A RAJASTHANI ADVENTURE PART II

Part two of our journey was to take us to Ranakpur – this amazing Jain temple is a site to behold.    As we hopped across the burning sun heated ground (no shoes inside) we climbed the steep steps and left the scorching sun to be met with the cool and calm of the temple. We all stood speechless in the vast atrium, totally blown away by the intricately hand carved marble.

From Ranakpur we wound our way through the spectacular Aravali hills, passed tall trees filled with monkeys, neat  cultivated farmland and stunning foliage tipped with orange and red. It felt like stumbling across an oasis.

As we reached the peak of our climb we gazed back at the valley stretched out below us in awe.

The creation of the main highway that extends to Udaipur has radically improved the journey and is an indication of the change that is gradually taking place in India.  Although in true Indian style the slick new highway did still have its flaws as we were soon to discover.  As we cruised along our driver suddenly veered to the other side of the highway driving flat out down the fast lane on the wrong side of the road. Alistair was on a work call at the time and managed a “oh hang on, urm… can I call you back?!” as I extended my arm across our children in the back. We casually (!) pointed out that we were now on the wrong side of the road but our driver just smiled knowingly and as we approached the oncoming vehicle swerved casually into the slow lane, still on the wrong side of the road and trundled over the side of the highway to make a right turn. Laughingly he told us “Don’t’ worry they just forgot to put a turning in when they built the road!”

We were soon in the pretty town of Delwara. This traditional Indian town comprises of charming narrow streets lined with small traders selling everything imaginable from grains and spices, to medicines and sweets , brightly coloured saris next to traditional barbers (very happy to pose for photographs!) The faded blues and greens of the beautiful traditional doorways and stunning religious graffiti adorning the walls added to the magic.  Here we found some potters who kindly showed our children how to use their wheel, a concrete plinth spun on a small wooden peg, on momentum alone.  We also received a live demonstration of jewellery making and spent a magical time crammed cross legged into a small shop trying on and weighing silver jewellery.

Delwara is only a short drive away to the magical city of Udaipur and the famous Lake Palace magically floating on Lake Pichola.

Since our last visit to this romantic city some years ago, the lake has transformed with new majestic hotels around the shore line and the lake once empty and filled with litter was now full to the brim. There is an enormous sense of peace gazing across the lake as flocks of birds dip and dive and the Lake Palace’s bright white exterior reflects across the water.

As well as the stunning palaces Udaipur offers some great shopping from unique artifacts to shoes!

And a lot of fun was had trying them on! The true captivation though was as we dragged our children to the City Palace for one final ‘educational visit’ and they were told of the legend of Chetak, the grey stallion that saved his rider Maharan Pratap from death and in doing so died. Our children stared teary eyed at the painting of the Chetak being cradled in the Maharana’s.

All too quickly the trip came to an end and with heavy hearts we headed for home! As we landed at Heathrow our eight year old daughter looked out of  the window  commenting ” I thought you said it was going to be summer when we got home” . “It is we said – just British summer!”

 

 

 

 

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A RAJASTHANI ADVENTURE PART I

It was over ten years ago that Alistair and myself set off on our travels, the outcome of which was to become Nkuku. For a long time we had wanted to take our brood out to India and show them why we love it so much. Our journey started in Delhi where we held a Nkuku lunch and conference. This was a great opportunity for our children to meet our suppliers and some of their families and gain a clearer understanding of what we do!  Travelling in India with our four children was the most wonderful experience.  Their strong sense of family and love of children made us feel incredibly welcome wherever we went.

First we headed to the stunning blue city of Jodhpur, situated on the edge of the Thar desert.  We soon worked out that the six of us could squeeze into one rickshaw - three children on the small drop down bench  and our youngest  squeezed in between us on the seat! The first journey was an event in itself! The elections were on during our visit and there were a number of elaborate processions complete with music and drums. This combined with general rush hour traffic,  noise and the mandatory cow (including one over friendly one who poked her head into our rickshaw – much to our children’s delight!) was a great  introduction to Jodhpur and Indian city life!  Our four year old asked if we could ‘turn it down for a bit’!

After exploring the city and surrounding villages we spent a fantastic day with one of our suppliers, with our children helping out with design suggestions! We then paid a necessary visit to the Meherangarh fort. This incredible fortress dominates the city of Jodhpur. The fort managed to captivate our children with the  legendary tale of martyrdom made by one man who laid himself down under one of the enormous stone bolders of the fortress wall to break a curse . (They kept looking back at the wall!)

