Question: Who are you and what do you do?
'Hi. I’m Lesley Pearce, a mother and grandmother, born in England but now living in New Zealand. I have a passion for anything to do with textiles and dare call myself a textile artist now after many decades of teaching children and adults. Now I’m retired from full time teaching, I love sharing my passion and seeing others develop their own skills'.
Question: What first attracted you to Secret Projects?
'Secret Projects was created with the sole aim of enabling women in India who had been trained to stitch to generate an income from their skills and expertise to support themselves, their families and strengthen their communities.
Knowing it was all about empowering women through the skills of textiles. Knowing by supporting these women in India they have the opportunity to develop a skill set with a great support network to become independent and earn money to support themselves and their children. Educating others is at the core of what I have invested my life in, so to become involved was another branch of my own journey'.
Question: How did you know you could be one of the people to help our mission to empower?
'A good question. After years of teaching I knew I could relate to people and I had a specific skill set when it comes to constructing clothing and objects from textile fabrics, plus I love the whole idea of working sustainably. However, I think the deep down answer lies in my own desire to help others and see them grow and my belief that Secret Projects truly does empower others. After my first visit to some of the maker communities in 2018, I just knew this is where I could channel my energy and skills into'.
Question: What did you do?
'My first training session with some of the makers was to make a foldable shopping bag that aimed at zero waste from fabric, was strong and practical. The makers loved learning new techniques and quickly mastered a run and fell seam on their treadle machines. I was thrilled to see that this project was in full production when India went plastic free and banned the use of plastic bags. I also shared how to construct a textile necklace using the scraps from saris. Which then lead onto an idea of saving other scraps to sell to schools as education resources for different ways they could be used with students. The following year, I shared how to make a short caftan, again working sustainably with fabric and developed a pattern for a child’s, women’s and men’s face mask.
I was so inspired by my first visit to India and meeting so many amazing makers and seeing firsthand what Secret Projects has done for so many, I just knew I needed to share this experience with others. So I helped plan and lead the first teachers trip to India, and what a success that was for it had a profound effect on each person. It has inspired many of us to make a difference and each in their own way'.
Question: What affect did doing this have your life, your business, you’re feeling of self worth?
'It is so true that when you give of your time, skills or money to others you get back more than you gave. I believe I did it for altruistic reasons but without realizing it, the reciprocal benefits are so much more. The friends I have made in India, the rich stories I can share with others, watching amazing women teaching each other. Knowing what I have shared, ideas and skills, don’t stay static, for they have been adapted and improved to meet the Makers desire to improve the products to meet new demands and knowledge of their market. Yes it has changed me in so many ways'.
Question: What would you say to anyone else looking at Secret Projects and thinking how can I help?
'We all have skills, they may not be my skill set, but there are so many ways you could help empower other women. Not sure what to offer - talk to someone in the enterprise, join a customer trip and see for yourself how a little goes such a long way.
For just one good deed can cause a chain reaction to your life like it has to mine. It is richer for being actively involved'.
Photos left to right: Lesley during the Secret Projects Teachers' Trip 2019: Lesley and Lissy, Secret Projects Quality Controller