Eri Silk Cluster, Umden, Meghalaya
The Umden Eri cluster is a traditional cluster which is located in the Ri- Bhoi district. at about 20 Kms away from the district Head Quarters, Nongpoh. The cluster is located in a hilly area and has a moderate climate which is suitable for rearing of silk worms. The cluster comprises of 17 villages which are located within a range of 12 kms. The total number of Household in the cluster is 760 out of which initially only 212 household units are engaged in the cluster activities. After the IIE intervention the household unit is increased up to 417 and at present there are total 498(all are female) numbers of artisans in the cluster. The main products in the cluster are Eri shawals, Stoles, Simple mufflers and coloured mufflers, Table mat, tea cozy, durries, neck ties, curtains etc.
Natural Dyeing: A uniqueness of Eri silk cluster Umden Inherited from their forefathers, the activity of natural dyeing in Umden started quite early. Initially they knew the use of only four colours- Red, Black, Yellow and Orange which were used for natural dyeing. During the diagnostic study in the Umden Eri Cluster it came to notice that this cluster had the potential to be turned into the hub of natural dyeing. The artisans, however, were completely ignorant about the latest market trend in both national and international arena, where the demand for eco friendly and natural dyed textiles was rising.
Although most of the ingredients used for natural dyeing were locally available the artisans tried using only a few colours. Moreover, the traditional process of natural dyeing was very time consuming and a lot of firewood had to be burnt for making a small amount of dye. It was not cost effective which restricted them to take up the activity commercially. Keeping this in view, a skill development programme on Advanced Natural Dyeing was conducted covering 60 artisans in the area. Through this programme they learnt techniques like scouring and dyeing. During this training an extensive research was carried out by the expert on the availability of raw materials and probable colours possible to be used. The result was that the artisans could learn to make 23 different colours using natural dyeing techniques. The skilled hands and the creative mind were always there, but the only missing link was the technical guidance to help them explore and improve according to the need of the market. During this programme the artisans were made aware about growing concern world wide about the systematically dyed yarn and the emerging market of naturally dyed yarn. Efforts were made to locate the sources of dye in their locality and process them.