Goddess diary #10: empowering indigenous female artisans, by Beshlie McKelvie

“My work is a fusion of all I am passionate about: beautiful design, traditional authentic craftsmanship and the empowerment of marginalised women is at the core of my ethos.”

Beshlie McKelvie is a truly unique designer and woman, and one I feel very blessed to know. She lives near me in Somerset and together we have spent hours poring over the extraordinary Huichol yarn paintings, divine Kulu shawls and infinite brightly hued pom poms and textiles that adorn her magical home – and provide not only her means of work but, more essentially, a dedicated and passionate means of keeping ancient indigenous crafts alive and bringing these cultural gems and their stories into our culture-thirsty Western lives. She has set up her own label devoted to exquisite textiles and art from the cultures she loves; she is a dynamic and courageous creatrix, an amazing and radiant mama, and a quietly revolutionary sister who I am excited to offer this space to as she shares a little about her journey working with marginalised female artisans and other community craftspeople.

I juggle my life as a mama with my work, from my creative studio  in the wilderness of the woodlands. A nomad of modern times, my quest for inspiration has led me to some of the remotest corners of the world. I love traveling and creating new collection, each one rooted in a journey of anthropological research.

Each project I take on is one of love and I  has been passionately engaged in the empowerment of marginalised women and communities, striving alongside them in their fight to gain economic freedom and political and social liberation, whilst creating beautiful ethical products.

Working with craftswomen around the world fills me with so much joy. It is essential for me to be able to go to the source, and learn about the creative process of these traditional ancestral crafts that span so many ages and generations: I love to watch the block of wood that will be used to print my cashmere shawls, to sit with the weavers who dye and weave, to feel the felt of the Kazakh carpets and go through the steppe with the eagle hunters. That’s what I like about sharing the life of artisans and their culture, meeting their families and them meeting mine. It is this that allows for the creation of those special and intimate friendships that can truly unite designers and their craftsmen, forging bonds that can last a lifetime. And knowing that, I hope to have a small positive impact on their lives.

In my fight to keep these traditions alive, I have  been working alongside the Ottomi and Huichol people of Mexico whose works date back to pre-Aztec times. Fusing folklore, songs, whimsical characters and shamanic visions, their work has come to symbolise the harmony between man and nature as well as illuminate the circle of life, death and eternity.

Of course, sustainable practices are essential to my ethos and and by working with fair trade co-operatives in Peru, Nepal and elsewhere, I can ensure that only authentic and sustainable cashmere is used in my designs, and that in turn the incredible women weavers have a positive means by which to support and educate themselves and their families.

It is with the deepest gratitude that I thank the  generations of incredible women, past, present and future, who are so brave , wise and so strong. We must fight side-by-side to make things change, for education, for peace and to provide a bright future for future generations.

I honour my ancestors ,grandmothers, mothers and daughters and all  who have been before us and will come after us. My spirit connects with the divine when I sit with the artisans in their  homes and workhops with their families, children and animals. Through my work, I also continuously celebrate all the amazing women I have met and been lucky enough to work with and strive to raise awareness of the changes that must take place and should raise their voices.

I am now travelling in India with my daughter, visiting our artisans there on a long and colourful adventure. I am also involved in a collaboration with, as well as representing, the not-for-profit based community organisation Sabbara, to provide support and a means of living for displaced women affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria.

This is a time to honor women and their rights around the world, to celebrate positive change and to remember those that are not heard, and those for which we must stand together for the future.

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