Patchiran was founded in 2004 by Michelle Gilder and teaches StitchedTextiles at City&Guilds certificate and Diploma Levels.
It is a sustainable business which invests all its profits back into the community and education.
Without diminishing the importance of smart management,I can state without a doubt, that Patchiran’s work ethic is the prime motive of our success.We maintain strict rules about discrimination and we treat all women equally no matter their education and circumstances.We prohibit favoritism and are intolerant to bigotry.
It has been our experience that if one leads by example, eventually those who respect the same values will spontaneously follow not because we are doing anything special but because it is inherent in the human spirit. We sincerely believe that by laying the foundations of an organization with integrity and adhering to it steadfastly binds it together and , of course , we love what we do. We make decisions fairly where community projects are concerned and although we are compassionate we deal with each case with insight in order to achieve our goals of making women more self sufficient and self reliant.We do not give hand-outs and we expect results.Getting women to cooperate and benefit from each others experiences and talents as well as establishing a pattern of teamwork has been another pillar of our success.Allotting tasks, without prejudice, as small as making the tea or washing the dishes after a monthly meeting has slowly become part of the normal workings of Patch Iran. Supporting women to be creative and giving them the confidence to express them artistically is a very subtle yet influential approach to empowerment. It builds self esteem and confidence in a very constructive way , encouraging women from all walks of life to find a voice.
At Patchiran we have witnessed how this reflects on the way women interact both socially and within their own families , giving many of them pastimes and leisure pursuits diverting their energy into a constructive out put.We hold monthly meetings and encourage mutual support for each others work and projects. Women share ideas, skills and patterns.We often set working raffles where each woman is given a fabric pack and pattern. They work in groups and on finishing the project their names are raffled and the lucky one goes home with the quilt.This promotes their aptitude and expertise as far as their craft is concerned but also has taught them that no matter whether they work for themselves or to share they must always do their best. We give out fabric packs 4 times a year and request the chosen patchwork project to be finished for the next meeting. These packs have been toys or small table cloths which we collect and sell at the exhibition to raise money.We also set group projects where women work together and create Raffle Quilts which are sold to raise money.
A Breast Cancer Awareness Project was organized where women were given the Breast Cancer Ribbon Block to sew which collectively were joined to make a quilt.While the women worked, they listened to a talk about breast cancer awareness from a guest doctor.This meeting was an important cultural break through for me as we managed by means of friendly discussion to instill the idea that women’s health has a direct impact on our families and community and spreading this awareness is a public duty.
Sometimes standing up for women’s awareness is misinterpreted as diminishing a man’s rights in some way! This is not the case and in fact is quite the opposite and through discussion, we can help women to understand that the need to secure women’s rights can only be beneficial to both men and women and can lead to a more harmonious relationship within the family unit on a whole.
How We Sustain Ourselves as an Organisation
We have women who pay to learn Patchwork and Quilting for their leisure.These are the women who sustain us financially.We also target many these women to take on tasks of teaching and training within their communities and charitable organizations.They take on this work enthusiastically and both sides benefit tremendously . Giving does not only mean ‘giving money’. Giving your time and expertise can be, in many cases, far more rewarding and far more productive. We have women who can ‘just’ afford to pay for their classes.These are the ones who have goals and achieve a high standard of workmanship in order to make living.They are more entrepreneurial and have vision, innovation and creativity.We supply these women with work requiring advanced skills. Many of these women have indeed set up their own educational establishments or have started businesses importing fabrics and notions needed for this craft. We celebarate in having been able to facilitate the progress of these women and wish them luck in their endevour to make the world a better place !
We also have women from independent as well as government organizations who are trained free of charge but are supported by their own organizations as far as fabrics, transport and such are concerned.We set classes in motion within their own organisations and encourage the women to take on teaching responsibilities. We also have women who attend classes free of charge.They are provided equipment and fabric by Patchiran’s Community Fund.These women achieve a standard of work in order to obtain production work .Their sense of design and creativity is usually hindered by their circumstances but are encouraged to learn skills and are provided with regular work . These are the women we support in small workshops .They usually work from home which helps to maintain a balance between cultural requirements and their own independence . Hopefully we can focus more on this group, create steady employment under a workshop situation not only would help their work skills to improve but also their own personal growth and independance . It is our experience that even if women do not make money out of their newly aquired craft ,patchwork ,quilting and textile crafts in general give them a lot of self satisfaction and pleasure.
Not all women are in the position to help financially .These women have learned that they can all give in some small way no matter the circumstances,and they also can have a positive impact on their communities and make a difference.They often take part in our community projects , take on teaching posts and help out at all out meetings and exhibitions. This is very gratifying to us at Patchiran.
Recognizing the different categories of students , their requirements, demands and goals has been a process of trial and error.We make no distinction in the way we behave towards members from different categories but identifying each new member’s purpose enables us to help them achieve their goals as well as enforcing the principles and methods we believe in at Patchiran.
