Life around Norlha

Another year, another picnic. Since 2007, Norlha has prided itself with offering a yearly, three day picnic to all its employees and their families. Tibetans consider that experiencing nature at the height of its beauty, when the pasture is a carpet of wildflowers, days are long and the weather mild, is the ultimate form of enjoyment. Preparations are made well before, making a budget, shopping for food, choosing the location and installing the tents. Chores are divided and games are planned.

This year, the picnic took place on the favorite spot, the table top winter pasture above the workshop. The animals are far away in the summer pasture and flowers are blooming everywhere. Norlha’s nomad yak hair tent is pitched to provide shade and shelter in case of rain. Another, lighter picnic tent is pitched nearby for guests. For three days from morning to sundown, Children played, songs were sung, dances danced, games played, feasts planned, organized and consumed in the spirit of relaxation and simple pleasures.

Each year, at the beginning of the season, the Norlha’s managing team enjoys a weekend at Norden, a time for relaxation and engagement outside the context of the office. It is a unique setting, almost a reversal of roles as Norden was created for those outside looking in and now it is those inside looking in. For the Norlha staff, it presents the bounties of nomadic life without the discomfort and the grueling work. It also plunges them into a world they have created, since the furnishings that contribute to Norden’s unique setting were made at Norlha. This year a number of their children accompanied them, a tight little group who grew up together and were able to sample the fruit of their parent’s work.

Celebrating motherhood. Motherhood is the most potent example of unconditional love, one used in Tibetan Buddhist methods to develop compassion, envisioning that each and every being was, at one time or another, our mother, showering us with the love and protection that defines motherhood.

In the spirit of Mother's Day, for every scarf purchased online, we will offer a yak khullu scarf to a mother at the Norlha Atelier; a gift that will bring comfort, warmth and joy.

In addition to giving a scarf to a mother on the Tibetan Plateau you will receive FREE SHIPPING. In addition, with every scarf purchased your name will be entered into a raffle to WIN a Berry Fields blanket ($2,670 USD). Use code MOTHERS19 (Offer ends 05/11 at 11:59pm PST)

Globalization is about migration, easy travel, fluid borders, exchange and openness, though the politics of our age tend to forget how long it has been around. Trade between countries and continents is a millennium-old continuing flow: The Han traded with the Romans, Central Asian designs from Sassania travelled East and West, creating common ground between England and Tang dynasty China. By the 18th and 19th century, trade permeated the world; Tibetans exchanged horses for Chinese and Russian brocades, elaborate French clocks found their way to the abodes of high lamas and the palaces of emperors. Imitations of Chinese art or Chinoiseries, were the craze in Louis XV France. Europeans appeared in Chinese Yuan Dynasty court paintings and China and Japan began manufacturing furniture and porcelain for European tastes.

The merging of cultures brings a refreshing synergy; on the Ritoma grassland, sheep sit in the in the living room, a nomad in his best sheepskin bears a rifle against a Chinoiserie French Gobelins tapestry, a ‘bergere’, meaning shepherdess in French, sits and spins on a ‘bergere’ chair, a man in gold rimmed glasses hovers over an 18th century edition of a book on China resting on an Empire French desk.  

Out on the endless summer pasture, a long table graced by an embroidered Italian table cloth sits in the open laid in porcelain dishes and ornamented with German rococo chandeliers. In another setting, Norlha scarves are served on silver platters. Family heirlooms that found their way from Europe to deepest Asia…Nothing new, it has been happening for centuries.

Traditionally, Ritoma women were immersed in nomadic life. Larger families had up to six hundred animals, and the women bore the brunt of the heavy work it involved. Their day began at 3 am with the milking of the dris and the collecting of yak and sheep dung which they processed and used for fuel. Chores went on all day, leaving little time for their children which they often left with their parents. It was a hard life in a harsh climate ranging from intense sun in the summer to freezing temperatures in winter

Things are changing and now women have more options. Working hard was always part of their life and when Norlha began to offer jobs over a decade ago, they easily embraced the change from herder to artisan. Norlha’s workforce is now over 60% women, all former nomads or from nomad families. A decade has brought in more drawn from the classroom and with that, the will to tackle the challenges offered by the digital world. Gradually, they plunged into the opportunities offered to them with great enthusiasm, channeling their energies into new pursuits. Financial independence allows them, married or not, to explore the world around them and have more say in their lives. They used to walk to work, now they ride bikes. They work from IPads, reading and entering data linked to Norlha's ERP system. They go on winter pilgrimage with their families, flying for the first time, as far as Lhasa.  

Wangdi Tso, who works in Norlha’s sales department met her husband at work. She wears jeans and loves basketball. They have two children and are the breadwinners and run their household. Pema Tso is not yet married and has embraced all the activities open to her. After hours, she has discovered basketball and yoga, and takes English classes. Jigje Tso is deaf mute and has two children. As a highly skilled weaver, she is, along with her father, the family’s bread winner. Her success is an example to all that new prospects can change lives. Kharmo is a single mother and needs to depend on no one, now able to help her parents in their old age. Though rooted in village life, women now have more opportunity to see beyond it, understand the world at large and what it holds for them. Cellphones have connected them to friends and relatives outside their immediate spheres, and given them a sense of belonging in a larger world. Their mothers only knew herding and couldn’t advise their daughters when it came to a different future. Now working mothers will be able to better help their daughters face the challenges of the modernity that is continuing to change their lives.