More About Lokta & the Amazing People Behind It

There are some people that we are just so incredible honored to work with. Prasanna from Giftsland Inc is one of those people. In our effort to share more about the world of lokta paper Prasanna was so gracious to give us a more in-depth background about it and the role it plays in Nepal. Below is his story.

Lokta Sheets Drying

“Giftsland Enterprises, in Nepal is a parent Company of Giftsland Inc, in USA. We are a family owned and operated business. The business was started by my father in 1978. At that time we were exporting Nepalese handicrafts to U.S and Europe. He started handmade paper business in 1987 and since then we have been manufacturing as well as trading paper products. I joined the business in 1997 while continuing my High School focusing in product development and trade show. And since then it has been an exciting journey and an ever going learning process.

The lokta paper story is a fascinating process of different stages where a Solid lokta paper is made, then the patterns are silk screened or block printed and then made into the products. The product possibilities are many as to what can be made using the lokta papers. Working together with local craftsman from the high mountains making the natural lokta to the small women co-operatives in cities who are involved in making patterned papers & its products is a challenging but a rewarding work. And exhibiting the final products at the shows, communicating with buyers and end user who add their creative touch to make their own unique creations is again an another satisfying experience.

Stamping Lokta

{Batik Lokta is hand stamped with carved wooden blocks dipped in hot wax}

There is so much interaction with people at all these stages and the common thing that bind everyone together is the Lokta papers which is very special not only because is manufactured in an eco friendly and sustainable way but also because consumption/use of it is directly contributing to livelihood of hundreds of families in the villages of Nepal. The work that we do is helping of number of women owned and operated co-operatives as well as few small cottage industries which are getting continuous work though out the year that helps individually in increasing quality of their  life as well as collectively as a group to sustain and grow.

I grew up working in our family business and what inspired me most is how with our small effort and encouragement by supporting the local craftsman in our communities, we are able to grow together in harmony and with satisfaction. My sister Namrata and brother Prasen now have joined the business after completing their respective studies, and everyone in the family share our experiences and collectively implement our ideas and inspiration to our business. 

Just knowing the feeling as you hold a sheets of paper in your hand or write in the artistic Lokta Journals and stationery, that this natural product has passed though several hands before becoming a final product indeed is quite a special feeling. We, at Giftsland, hope that you will enjoy and get inspired in ways as we do while making papers.

Hand Painting Lokta

{As the pigment is painted on it is absorbed by the paper but not the wax, intensifying the pattern}

Craft Description:

The lokta paper which is our primary raw material for making Journals and stationery is produced in the high Himalayas; it is brought into the city on back of the donkey, which is processed in local factories like ours to color them and make it into a texture papers or printed papers. This printed/textured paper is used as cover of the journals or stationery. The natural paper from the mountains is used also as the inside writing paper for the journals. The final product is individually checked page by page to ensure superior quality for satisfaction. It is then packed and shipped. Thus Lokta Papers travels from Himalayan Mountain to the city and passes through several hands before final product is produced and reaches the end users at the stores.

The Lokta paper making is a traditional and labor intensive technique of paper making. We conduct regular training programs in the areas of skill enhancement, product development, book binding, quality control, etc in our factory as well as to our suppliers so that there is an opportunity to learn and develop new skills. We also support and assist the Trade Organization in Nepal to co-ordinate training programs in the villages regularly to the local farmers and village co-operatives for proper harvest of Lokta plant, re-plantation of Lokta plant to ensure sustainable harvest; which results in generating continuous employment opportunities in the villages as well as ensuring eco friendly paper making practice.

Ironing Paper

{Hand ironing finishes the paper and transfers the wax out of the paper onto a blotting sheet}

Women co-operatives & Fair Business practice

Nepal is an under developed country, but people are hard working, artistic and skillful. Due to lack of opportunities and limited resources; there is a big problem of unemployment. Nepal is also a traditional country where men are the bread winners and women are home makers. However, with changing times, the concept of women co-operatives and women owned and operatives small scale business are growing.

The women co-operatives are formed and operated in small communities / neighborhoods and villages, where the group of women come together and make products using their knowledge and skill that they have learned through trainings programs or co-workers /friends. Thus putting their skills into work and becoming financially independent, it has changed the lifestyle of not only the women co-operatives and its members but their families as a whole. In addition to being a home maker, now they are able to bring extra income to the family which is wisely spend towards increasing living standard of their family, better education for children, and a small saving for their time of need.

Over 90% of work force is women in our Handmade Paper factories. Currently we have a manufacturing and quality control unit of our own. But mostly we work together with members of our Women co-operatives and Women owned and operated Business. We are working with 18 women co-operatives and small scale businesses (each consisting between 6 to 34 members) and many more families in the Mountain regions who are making papers for us. All our products like Handmade Journals, Note cards set and Pencils, Gift wraps, bags and boxes are individually handcrafted in our factories.

Because of the continuous business that we have been getting from our Buyers in U.S. and Europe, even in these difficult times, we have been able to generate employment to over 250 people and many families in Nepal. Our joint effort together with our conscious buyers who have appreciation and preference for eco friendly and fairly traded products has been able to provide hundreds of employment opportunities among the women co-operatives, families in the rural villages and cities for several years now, thus not only preserving an eco friendly ancient paper making process but also promoting Fair Business practice and smooth operation and growth for these small businesses in the underdeveloped country.

Lokta Drying

Uses / Interesting Facts

Handmade Paper making is a traditional craft in Nepal which has been practiced since generations. It is still used in Nepal for

  • Writing Buddhist prayer scripts in the Monastery
  • Keeping records of legal documents by the Nepalese Government because Lokta paper is moth free ( is not eaten by Moth and insects) and thus the records can be kept safe for over 500 years. Tibetan prayer books over 500 years written in lokta paper can still be found.
  • Still in the villages, when injured, the wound is covered with lokta paper to stop bleeding.
  • Lokta paper is strong and durable because it is made using plant bark/fiber.
  • PH value is natural, and it is a acid free paper.
  • 100 % handmade using natural resources.”

– Prasanna Dhakhwa

I think after reading this and seeing these wonderful photos I will not be alone in saying my appreciation for Lokta paper has grown tremendously.

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6 Comments

  1. Holly Heine says:

    I love reading this article! I hope you’ll put more great personal and informaitonal stories up about how different papers are made and where they come from!!! Makes my artmaking experience that much more meaningful and will certainly help me to make an artpiece meaningful to a buyer!

  2. jessica says:

    I’m totally sold! I want some. this is my favorite post so far. Thanks for information.

  3. Deborah says:

    Extraordinary Story! Just loved learning about the tremendous effort, energy, creativity and skill that goes into making these beautiful papers! More stories like these, please! Thank you.

  4. Lisa Millington says:

    Completely heartwarming to read this post. I bought a beautiful journal on my recent trip to Boston USA. The look and the feel of it were uniquely special even before I read some of the history. Now it feels so personal too. Gives me a sense of connection to women in another community. I hope I can find out more. Maybe even make a visit to learn how its done…..

  5. Erin says:

    Is this company actually Eco friendly? I’m looking at the paint cans and they don’t look very Eco friendly. Also, are they certified Fair Trade?

  6. admin says:

    You might be amazed at how much money it takes to be certified Fair Trade. Many of these small women run co-ops live and practice all the qualifications to be fair trade but can’t afford the hefty price tag.

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