Over the years I have worked on projects that support craft traditions and women’s hand work in countries such as India, Syria, Central and South America.
This has led me to textile-based projects with in small co-operatives of artisans. I work closely with block printers from Rajasthan, the NGO SEWA, (Self Employed Women’s Association) as well as working with indiginous Aymaran weavers from Northern Argentina , Peru and Bolivia.
I have recently documented the Kazakh eagle hunters of Outer Mongolia and have just returned from a fair trade conference in Guatemala. My new collection for the NGO Made based in Nairobi, Kenya has just been launched.
I am captivated by the artisan traditions of indigenous people. I have sought to learn from – and honour – the many timeless skills and craftsmanship I have encountered around the world.
Deep in the dusty, beautifully chaotic backstreets of Jaipur is a centuries old workshop. This is where you may find Beshlie McKelvie, designer and artist at work with her Master block print maker working on her acclaimed eponymous scarves. Neither speaks the same language yet the profound connection between them is the perfect alchemy needed to create exquisite designs that bridge the gap between the ancient and the new.
The great granddaughter of the influential designer, William Shand-Kydd, Beshlie grew up in a wildly bohemian house, surrounded by artists, musicians and gypsies. This rich heritage ignited in her a travellers desire to explore the world and create. After completing her fine arts degree, Beshlie spent time across the continents, living in Asia, Africa, South America, Andalusia and Ibiza. With the spirit of an anthropologist, she soon became captivated by the artisan traditions of the indigenous people she met, making it her mission to learn from and honour the many timeless skills and crafts she encountered.
Living amongst the Kazakh eagle hunters in Outer Mongolia during a textile research trip changed Beshlie forever. Mesmerised by the humility of a generous hearted people with their ancient horse skills and shamanic ways, she was deeply moved to document through a series of photographs just how fragile their existence was. The result was a photographic and textiles exhibition, which received international attention and more importantly a platform for the stories of the Kazakh eagle hunters. This deepened her commitment to raising awareness of marginalized peoples from around the world.
In her fight to keep traditions alive, Beshlie has been working alongside the Ottomi and Huichol people of Mexico whose works date back to pre Aztec times. Fusing folklore, songs, whimsical characters and shamanic visions, their work has come to symbolise the harmony between man and nature as well as illuminate the circle of life, death and eternity.
Sustainable practices are essential to Beshlie’s ethos and her work with a Nepalese and Peruvian women’s cooperative is testimony to that. By working with fair trade co-operatives, Beshlie can ensure only authentic and sustainable cashmere is used in her designs and the incredible women weavers have a positive means by which to support and educate themselves and their families.
It was with great respect that Beshlie is now involved in a collaboration with, as well as representing, the not-for-profit based community organsiation Sabbara, to provide support and a means of living for displaced women affected by the ongoing conflict in Syria.
Each project Beshlie takes on is one of love and she has been passionately engaged in the empowerment of marginalised women and communities, striving alongside them in their fight to gain economic freedom and political and social liberation whilst creating beautiful ethical products. Her collection has grown to encompass not only her scarves but palm weaved baskets, Indigenous arts and her exciting new label Nomadic for men, women and children.