The children had their first taste of celebirty as they were  ‘papped’ by other Indian tourists. Our two year old became a celebrity in her own right and we had to explain politely after the hundredth person asked for her photograph that she needed  a rest! Every adventure even a trip to the chemist resulted in a entourage of freindly people high fiving the children and trying to hug our two year old! From Jodhpur we set off on the next leg heading out into the great Indian Thar desert to explore the stunning rural landscape.

The Bishnoi community live in this area with their fascinating culture and passion for  protecting wildlife and environmentally friendly living.  It was wonderful to vistit their villages and homes.

The children loved learning how to spin thread and their imacculuate red earth huts were a fascination.

This beautiful Grandma was the matriarch of an extended family of daughters, son in laws, grand children and cousins.  We spent most of our time mutually  adoring each other’s children! Our secret weapon - our 2 year old - made another hit with her blond curly hair proving a novelty!

Whilst out on the road we passed a school and asked to pop in and say hello.  It was fantastic experience for our children to visit a school and meet children their  age.  It was hard  not to draw comparisons between this school and their own  back in Devon.

Our elder two stood in the doorway taking in the concrete floor and lack of desks, chairs and books.   The head teacher kindly explained to us their topics and a mass of gorgeous smiling children cheekily giggled and came up to greet us or hid behind doorways!

It was hard to tear ourselves away from such a great place. On our journey back to our hotel it was lovely to hear our older two children fuelling each other with ideas of how to get the school some books and pens.

One of the main ambitions and a definite highlight for the children was to ride a camel in the desert. Both Alistair and I have ridden a few camels in our time but when Tito rocked up she was literally the tallest camel we had ever seen. 

The children quickly lost enthusiasm but after a bit of a bit a persuasion both of the older two  managed to set off across the desert on Tito with a our younger two in the lap of luxury reclining on a cart!  It was a magical experience traipsing out into the desert with blue buck and antelope (and a lot of goats) gallivanting around.  It was slightly marred when we later passed our camel guide on his mobile phone riding Tito home!

We sadly left the desert, the beautiful Marwari horses, camels and Bishnoi people to head through the Aravalli Hills and onto the next leg of the trip. We hired a car and a driver for the seven hour journey  and with five of us squeezed into the back seat and Alistair riding shot gun we were soon on the way to Ranakpur and the town of  Delwara…..to be continued!

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INDIA – BEHIND THE SCENES

My colleague Sarah and I were fortunate enough to join the Nkuku India Trip for the conference held in Delhi. As this was our first trip to India we wanted to share some of our experiences.  After a sleepless flight to Delhi we were collected by a very smartly dressed hotel driver who informed us that ‘if you don’t use your horn while driving you don’t know how to drive!’  With that we tightened our seat belts and prepared ourselves for the ride.

On arrival to the magnificent hotel we were given a traditional Indian greeting wishing us luck and prosperity. After a short rest we got straight to work with our Indian Office.

The following day we woke up bright an earlier to the calming noise of the rush hour Delhi traffic. After a 4 hour journey to meet some of our suppliers we spent  the day touring the factories and meeting the employees. This enlightening experience showcased the artisans’ high level of skills. One supplier very kindly made us an Indian feast for lunch. Vegetable curry has never tasted so good!

After many more meetings we managed to grab an hour to go to a local market. We put to use our bartering skills and came away with goodies for family and friends (and of course ourselves to!

Our final day in Delhi was our Nkuku supplier conference. The day involved a great turnout, more delicious Indian food and an opportunity to strength our relationship with our suppliers.   The next morning we very reluctantly packed our bags to go home. We must have become immune to the chaotic Indian traffic as the M5 to Devon felt very civilised and boring. We can’t wait for trip number two!

To see some of the products created by the great artisans Sarah and Steph  met on this trip take a look here!

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FATHER’S DAY GIFT LIST

We have America to thank for Father’s Day and quite right too that all you Dad’s out there should receive some appreciation! If you’re tired of socks & underwear on Father’s day we have put together  a short list of stylish alternatives from the sports mad Dad  to the wine connoisseur!  The rattan oval basket (shown above) is perfect for storing sports kit from crickets bags to squash rackets. Each basket is skillfully hand made in Indonesia from natural rattan.

