They say that you know that you are fluent in a language when you begin to have dreams in that language. Well, despite my inability to grasp the entirety of the Hindi language, you could say that I am now fluent in block print. Night after night, images of colors and new and old patterns come to me. It might be that I often sleep in a room that is filled with our completed products and that they are the first thing that I see as I go to sleep, but I think that it is more than that. I see the potential in these patterns that extends beyond a fashionable handbag or a funky little table runner. These patterns represent the key to a better life for someone who otherwise would not have the opportunity to use their creativity to create a livelihood for themselves and their family. These prints scream potential. I could go on and on about the logistics of how block printing originated or how incredible it is that a human being can replicate any design by carving out a piece of rosewood, but more than that, I want to communicate to you the future that I see in this ancient art form. I think that we are paving a new way for the use of this skill. We are on the brink of a major shift in what it looks like to bring social development through employment training. We have all seen how hours upon hours have been spent in third world countries where westerners are embodied with the mission to enforce a culture of technology upon a people group—now don’t get me wrong, this strategy has it’s perks, but where is the brightness, where is the color, where is the essence of human vibrancy? I believe that skills in technology and business are vital, but creativity must come first. Upon starting JOYN, our goal was to see the potential in the people around us and to connect that potential with opportunity.
Take our street kids for example. When we met them, they were children who have been taught to beg on the streets for their entire lives. Most of them could not hold a pencil or write their names. Now, through teaching them creativity in the art of block printing, they have a new glow to their faces. They are confident in their abilities and have learned a form of self-expression. They are brought joy every day that is represented by the colors that come from their dipped wooden blocks. They have learned to work at something and to express the beauty that exists in their hearts. When you buy a JOYN product, think of it as a painting. Not the kind that gathers dust and sits inside the Louvre, but rather a painting that you can wear. You can express yourself by choosing something that someone poured their creativity into. It is my hope that we will all begin to dream in block print. Think of how colorful the world would be!
Rikki Marler, Production JOYNer