One of Kirsty and my big hopes for Calendula Girls is to use it to help support women entrepreneurs starting their businesses in developing countries and also to celebrate women who are making a real difference to the lives of other women, their families and communities in those areas.
On a recent trip to India I was lucky enough to meet Mona Bruchmann, and visit her wonderful doll making studio in Dharamsala, Dolls 4 Tibet.
I found her vision and the reality she is creating absolutely inspirational. Mona designs gorgeous Steiner inspired dolls and teaches refugee Tibetan and indigenous Indian women to make them and employs them in her beautiful doll making studio. Creating meaningful employment not only helps these women financially, but Mona has also established the most supportive, friendly work environment, it was a joy to visit.
I asked Mona five questions and I’m really delighted to be able to share this interview with you.
1. What do you love most about your work with Dolls 4 Tibet?
Of course I absolutely love the creation of our products and as it is, all dolls are started and finished with my own hands involved. Besides this, I love the teamwork at dolls4tibet – we all come from so many different cultures and backgrounds, sometimes barely speak each other’s language – yet it’s fun to be together, to share parts of each other’s lives, to reach out and support each other in difficult times. As I come from a design and social work background – our project gives me a perfect opportunity to combine both of these personal interests.
2. Is there one doll that you produce that has the most significant meaning to you?
Our traditional Tibetan Samdol dolls – she was inspired by my own first daughter and is named after her. As it is, the whole beginning of our project got inspired by Samdol, as I was searching for a beautiful first doll for her with which she could identify, which of course I failed to find in the markets. That’s when I asked a dollmaking friend in Scotland to make a doll with my descriptions. She however sent me a book about dollmaking, inspiring me to make my first doll and kindling this unending love for further creations….
Expect little and be tolerant and patient. Listen and see with open eyes and try to adjust your own ideas to the circumstances you are facing. Priorities of other people and cultures and ways of living are often so different and at times hard to understand – yet just as valid and need to be respected if one truly wants to reach out and address issues relevant to other people’s lives. My husband often mentions that ‘the problem with you westerners is your arrogance and belief that you know better’ and indeed most problems I did face myself or in relationship to people we worked with – all with good intention, great skill and a good heart – was their inability to truly understand and incorporate the different ways life works over here.
4. Apart from your family and Dolls 4 Tibet, what one thing about living in India do you especially love?
The diversity and flexibility life in India offers us. We are so much less restricted by governmental rules and regulations and the general public pressures to conform then a life in the Western world could offer.
India as a country is incredibly diverse but here in Dharamsala with the seat of the Tibetan government in exile and HH the Dalai Lama, along with the Tibetan exile community and people from all over the world which are drawn by these facts + a significant Nepali population this diversity is by far enhanced. And we very much can shape our personal lives according to our own visions and standards without much outside interference.
5. What dream for the future of Dolls 4 Tibet would you like to share with us?
I’d like to extend our possibilities for social support. We are not an NGO or a charity and whatever we receive has been created with our own hands – love, skill and hardship. On top I’d like us to stay as small scale as possible as only this way offers us a certain quality of working together – yet also limits our profit margin, which of course is needed for all social ambitions. Striking the right balance is a challenge I’d like to explore further as indeed I’d like to rent a simple extra flat to offer as shelter for women in need. Also I’d like our women to make the majority of dolls more independent from me, so that I can concentrate more on creating new products or even special addition dolls….the list of dreams is long….
Kirsty and I hope you find Mona’s story inspirational! If you’d like to learn more about Mona’s wonderful Dolls 4 Tibet business, or perhaps order a special doll from her here’s the link www.dolls4tibet.com