Why not start his day off with  breakfast in bed! For that delicious first cup of coffee treat him to one of our fair trade ceramic coffee mugs.

Followed by breakfast served on a natural mango wood artisan plate or bowl (also great for camping trips!)

For the man who loves to get stuck in in the kitchen we have a selection of stylish sustainable mango wood chopping boards.

And these mango wood pizza boards are perfect for serving large  pizza’s and delicious cheeses.

For the Dad who likes his wine we have the perfect glass!

……and  the perfect carafe to pour from!

But the icing on the cake is this Stag head bottle stopper – the perfect man gift!

To add a truly personal touch why not give a Kiko frame filled with family snaps  or get creative with a collage of  keepsakes and mementos.

For the Dad who is tied to a desk vamp up his office with these giant paper clips.

And last but by no means least on our list is this stylish leather bound Savannah journal, ideal for smartening up his meetings or for the more artistic Dad it is the perfect sketch book!

For more Father’s Day gift ideas take a look at our Father’s Day Collection.

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NKUKU INDIA CONFERENCE

In April a few of the Nkuku team, Ali, myself and our children set off for India.  The purpose of our trip was to  host a conference and lunch for all our suppliers.

The venue was in Delhi and our suppliers came from far and wide to join us for a wonderful day of business, socialising and good food!

The event was a huge success even/despite our children doing star jumps off the projector followed by commando rolls!

The day provided an opportunity to thank our suppliers for the amazing work they do and  allowed us to catch up with owners & managers, husbands, wives and children. 

The event kicked off with a presentation from the Nkuku team and ended in an open mic forum allowing our suppliers to share opinions and highlight any issues for discussion.  This proved hugely beneficial and informative.

Lunch consisted of delicious curry’s and other delights and far too much Opera (chocolate) cake! The afternoon was whiled away discussing new lines and  making plans for the future.  It has been an exciting journey so far and many of our suppliers have grown with us sharing their experiences and lessons learned along the way. 

The day ended with four very tired children and an elated Nkuku team excited about the future and pleased to have once again cemented long term relationships with our valued suppliers.

The following day Sarah (Buying Team)  Steph & Chris (Operations) sadly returned to the UK whilst  Ali & myself and our children  were fortunate enough to set off on a  fantastic three week trip around Rajasthan, more to follow…….

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INSPIRATIONAL WEDDINGS

Spring has sprung and with it the hedgerows are bursting with wild flowers, lambs are frolicking in the (sporadic!) sunshine and the wedding season has definitely begun! At Nkuku we offer a beautiful selection of wedding decorations and gifts all perfect for that special day.  We were all thrilled at Nkuku HQ when Jess, our European Sales guru announced her wedding plans. Here she shares memories from the day!

“We had just got engaged when I started working for Nkuku in January 2013 at Maison et Objet in Paris. So, when I saw all the beautiful products on the stand I decided to create a wedding list and starting thinking about how we could use some of the products for our beach wedding.

My fiancé (Paddy) and I wanted an intimate, relaxed wedding ceremony and reception with all the special people in our life. We decided to risk the weather (we were very lucky!) and to have the ceremony on a beautiful, secluded little beach near to where we live in south Devon, which we often go to with our daughter Sofia and love.

 The ceremony was very personal, written by us, conducted by Paddy’s Uncle and our friends and family joined us in singing a couple of songs that were special to us and despite the stunning weather the beach was empty except for our guests. To decorate our beach ceremony we used Kamala lanterns and filled the glasses with flowers to create an aisle and bamboo sticks and homemade flags and white bunting to create an area at the end of the aisle for Paddy and I to stand in front of the sea.

Our ceremony was followed by a glass of sparkling wine on the beach and then everyone made their way to the house that we had rented just behind the beach for the reception. We enjoyed an amazing Mediterranean/Middle Eastern feast and wine, which had been cooked by my mum and paddy’s mum and a team of their friends the day before. The house had a lovely garden which we decorated with white bunting, little tables with Evie T-light holders filled with wild flowers and a Bell tent with toys and games for the children.  At the front of the house there was a beautiful little courtyard which we decorated with loads of white bunting, hanging t-lights and these amazing over-sized flowers, where everyone congregated in the evening and we did our first dance .

A huge number of family and friends helped us prepare and decorate the day before and all the flowers came from a close family friend’s garden. It was the most magical, wonderful day and everybody there made the day so perfect and memorable.

