Home and away: an interview with our manufacturing team in India
“Working has always been a way of exploring the world.”
The sentence that sticks when I’m talking to Abi, Swoon’s Manufacturing Manager based in India. She’s sitting on the corner sofa, with Lisa and Nat, who she shares a light-filled apartment with in Jaipur’s upscale district, C Scheme.
The trio look after various parts of the manufacturing process and are quite fond of where they’ve found themselves in the world. “We live 10 minutes from the old city, with the largest park being on our doorstep. It’s a great part of town with new coffee shops opening up every day – there’s a really modern feel to it.” says Natalie.
As we settle in the lounge with the sun beating through the floor to ceiling windows, that lead out on to the balcony, the three amigos tell me what brought them to India. Abi’s grandparents were expats here; “I think it was ingrained in me, from my parents and my grandparents being expats, that being abroad and away from the UK was where I was meant to be.” she tells me. Lisa’s journey to India was all about finding a job that would also allow her to satiate her appetite for travel. Nat’s travelled around India before, but this time she’s keen to explore her love for Yoga. One thing they all have in common? Wanderlust.
Tell me about where you grew up?
Abi: “I grew up in Oxfordshire, mainly on an old disused farm. I was very much a country bumpkin I guess. It was full of trinkets from the globe.”
Lisa: “All over the shop. By the age of thirteen I’d lived in 11 different homes, all around the Midlands and North Wales.”
Nat: “I was born and bred in London but I spent a few years living abroad mainly in South America and Asia.”
Wow, they’re all quite different then. What are some of your memories from home?
Abi: “My mum was super creative, she was always making things and creating games for us. It was an enchanted childhood.”
Lisa: “Running through the sprinklers with my sister on Dad’s croquet lawn!”
Nat: “Playing on a climbing frame in my Garden with my brother. I love being outside and was very lucky to have a huge garden to explore as a child.”
Even though each of their childhoods has been different, home is clearly important to all of them. Everything in the apartment feels considered and, of course there are some of Swoon’s finest pieces dotted amongst antique finds – from the Rouen stool to a well-stocked Salina bar trolley. Details added to the décor also make the place feel like home. When I’m shown around I’m greeted by a giant flamingo painted on the wall in Lisa’s bedroom. There’s one in Abi’s too. Painting is one of her hobbies and when I ask the three of them what their favourite thing about the apartment is, it’s top of Lisa’s list.
What do you love about your home here?
Lisa: “It’s really open planned and bright – there’s loads of natural light. That and the massive flamingo Abi painted on my bedroom wall!”
Abi: “We moved last year to get out of a furnished place and find our own home as we knew we were staying for a while. We wanted to be able to fill it with things we loved from India and home and make it more our own so we’ve done that. It’s the first place I’ve lived that I’ve been involved in decorating things – from Jodhpur antique finds like the coffee table and other reclaimed wooden pieces to old samples from the factories and leftovers from friends who once lived here. It’s nice as we’ve got a bit of the people we have known here –the chair with the sheepskin and the bomb case and artwork by the Ziggy for example) –but also some more modern art pieces and furniture. It’s amalgamated into a really homely place with a bit of everyone and everything in it. I think so, anyway!”
Nat: “We have a huge balcony and, at night, you can see the beautiful Nahargarh fort. It is a great space to chill out with friends after a long day at the factories.”
Having laid down roots here, it’s clear you all love Jaipur. What’s so great about living here?
Abi: “All the different people you meet. There are so many startups here in manufacturing and people working on their own businesses, both expats and Jaipurites – it’s a real mix of skills and interests and makes for good chats over dinner!”
Nat: “The food– of course! Who doesn’t love a curry and a chai? The city as a whole is beautifully old. Every street has a story with shops that are hundreds of years old. On the weekends, we have time to go exploring and can find some real hidden gems. The city is also crazy – on a daily basis you will see elephants, camels and tuk-tuks all trying to navigate the same small streets. As you can imagine, it is quite a scene, never failing to put a smile on my face.”
Lisa: “The madness. There are cows, camels, elephants and monkeys everywhere. The driving is absolutely mental. The markets in the old city are a world of their own – so many colours and noises and smells! There’s never a dull moment in Jaipur.”
The passion for their home here is palpable. Back in 1876, Prince Albert took a tour of India spurring the Maharaja to demand that the entire city of Jaipur be painted pink to welcome him. To this day, it’s still known as the ‘Pink City’ and, even with age, it still glows with a rose-tinted charm. It’s no wonder they love living here – but part of the joy has been building a home with each other.
What’s been your most memorable moment in this apartment?
Abi: “Cooking a great bangers and mash meal with sausages from the UK when we had our new furniture in place and the house had become home.”
Lisa: “Doug’s ‘surprise’ leaving party, which I accidentally told him about.”
Nat: “Changing all the light bulbs in the flat. Small tip – turn the switches off before putting new bulb in.”
Ha ha! There must be times when you miss home. Can you name the top three things you miss?
Abi: “Mine are pubs, English summer and cider or beer from a tap.”
Lisa: “Cheese. Wine. My little brother. Not necessarily in that order.”
Nat: “Really good pubs, Friends and Brie.”
So mainly pubs, cheese and people then. We all laugh – it’s a good list.
So what keeps intrepid explorers like yourself connected to home? Did you bring anything sentimental with you?
Abi: “A picture of Dartmoor has always come with me whenever I’ve moved as it’s my favourite place in the UK.”
Lisa: “Having moved house so many times I’ve become really good at leaving stuff behind, I’m pretty brutal with packing. I do have this teddy bear though that my dad’s friend gave to me when I was born, and I’ve never been able to leave him behind. He’s followed me to China, Indonesia, Australia, Singapore, and now India!”
Nat: “I took some photos from the favourite places that I’ve travelled to and of family and friends. It’s really nice to have them here and make the distance not seem so large.”
As keen explorers, it bodes well that their jobs offer an abundance of variety. They all tell me that no two days are ever the same in manufacturing, and it’s the joy of seeing designs come to life, and being a physical part of that process, that they all get a buzz from. Weekends are often centred around an adventure somewhere further afield or getting to know the local area even better. It dawns on me that each of them have found a balance that most of us don’t find in a lifetime – a solid base with the freedom to travel. It’s impressive. As we draw the interview to a close, I ask them to impart some wisdom – maybe they know a secret that the rest of us don’t?
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Abi: “You only regret the things you didn’t do.”
Lisa: “Stop caring about what other people think!”
Nat: “Wear sunscreen.”
Last but not least – what’s your ultimate obsession?
All three: “Travelling!”
I should have guessed.
To read more interviews with our inspiring humans, take a look at our blog here.