

Natural Dye ingredient- Eucalyptus leaves

You Keep Coming Back?!

Day by day we are getting better, growing stronger as a team & overcoming challenges with a clear mind. I have been stunned by the commitment of our artisans. One of them even shared with me that she wants to save to buy her own sewing machine (she didn't know how to sew before AMMA!). I’m always asking their opinion on colour ways & designs… and once everything is finished we choose which are our favourites - usually the brightest. We have sat in that tiny workshop, with the power out, sharing a chair, drinking our tea and to my surprise they continue to come back the next day. 

Cloth naturally dyed in our workshop in Sri Lanka

Just Watch in Wonder. 

As I am still learning the language and adapting to the culture, I've had to step back at times in wonder at the event that is playing out before me. My favourite is when the workshop lock broke. I had spent a while with a screwdriver blindly twisting about when one of the AMMAs disappeared and came back with a machete! She started hitting the lock with all her bodily force and a few minutes later it was fixed. She is our fixer, she fixes everything. She's 23. 

The Fear of White is Real.

I will never win the clothing battle, but I did win the shoe battle. I turn up everyday wearing jeans and my mother's old tunic. Hair in a clip and hilariously to our AMMA's my short, practical, wellington boots. They, of course, turn up looking beautiful. Thankfully they stopped wearing saris and after a short health and safety talk we agreed they should keep their shoes on. Even so, fear gushed through me when one turned up wearing a cream polo neck jumper. I haven't worn white in years because I spill everything everywhere! The whole morning was spent thinking up jobs away from the dye vats. 

One of our AMMA's in our workshop in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka

A Very Real Joy.

The other day in a moment of stillness I experienced the very real joy that we are employing two mothers. It might be a small start but that is a great thing. AMMA exists because other people believed in the vision, so I invite you into a moment of stillness to experience that joy with us, because it belongs to you too.