SUTRA means thread
- the thread of connection -
Sutra has its origins in a single watershed moment in time. I had lost my life partner to ovarian cancer and started feeling uncomfortably “tethered” to my work of 20 years.
It may sound trite, but in a workshop entitled “Discover Your Life Purpose,” I did just that! I deeply desired meaningful work that brought together art, travel and social consciousness. I thought back to my undergraduate degree in textile design and the utter ease I felt in the streets of India as a yoga student. I also knew India to be the place where beautiful textiles have been created for generations.
At the same Life Purpose workshop, I was directed to contact Marion Nelson, an elderly woman who had been directly sourcing from artists in India, Bali and Thailand for countless years. I accompanied her to Indonesia in 2009 and, by the end of that tour, I said “yes.” You know that song about selling the sofa, and packing up your life, and striding forward into the great unknown? Well, I did just that, after cashing in my entire life insurance policy. I had “eaten the mango,” as they say India!
Like a lot of entrepreneurs, I began SUTRA because I saw nothing like it in our area. Nowhere could I find an inspiring array of textiles, workshops or travel opportunities without driving 3 hours. Throughout my life, I have travelled to California, the Pacific Northwest, the Twin Cities and NYC, for culture, for inspiration, to study the healing arts, and to grow as a progressive person. I wanted to create a place to experience all of this locally!
The evolution of SUTRA began with “on the job” training, or at least, this is how I describe it now! I then launched SUTRA and took my new business on the road, using the “pop up shop” model of “friends-helping-friends.” I set up a day-long "fair trade boutique", and donated a portion of the proceeds to a worthwhile cause designated by the hostess.
When I grew weary of hauling a van-load of statues, stone carvings, quilts, and prayer flags all over the Midwest, a miracle happened. On a drive down the Mississippi River, I pulled off I-90 to stop for a break, and saw a sign “House for Sale”. Intrigued, I said, “Let’s check it out,” even though I wasn’t looking to buy.
My friend and I turned onto the Main Street of a 2-street town, and saw this magnificent century barn, with the original grey tin, renovated with white windows and the cupola staged in a sweet garden. That day in early August, I looked up and fell in love. I had just a few years' experience in retail and I had no business plan, but I asked myself, “Just how hard could it be?” This would be question I’d ask on many occasions as i ventured into other unknown territory!
There have been missteps and successes, but mainly a wide array of sisters who came forth to lend a hand just when I needed it most! A retired interior designer, an old friend with painting and “infrastructure” skills, a couple of millennials determined to haul me into the 21st century, and a whole host of others guided and advised me, purchased from me, and now, are teaching me new skills!
SUTRA global imports, the retail shop in a renovated barn, closed its doors Saturday October 28, 2017, for the season, or we wondered, would it be for good? It appears we are not finished supporting artisans in Asia, either, as we continued purchasing fair trade textiles this past winter of 2018 ! We are opening the shop this summer of 2019 with monthly "pop-up shops" held the third weekend of the month right at SUTRA. The shop is also open during workshops, as well as launching our 2018 season on World Fair Trade Day, May 12. Hope to see you this summer!
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