About Our Artisans, Materials, & Production
Arcadia Home felt designs are made of 100% hand-felted wool, a method of processing the sheep wool by hand rather than by machine. Our hand-felted wool is thick and heavy-weight, making it durable and long-lasting, with a homespun texture and visible wool fibers.
Arcadia Home’s felt designs are created by a group of expert artisans in India’s Rajasthan state, where there is a long history of the craft of hand felting wool. For hundreds of years, felt provided a simple floor covering in traditional Indian homes. Not so long ago, the art of felt making began to die out as inexpensive rugs proliferated the market. Many artisans began to seek other occupations and to migrate to urban areas. Only a small group of artisans continued in the tradition of felt making, and these are the artisans who make Arcadia Home felt designs. By partnering with Arcadia Home, an entirely new income stream was established for these artisans, and continues today. A new generation of artisans is now being trained in the art of hand felting wool, thereby preserving the knowledge and tradition of many generations.
Working with artisans on new designs.
Early on in our partnership with these artisans, they were recognized by the Government of India and awarded the honor of “Best Innovation in Crafts for International Markets” based on the Christmas items they produced for Arcadia Home.
The artisan’s hand is the most important resource in the process of creating Arcadia Home’s hand felted wool designs – it is the source of the unique, special quality of each piece. The production process is also optimized by the use of sustainable technologies. Our wool-- which is untreated and natural-- comes from sheep that feed freely in the native desert surroundings. At the same time, the campus where the artisans work is equipped with the technology to harvest and recycle rainwater, generate solar power, and use water recycled from the dying process via a treatment plant to support green belts around the property.
The felt-making process also supports the sustainability and resiliency of the surrounding community. The artisans and their neighbors have innovated a use for the byproduct of felt-making, which is called “wool manure.” Instead of going to waste, this byproduct is used by local farmers as a natural fertilizer. Beyond the nutrients in the wool itself, wool naturally absorbs water – about 20 times its weight – so gardeners and landscapers can conserve more water by using the wool manure. As the wool soaks up in the soil, it fluffs up and expands, increasing soil porosity and improving the soil’s ability to retain oxygen.
The felt making process begins with the sheep. Their wool is sheared and cleaned. After cleaning, it is formed into bats of wool that are laid down and felted together. The more bats, the thicker the felt.
On the left is water before treatment. On the right, the recycling process removes enough impurities to use the water for the surrounding gardens.
Batts of cleaned wool before the final felting and dying process
Once the felt has been pressed into long pieces, it is dyed using low-impact, azo-free dyes. The felt is now ready for the artisans to start cutting, applique work, and sewing.
In addition to creating a full-time livelihood for the artisans making the felt, Arcadia Home is also helping to support an all-woman team of seamstresses who applique, embroider, and hand-stitch the beautiful finished products. The production gives them a dependable income stream that they tend to spend on the health and education of their children. In this way among others, the hand-felted wool operation enriches the entire community.
Hand felted wool is naturally hypoallergenic, waterproof, flame-resistant, and anti-microbial. What a perfect textile for home decor and holiday decorations!
Preparing pieces to stitch the hand applique
Arcadia Home’s beautiful reverse painted mirror boxes and trays are hand painted in Peru by an artisan collective that operates under fair trade principles. The technique of reverse painting mirror is a Renaissance art brought by Spaniards to Peru during the colonial period (an equivalent process in France is known as verre églomisé). Peruvian artisans mastered the technique and are today renowned for the quality of craftsmanship in their hand painted pieces.
The art of reverse glass painting takes time, patience, and precision. The artist paints the design on the underside of the glass, such that when the mirror is flipped, the design shows through. As the paint dries very slowly on glass, each layer of paint, and every step in the process, is time-consuming and must be meticulously monitored. The skill involved is truly an art form, and the time involved in creating each piece renders each design a true work of art.
Painting each design by hand.
Crafting our boxes from sheets of hand-painted mirror
Arcadia Home is proud to be working with this artisan group, as the partnership underscores our wholehearted support of fair trade business practices, artisan collaboration, and the creation of beautiful handmade items for our customers to enjoy in their home.
Arcadia Home hand-knitted products, like our popular dog and cat breed ornaments, are made by our partners high in the Andes Mountains of Peru near the shores of Lake Titicaca. This Fair Trade artisan group is unique in that it is made up of women farmers taking a break from their seasonal work of farming their land. They live and work near the city of Puno, an area dominated by Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake, and is the capital of Peru’s folkloric tradition. The material we use, alpaca, is a natural fiber that comes from the world’s oldest domesticated animal. For thousands of years, alpacas have been bred exclusively for their coats, which produce some of the most luxurious fibers in the world.
Not only is alpaca a wonderfully luxurious natural fiber, but alpaca cultivation provides small family farmers in this area with a steady source of income (and fabulous gardening fertilizer). As these animals are crucial to the livelihoods of farmers in this area of the world, they are treasured, well treated, and highly respected. Alpacas are also one of the few herd animals which do not damage the terrain they graze and roam on. The alpaca's two-toed feet are soft pads protected on the top and sides by toenails. Unlike hard hooves, they leave the terrain undamaged. As they graze, they only eat the top of the grass rather than uprooting it as many other animals do. This means that the fields they graze in are well maintained and can be used for a variety of purposes, including planting crops.
Our alpaca products come from a wonderful group and are a delightful addition to any home.
Arcadia Home’s hand-loomed cotton designs are created using artisan techniques that have been passed down through generations. The cotton is first hand-dyed, and the thread is spun by hand.
A traditional hand-powered loom creates beautiful designs in the fabric, which is then cut by hand. On many of our designs, hand-sewn kantha stitching is the finishing touch. The craftsmanship and handiwork involved at each stage of dying, spinning, looming, cutting, and sewing ensures that every finished piece is truly special and one-of-a-kind.