I am reminded of how amazing the day was every day when I see our wedding photos, beautifully displayed by the kiko frames that we were given as wedding presents from our wedding list. “

You can create your own Wedding List on line with Nkuku or if would like to speak to one of us directly, please get in touch by calling  01803 866 847 we would be delighted to help you.

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GET THE PICTURE!

“A picture is worth a thousands words!”  It’s true, a photograph  can reveal so much, it can tell a story, capture a moment in time, a feeling, a first smile. It can set a scene, emulate a mood or just make you laugh!

Choose a frame to fit your photograph .  You can really enhance a photograph by selecting the right frame. Black and white images stand out with a dark border.  You can use photography in hundreds of wonderful ways to decorate an interior & personalise your home.

Rejuvinate a tired wall or bring a dead space to life by using photography as wall art and decoration. Get creative with photo frames; choose a style that suits your home or create an eclectic mix of sizes and finishes  to add interest.

This chunky reclaimed multi frame is perfect for creating a rustic look. The distressed finish sets off the  black and white images inside. The subject matter suits the frame and the whole impact is interesting, travelled and wordly.

Don’t be scared to have detail on the border of a frame. This simply adds to the style of the room and often brings out the photo within.  Play around with different images to see what really works.  Mix old and new photographs, the combination of images taken through  different periods can create a quirky back drop and create a wonderful gallery of events.  It’s great to see  photo’s from the distant past sitting next to those taken just the other day.

The materials a photo frame is made from can play a role in the look of a room. Sustainable mango wood has a beautiful grain and is such a versatile wood. The above & below photo frames are both made from mango wood but finished very differently. Placing them against a natural wood backrop creates a  great coastal & rustic theme.

For a more industrial interior choose an edgey material such as recycled metal or aluminum. These large Kiko’s provide huge amounts of  flexibility for arrangements and content. Fill them with images, fabrics, keepsakes and mementos to create a striking & personal display.

Photographer Irving Penn once said “A good photograph is one that communicates a fact, touches the heart and leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it. It is, in a word, effective”. I couldn’t agree more!

 For more photo frame ideas please take a look at our Photo Frame Collection.

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RECYCLING REVOLUTION

Recycling has undergone a revolution, it has changed from just being make do and mend to a form of ethical art. From upcycling old out of date pieces by rejuventating them with new twists to recycling glass into wonderful new products.  Recycling allows us to constantly re invent with far less impact on our environment.

There is something truly satisfying about creating something new and beautiful from something old. At Nkuku we offer a broad selection of  elegant glass products from t lights and lanterns to vases and votives, all made from recycled glass.  Although glass is one of the most harmless materials produced by the world, this is because it is essentially made of raw material,  it does not break down in landfill.  A modern glass bottle would take 4000 years or more to decompose.

In contrast recycling glass is a fairly quick process. All the glass is sorted into different colours and then crushed . These pieces are then melted into liquid ready to shape the new product. Recycling glass not only requires 30% less energy to melt when compared with raw material but using less energy means less fuel is burnt and less emissions.

The artisans who hand make our glass produts are masters of their art. Much of our glass is hand blown and there are  sometimes imperfections such as small bubbles in the glass but we believe this simply adds to the beauty of each piece.  Because glass is made from natural materials such as sand and limestone, it has a low rate of chemical interaction. As a result, glass can be safely reused. Glass is one of the few materials that can be recycled infinitely without losing strength, purity or quality.

Nkuku is an environmentally aware company. We endeavour to create products using recycled and natural materials through sustainable methods of production. We consider the environment in everything we do and it has a large impact on the products that we sell.  For more recycled glass see our collection of glassware.

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NKUKU’S MOTHER’S DAY GIFT GUIDE

At the Nkuku office we  have been busy trying to pick the perfect Mother’s Day gifts. With a whole range of fabulous mothers to cater for we are sure our beautiful range of homeware and gifts will raise a smile this Mothering Sunday!

Sales Director James, adores his mother Gillian. This photograph was taken of James and his mother  when James and his family lived in Peru. “Living in Peru, a very vibrant and colourful country filled me with a sense of adventure and Mum definitely nurtured that. She is kind and caring and I aspire to be the same”. For his Mum this mother’s day James would choose an Eva Bird Enamel bowl 

Buying Assistant Sarah, cherishes the time she gets to spend with her mother.  Although Sarah and her mum are divided by the Atlantic, if anything it keeps them closer.  ”Mum is great because she is always there for me, I think she is probably the busiest person I know as she has a full time job, commutes between Portland and LA each week and is also a published author but she’ll always makes time for me if I need her. She always taught me that you can do anything you want to.”   Sarah would choose one of our  journals for her mother’s day gift.