Educational and Training Program
Using modern techniques and equipment, patchwork and quilting can equip women with skills to create high quality work at a fast rate.The skills learned can be adapted to many different kinds of crafts. We have based our educational program on a step by step process in order to achieve a strong foundation of skills building on them as we go.Keeping rigidly to the program, and not allowing any one to deviate from it, has proven its worth when we see women accomplishing work as seen on display at our exhibitions.Classes are on average 3 to 4 hours weekly and it takes approximately 18 months to cover the whole program from Elementary to Advanced Image Making.During the summer months we set on three day programs for more demanding projects. We also encourage all our students to take teaching seriously . From the elementary classes onward we select members who are interested in passing on their skills and encourage them by offering teaching positions at Patchiran and other organisations . We have trained many women who themselves have educational establishments and order to maintain standards we have developed a program where they return and retake the classes at a lower rate .This not only reinforces our community values by supporting these women in their own careers but also encourages an open attitude of sharing education. We hope this process will eventually create a chain effect and we will be able to sustain a whole group of Patchiran representatives.
In 2005 Patchiran ran an intensive twenty one day training course for the Iranian Vocational Training and Education Authority training the pick of teachers nationwide. This course was a tremendous success and has spread patchwork and quilting across Iran. They and their students from all over Iran exhibit along side us at exhibitions and participate in our charitable efforts by donating articles for sale.We have maintained our connections with these teachers synchronizing our teaching methods for the next generation of young textile artists.
Since 2010 when we issued our first educational DVD , we have also taken part in an educational program in cooperation with the national sewing magazine ‘Kook’ in order to reach women in the Provinces who cannot get to classes in the capital and this had lead to a weekly spot on the crafts program on Iranian National Television IRIB 3 . This has been a great success and has given us the space to develop a sound foundation for our next project which is to teach and deliver an international standard qualification from The City & Guilds ,UK. Hopefully in 2014 , we will be enrolling our first students for the City & Guilds Certificates and Diploma in Design & Craft Stitched Textiles .
We have also set projects and written articles for several international magazines .Taking part in these endevours not only allows us to develop our own skills and raise standards but also gives credibility to our establishment and educational program worldwide. I have also achieved a personal goal of building bridges and being a positive line of communication proving that Iran is an incredibly fascinating place and its people have so much to offer !
Exhibitions are a very important way to display our skills and connecting with the community .Our choice of venue has been influential in how and which causes we support . Our 4th and 5th exhibitions were at The Mahak Children’s Hospital in Tehran an excellent establishment dedicated to supporting children with Africa and The Middle East . During the 5 day exhibition , Patchiran donated the equivalent over $ US 10.000 collected by sales of items and a Raffle of Quilts made by the members themselves. We set goals before each exhibition ,one being to promote Patch Iran itself and to attract more students to see us through the year. Another is to motivate and encourage our members to be involved in as many ways as possible .Another important goal is to promote and create work for individual workshops and Charitable Organizations. and also raise awareness for these causes .
Relying on my own background as a textile designer has been an essential factor in our success but the partnership and cooperation of all members, teachers and students of Patchiran has enabled us to attempt ventures way beyond our imagination. The flexibility with co partners, teachers and volunteers has strengthened our ground enabling us to gain confidence and take on more.
Patchiran has been able to create projects that stimulate creativity, attract students and craftsmen as well as create a market.We have set standards and take pride in our reputation.We have a passion for what we do not only on the creative side but emotionally and morally as a part of the community we live in.We compliment one anothers skills and have a parallel understanding of our goals and core values.
In 2010 Patchiran exhibited for the first time as Iranian Quilters at the Middle East Quilt Exhibition in Dubai, United Emirates . We are proud to announce that Layla Aghashahi won Best Art Quilt and Best Colour Prizes at this exhibition and Simin Ahmaripour from Kermanshah came second placein the Innovation category at the same venue in 2011 .
In 2010 and 2014 ‘The Festival of Quilts ‘ Birmingham UK invited us to exhibit along other Middle Eastern Guilds under the theme of ”Arabic Inspirations’ and ‘Crossroads’ respectively …… the sky is the limit …… as Iranian quilters and textile artists are coming into their own and aspire to reach the standards set by worldwide quilters !
2014 saw all our hard work pay off as we were appointed as the first City&Guilds Micro Centre in Iran teaching Stitched Textiles at certificate level. To date we have had 30 students acheive their goals of higher education and obtain an international certificate! We are beginning a new chapter with the Stitched Textile Courses as it has formalized the educational program at Patchiran and people are really starting to take the work seriously . We began our journey by creating classes for women to upgrade their skills in the craft.Many of them have gone on to starting new businesses and opening educational establishments themselves . They have given us the opportunity to move ahead and progress as they take on the more elementary stages . Personally for me it has been an eye opening journey as I have come to understand how a well thought out and skill bases syllabus can really open doors to the arts and bring out the creativity and innovation dormant in so many of us . I have enjoyed watching students acheive their goals and finding themselves as artists and to give them an opportunity to have this recognised by City&Guilds has been a pleasure and a privilege.