Making Magick and Changing Lives: Miranda's Story

Posted by Mandy Abel on

Miranda is one of our treasured suppliers who works with women in Nepal to make whimsical felt toys and educational resources. She loves creating products that keep children and adults connected to the magick of their imagination and our beautiful planet earth. Here is her story...

I live I next to a magical forest, with donkeys, horses, sheep, goats, alpacas, chooks and too many noisy roosters! I’m a mum of three kids, who loves anything to do with faeries and magick. 

My husband Lobsang is an ex Tibetan monk and also a political prisoner, who fled Tibet in the 90s after being let out of prison. He lived in Nepal and India for some years until later he was given an humanitarian visa to Australia, where he met me!

Our business Himalayan Journey started long ago. Lob and I wanted to start an ethical business that would create opportunities for Himalayan communities. In the beginning we imported many different kinds of products, from Tibetan furniture to incense, clothes, lokta paper and felt! Felt was the most well received product and we were the only ones importing it in Australia at the time. 

As our knowledge of this product grew I started creating my own designs. We worked very closely with the factories until we discovered they were making my designs for other companies all over the world. This was very upsetting and unfortunately not something we could control, so we decided to open our own factory instead. This was not an easy task, but we did it, and we were now able to create our own designs, have complete control over quality and make sure our products were truly ethically made.

More than a Business

Our factory is family friendly - a lot of our felters are mums, so they can bring their kids to work or take work home with them when needed. This is important - without the flexibility they would have no other opportunity to work. We employ around 50 women and 1 man - we teach them the skills of how to felt and sew, provide them with a safe environment to work in and of course, a fair wage.

We offer autonomy and empowerment - when the women make my designs, they look at the cost to produce and decide what’s fair and reasonable to charge.

"Everyone is very happy who works here - you can tell that by the laughter and the chatter that goes on in the factory and the smiles on their faces."

Employees enjoying a lunch break together. Image Credit: Himalayan Felt

 Our Challenges

Starting an ethical business isn't easy - there have been many challenges along the way! At the start we struggled with the work cultural difference. Being from the west, I was brought up keeping track of 'work hours', where as in Nepal, they really have no concept of time! Learning how to navigate this was a big life lesson.

Another challenge we had was the  devastating  Nepalese earthquake. The country literally crumbled, many people died, many others lost homes and it took a long time to put our business back together afterwards (but we did it!)

Then of course there was Covid - this was harder than the earthquake in some ways. There was worldwide impact, we couldn’t open our factory for so long, couldn't make new designs or travel there and we couldn’t send stock back to Australia - everything was grounded. Lots of our workers went back to their villages and never returned, so when we did reopen we had to basically start from the beginning again. Training new women took a lot of time, it is only just now in the past 6 months I feel we are back to where we used to be. Our team are doing so well and I have many ideas buzzing in my brain again!

Miranda's Favourites

My favourite part of running my own business is the freedom - I feel so lucky to have been able to be a full time mum and run a business. I get to leave work when I want and spend as much time with my kids as they need. I have always been self-employed, so not having a boss is wonderful! The other favourite part is being able to use my creativity - I love designing, bringing the magical world of faery into people’s lives. I love the colour and texture of felt, it is such an amazing medium to work with.

My favourite product changes all the time. At the moment It’s probably our blue bee forest faery and home, I’ve had this design buzzing around my head for a long time, as I just love blue banded bees.  It was really wonderful to bring this idea to earth and I’m already thinking about adding to the range. 

Meet the Artisans

Come with us to meet three of the talented artisans that work for Himalayan Felt!

Tirtha Magar

My name is Tirtha Magar, I have a small family of 3, I grew up in my village Makwanpur, which is a small village far from Kathmandu. I like to spend my free time playing with my daughter. I also like to take work home to make extra money and make lots of faeries.

My favourite thing about working at Himalayan Felt Co is that I can work here together with my friends. It’s a really caring and sharing environment to work in, so I feel really lucky to work in a place like this.

My favourite product here is the Solstice Home, which is new and I think the design in this home is just beautiful and unique too.

Maya Baniya

I am the oldest member of Himalayan Felt Co, I have worked here since the very first day it opened. I have made so many friends here. I was born in the village Gorkha and grew up there. I live here only with my husband and I have lots of free time - so I like to bring work home to make in my spare time.

My favourite thing about the company is the owner Lobsang, he is so polite and friendly to us all, this is why I have stayed here so long. His kind and friendly behaviour makes such a lovely supportive work place to work in. I also love learning to make all the new designs - I love being creative. Since I have been here so long I love many products but my favourite would probably be the Pods that hang, I think these are so cute and beautiful.

Yaman Ale Magar

I am a mother of 3 children, so I am a housewife as well as working here at Himalayan Felt Co. I like to spend my time off with my family, sometimes we go on picnics up in the Himalayas. I grew up in a village called  Nawalparashi, which is many hours from Kathmandu.

My favourite thing about working here is learning new skills, I really enjoy it when we make new designs. My favourite product would be the tooth faery home, which I think is beautifully made. 

Making a Difference

Nepal is listed as one of the poorest countries in the world with little economic opportunity for most. It has a clear class system - there are the very wealthy and the extremely poor. There is a general societal expectation that women will get married, have children and look after their families. Education is generally not a priority for girls. But there is hope!

The collaboration between Fair Trade principles and the felt industry is weaving a tapestry of positive change for countless individuals and communities in Nepal. Businesses like Miranda and Lob's ensure that local artisans receive fair pay and work in safe conditions, empowering them economically. At the same time, the growing felt industry provides jobs, particularly for women in marginalised communities, who may not have other opportunities. It gives them new skills, the chance to be part of a community and hope for the future.

This dual effort improves the livelihoods of Nepal's people and preserves their cultural heritage through traditional art forms. It also brings joy, sustainability and a pinch of faery magic to children's playtimes all around the world.

View our full range of Himalayan Felt magic 🍄

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