The First Chapter

Our very first Nkuku product was a recycled cotton notebook handmade in Rajasthan. We spent five weeks working closely with the artisans to produce a collection of stationary that we hoped would sell well in the UK. The entire process was as fascinating to us then as it is today.

Each piece of paper is handmade from recycled cotton fabric, waste gathered from the garment industry. The fabric is ground into a pulp using hand turned machinery. The pulp is combined with a binding agent and carefully layered between muslin sheets to set. Once set the muslin is peeled from either side and the sheet is hung on a clothes line to dry in the heat of the Indian sun.  Lines and lines of paper are hung out like laundry on a washing line.

Our first journal had beautiful hand torn edges and was hand bound with cotton thread and then wrapped in a soft leather cover. The textures were gorgeous, the soft leather with the cotton paper made the journal such a tactile piece. We then developed other complimentary collections handmade from recycled saris, beautiful rich fabrics hand embroidered in traditional Indian styles and more simple designs incorporating the famous skeleton Pepal leaf.

The first order was packed into a container and shipped off to Devon where several weeks later we guided a lorry loaded with journals down the bumpy drive to the hay barn we were using as our warehouse. A group of neighbours had come to help varying from the ages of 75 years through to 4 years. We are so incredibly grateful for all the amazing support we received from family and friends, even calling on a local farmer to pull the lorry out of the Devon mud so that he could get home! There were some cold months spent in an unheated barn, picking and packing. Woolly hats and thermals were essential. Our first born baby spent a lot of time in a makeshift cot made from cardboard boxes layered up under blankets.

Our office started out as our bedroom, then we upgraded to a garage (thermals also required!), then a bespoke built office/shed situated in our garden and finally a proper office based at the old mill in Dartington with a new showroom opening soon! The Nkuku team has also grown from the two of us to a vibrant office of thirty.  The journals were soon joined by photograph frames and we are delighted to now include a selection of home wares incorporating some of the beautiful bowls that first captured our imaginations all those years ago on our travels.

Here’s to the next chapter!

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  • Nkuku specialise in eco friendly, fairly traded homeware and gifts. Our products are inspired by the traditional skills of artisans throughout Africa and India. We combine contemporary design with age old traditions, natural materials and sustainable methods of production. We passionately support fair trade and consider the environment in everything we do.