We learn how to bring awareness into our homes with Sati Design’s beautiful array of meditation cushions.
Words by Bethany Allen
Although it has taken longer for meditation to come to the UK’s shores, we now understand how beneficial it is. In the mad rush of modern society, there is a lot to be said for creating a relaxing and peaceful space within our homes, sitting still, and focusing on nothing but our breathing.
For those who have tried meditating for sustained periods, you may know that the entire experience can go drastically awry due to a slight niggle in your back, or pressure on your ankles on the hard floor. As an avid meditator, founder of Sati Design, Claire Thorp knows how important it is to sit in comfort. That is why Sati was born, to ensure that every time you meditate, you are perfectly comfortable and at peace in the knowledge that the cushion you are sitting on is sustainably made. As Claire and I enjoy our mugs of tea together and her story unfolds, I realise how much thought has gone into Sati. Ever curious, I want to learn how the story started and quiz Claire on the moment when she decided to help support those who meditate with her considerate cushions. Claire smiles with bright, caring eyes and tells me: “It seems apt that the concept of creating Sati came to me when I was meditating. Whilst sitting and breathing it is unavoidable that thoughts will pass through our minds like yachts gliding across the ocean. Most of the time, our goal is to notice these thoughts and let them pass without engaging with them, but when I had the idea to create meditation cushions that are comfortable and decorative, it was like I hit a download button. I had visions of what the website would look like and all the other products that we could sell. After I finished meditating, I got out my notebook and wrote everything down – it was a real eureka moment.”
Sati means awareness in Pali, the ancient Indian language present when the Buddha lived. Claire has ensured that her designs encapsulate their namesake throughout the production process. It all begins in the sun-baked earth of India, where the small village of Bagru, located just outside Jaipur, still operates according to traditional fabric printing techniques. Whilst on a meditation retreat a few years ago, Claire tied in a visit to Bagru and knew that it was the right choice for the production of her designs. The thought of investing in the factory-fabric industry just didn’t sit right with Sati’s purpose, these would be mass produced and made with harmful chemicals, it wasn’t how Claire wanted Sati’s journey to begin. “My approach with Sati, is to remain aware on as many levels as possible,” Claire explains, “I didn’t want to find a factory that practiced chemical dyeing – which is the way that most fabric is produced. I wanted the processes to be low impact and to embody, and be respectful, of nature.” And so, the small village of Bagru was sought out, a place where skilled fabric designers still employ the use of completely natural dyes and inks made from the rinds of pomegranates and other organic ingredients. “Nature produces the most incredible colours,” Claire tells me, “I was blown away when I started learning about natural dyeing, to discover just how vivid or subtle the palette is that nature produces, it’s stunning.” A beautiful concept, for Sati to mean awareness and for the fabrics to be environmentally aware too.
Claire works closely with her production team in India, creating Scandi-inspired designs, which are then carved onto blocks of wood ready to be pressed into thick, unbleached cotton. “On the whole, we use mud to print with,” Claire reveals with a spark of humour in her eyes, “It’s combined with gluten and lime but essentially, it’s just mud! We let it dry in the sun and then dip the fabric into the dye bath of whatever colour we’re using, for instance, we will make up a bath of pomegranate rinds with water and this ends up creating yellow. When it comes out of the bath, it’s back in the sun to dry again and the next step is to wash the fabric. This is when the mud will come off after completing it’s job of protecting the raw cotton beneath, and leaving the pattern printed in its absence.” Her enthusiasm is contagious and I am reminded again of how thoughtful Sati’s cushions are. “I love the imperfections that come with handmade practices,” Claire tells me: “The prints are very simple, almost like mark making, this means that imperfections naturally arise within the patterns, because every time you stamp a block onto the cotton, a different permeation of ink arises, consequently every cushion is unique.” The fact that they are made using the power of the earth and sun seems fitting for a cushion that goes on to be used in the practice of meditation and awareness, reminding us to be aware of nature and to make choices to protect it. Once the fabric is finished, it gets shipped to the UK and on to Claire’s small barn studio, where it’s stuffed with the husks of spelt and finally sold into our homes.
As well as being environmentally conscious, Sati is also socially conscious. When Claire first visited Bagru, the local artisans taught her the block printing process. Instead of taking this knowledge with her when she left, Claire decided to keep production in Bagru, regardless of the logistical difficulties that arose from communicating production requirements to a very small rural village team with limited resources. “I fell in love with the colour palette the team created and I wanted to maintain the business opportunity with them, to keep the market going in India. As well as maintaining business with our suppliers, we also donate 10% of every sale to a local charity called I India, which supports street children and women located in and near Jaipur.” Claire’s conscientious decision to support the community that provides Sati’s beautiful fabric gives new meaning to the concept of a circular economy. Keeping a chain of support going, from the rural printing team, to the local people and finally to us as we are supported by the cushions.
There are lots of meditation cushions on the market, but Sati is unique in its natural and sustainable approach. The cushions are a symbol of self-care because you are sitting on a piece of art, rather than a simple pillow. “I wanted to feel inspired to sit and for my cushion to be a feature in my house, as well as enabling me to sit for longer thanks to having the correct posture,” Claire explains. “It’s important to have a specially-designed meditation cushion if you are interested in meditating often, to alleviate pain as much as possible. A lot of people will use pillows from around their home, but the problem with these is that they don’t provide your body with the support it needs. In order for your spine to be in the correct position, you need a firm cushion that helps to tilt your pelvis forward to ensure your spine is straight. In comparison, a normal sofa or bed cushion is very soft and has the opposite effect by causing your spine to curve, this causes any pain to be more pronounced. “We have different styles to help support different postures,” Claire elaborates, “If your hips aren’t very open, the higher design is good, our round cushions for example. Alternatively, if you do have flexibility in your hips then the rectangle design is a better option. We also have floor cushions that you can put underneath the round or rectangle designs, to help protect your nobbly bits.”
The intention for Sati, is to fuse comfort and functionality with aesthetics and design. The prints are inspired by Scandinavian minimalism and each cushion is unique thanks to the natural block printing process. As a result, each customer has a unique product, and understands that this is due to the care and attention that goes into it. By using natural dyes and harnessing the natural elements, Sati is creating fabrics from mud and sunshine and bringing them back to the UK, so that people can be connected to the earth and to the world around them through meditation. It all ties into the heart of what Sati is, to be aware of the world and the impact that we have on it. Sati has an ever-growing collection and now incorporates beautiful billowing scarves, lavender and flax seed eye pillows for use in yoga, or just to relax after a long day, hand-carved wooden incense holders and yoga mat bags. The future is bright for this conscientious Cornish company, and we are very much looking forward to seeing what other rays of sunshine will be brought from the heat of central India to our more boisterous ocean coastline.
To receive a 10% DRIFT discount on all Sati Design products, use code DRIFTAWAY10. Valid until the end of January 2023.