Volunteering abroad is often a short-lived experience. For Josh Reece-Moore, travelling to India was the start of a wonderful project that combined fashion, textile design, and traditional artwork by the women he taught. Sidra Khalid spoke to Josh about his internship experience.
In the summer of 2014, Josh Reece-Moore travelled to Pune, India, as part of Development in Action’s two-month internship placement. This would mark the beginning of a collaborative journey that would eventually end up with Josh lugging two suitcases full of artwork halfway across the world. I spoke to Josh, who is now our India Programme Officer on the DiA Committee, about why he decided to embark on a placement with DiA.
For Josh, a Textile Design student at the Chelsea College of Art & Design, going to India was never a question of a whim, but was a conscious choice. “I’m interested in the people behind the things we consume,” Josh says. More specifically, he tells me, he is interested in sustainability in the fashion supply chain.
It’s certainly an admirable notion, to really consider where the things that we wear and discard are made, and how. With the advent of swishing and high street brands such as H&M looking to ‘green-up’ their image, more and more businesses and consumers are looking for ethical options when it comes to fashion. Josh’s quest to make the production process more personal, connected and ethical led him to India – a huge exporter of textiles.
In the Indian city of Pune, Josh volunteered with Deep Griha Society, DiA’s partner NGO that works on diverse issues such as women empowerment, community outreach and health. It was here, while he was working in the women’s income-generation programme, that he decided to embark on a collaborative project. The idea was simple: to turn the artwork of the women taking his creative workshop into wearable textiles.
Immediately, Josh ran into some problems. Language was one of these. Another was that the women he worked with often wanted to please, and if he praised any one student for her work, it would lead to a whole slew of copy-cats. Laughing, Josh tells me, “A big culture thing was where they would always copy whatever they thought was best in the class!”
Eventually however, these hiccups were smoothed out as his students began to grow more comfortable. “One of the techniques I used was blind-drawing, or I got them to draw each other. The women had already done creative workshops, so they were already trained in art techniques. I’d also try to push them towards their strengths,” Josh tells me.
It was then that his students really began to express themselves and created striking, original artwork that Josh knew would work well as textile designs. When he came back to London, he set to work. Using the two suitcases packed with artwork, he began the long process to turn these into digital textile designs. Currently, Josh has six designs which are going to be turned into fabric as a final, wearable product. Through this project, he wants to raise awareness about the work of Deep Griha Society: “I have these really strong visuals that tell a story and get people interested.”
As a last thought, I asked Josh what he enjoyed most about the experience, and his reply is a testament to the value of volunteering and connecting with others: “My fondest memory,” he says, “is of running the workshops with the women. We had so much fun together. I remember times when we couldn’t stop laughing over funny drawings of each other that had come out warped and silly. But more than all the fun we had is this: I found my students inspirational. I learned as much from them as they did from me.”
To learn more about our India Programme and application process, go here.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.
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