Reflections on 2012

As I sit on a beach in Sri Lanka enjoying a well overdue holiday – though Mike claims otherwise, my travels for Arastan are hard work and not holiday! – I thought it worth reflecting on the year gone by for Arastan. (I am a bit distracted by the beautiful woven reed mats available here, but must stop – this is supposed to be a family holiday and not another sourcing trip!)

2012 was a good year for Arastan. There have been some great moments and I’ve picked a few to reflect on.

Products

Tibetan Katagami Carpet

Tibetan Katagami Carpet

I am sure there is no end to the wealth of high-quality unique products that can be sourced for Arastan. A few of my particular favourites that I came across this year were the beautifully woven Tibetan rugs from Sikkim and the Iroqi embroidery from Shakrisabz. It was also an enjoyable foray into fabricating some of our own, combining authentic traditional materials into more contemporary and practical items, as we did with the Pragati for Arastan collection.

Artisans

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the job is meeting artisans on my travels. Many are such humble people capable of incredibly skilled and beautiful work. Frustratingly they often find it difficult to sell themselves, and have sometimes been squeezed so much by middlemen that they are naturally wary of people wishing to do business with them. I hope that through Arastan we are able to connect these people and their products with a viable market to the sustained and mutual benefit of the producers, our customers and ourselves.

Customers

Particularly through our exhibitions it has been great to meet several new faces and old, and get many appreciative comments. Originally we hadn’t intended to focus as much on exhibitions as on our retail store and online store, but there is no doubt that they are a great way to get our wares to as many people as possible. Although hectic, there is a great buzz about the first morning of a new exhibition and the associated rush and madcap spreading of carpets across the floor as at Artisans’! We’ve also had many regulars pop back to us looking for that interesting gift – hopefully we’ve been able to satisfy them and can continue to do so by visiting new places and finding new treasures.

Website Content

Tea Set from Azerbaijan

Tea Set from Azerbaijan

We endeavour to share our experiences of the places, people and crafts as much as we can. As I look back on the Arastan Journey blog I realise that I have personally learnt and benefited a lot from the research and writing we do, as well as being truly entertained by series’ such as Rolando’s Caucasian Odyssey, with his writing about Baku, Lahij and Sheki being my personal favourite.

Operations

A boring one for me, but our staff have been doing a great job with running operations and thanks to Mike we have developed various processes and systems (Trello is a boon as is our home-grown Excel-based ERP!) that mean we run efficiently without a large team. It’s been especially valuable when talking to potential funders as I’ve been able to easily answer questions about sales of different product ranges with the information at my fingertips.

Funding

I’ve met and spoken to some brilliant people in my rounds of VCs and Angel Investors. It’s great to hear some positive comments about Arastan as a business, and realise that we have done a lot of things right. However there are some not so positive things here as well, but since I’m feeling good having written this post so far I’ll save them for another day!

Happy journeys for 2013!

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  • Welcome to Arastan

    Arastan was an online store that curated rare and handpicked treasures from exotic bazaars along the ancient silk route. Unfortunately we ceased trading in early 2014.

    You can read about the reasons for closure.

    You can still browse some of the products we used to have via the category links above, although none of these are available for purchase.

    Relive our travels and stories by browsing our articles and archives from the menus below.

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