Customer Service Assistant, Jo and her mother Julie are in separable. They share a passion for healthy living.  “Mum is amazing because she is so caring and is always thinking of others, she has been there for me every single day and is my inspiration”. Constantly on the go, Jo says the perfect Mother’s day gift would be the gorgeous Savannah Leather Shopper to show her how much she means to me!

Chris, our Operations Director and his mother Sally both live in Devon. “I am very lucky that my Mum and Dad have recently moved down to Devon and now live close by. This photo was taken at their house one evening when I popped in for a cup of tea after work.  Mum is a wonderful Mum who never stops looking out for her kids (no matter how old her kids are!)”. Chris would choose a hyacinth bulb vase as he knows how much his mother loves flowers!

Jess our Creative Manager and her Mum Ali, share similar mannerisms and the same sense of humour.  “Mum is always there for me. She is so patient and understanding and we can always have a good giggle!” Jess  says she would choose a Savannah Leather Shopper because her Mum as wanted one for ages!

We all know that picking the perfect gift can be hard, especially when your little one is too young to do the shopping, so if you’re looking to send a subtle hint to your other half then look no further. Young Mums Jess and Anna have the perfect recommendation for any Dad looking to treat Mum this Mother’s Day.

Jess our European Sales Assistant and her family have recently moved to the beach, meaning they spend most of their downtime playing on the beach and making sand castles. But like any beach goer knows sand gets everywhere, so Jess’s top tip for Mother’s day would be some stylish storage options like the Bansi Jute Bag, perfect for keeping all those sandy items in one place.

Anna our Customer Sales Assistant and daugther Flo are like to peas in a pod, but at two and a half Flo has Anna running round 24/7, therefore Anna says she would like nothing more this Mother’s Day than some beautiful Arvari T-Light holders so she can relax and unwind over a glass of wine in the evening.

My mother is my inspiration her amazingly postive attitude and layed back gentle manner makes her unique! I’ve definitley inherited her love of children and travel! Angus (not pictured) isn’t going to buy any Nkuku products this year but thinks I would appreciate some lego!

So if you’re still looking for the perfect gift then don’t panic you still have a few days to go for some more ideas take a look at some more of our Mother’s Day gifts.

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SPRING/ SUMMER PHOTO SHOOT

This week our creative team share some behind the scenes images from our spring summer 2014 shoot. It is always exciting photographing the new pieces and the latest collection was no exception. This season we have added some  beautiful new serveware, kitchen accessories and lighting as well as our new elegant armchairs and ottomans and we had a lot of fun styling the images. The photograph above made  the front cover of our trade brochure this season.

Before the shoot we gather up as many as suitable props as possible from beautiful fresh veg to cotton reels and old postcards. Dressing the products really brings them to life. These artichokes complimented our new Zarna mango wood range perfectly.  Sticking with the vegetable theme for the time being, we found a nearby allotment to be a great location for some natural organic shots of the new hand woven rattan baskets.  These red cabages really brought out the warmth in the rattan.

At the last shoot we had over- friendly cats! This season chickens were the order of the day with this curious Bantham checking out our latest storage solutions! The white washed wooden fence made a great backdrop and we finally got the shot without the chicken as well!

Below photographer and stylist Selby, finds the perfect location for the new Harisa Ottoman in this magical white -washed gypsy caravan.

Below Jess, sets the scene for the new Nadu rope pendant! We were aiming to get a great table shot at the same time! The beautiful windows, height of the room and wonderful feeling of light and airiness created a great back drop for these stunning pendants.

Light plays a key part in any shoot, the giant reflector is an essential piece of kit! Below Selby gets it into position!

I love the shot below  because it is a real insight into the goings on at one of our shoots. The location garden resembled a car boot sale but we managed to make the most of the sunshine!

Thanks to our wonderful photographer Anna, who always manages to capture the natural beauty of the products and thanks also to Selby and her family for providing her expertise and fantastic shoot location!  On with the next season!

You can view all our products at www.nkuku.com

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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.