The elephant is a majestic creature deeply embedded in Indian history and culture that symbolizes physical strength, mental vigor, and prosperity throughout the land and community. We think it’s the perfect metaphor for the courage and strength of husband and wife photographers Jayden and Caroline and the work that they do for hundreds of women living in the rural villages of Andhra Pradesh, India.
The dynamic and creative duo behind Woodnote Photography, Caroline and Jayden launched Elephant Landing back in November 2013 as a meaningful endeavor to bring hope to single mothers, widows, and their children suffering from extreme poverty. A warm and cozy online shop for handmade and beautifully embroidered products, it serves as a platform to promote awareness and encourage support through creativity and generosity.
“Our ethos is to contribute to people in need through creativity—creating designs, the women bringing those designs to life, and creating an opportunity for people to be a part of something bigger—these are all ways that Elephant Landing uses creativity.”
And as a non-profit organization, 100% goes back to their efforts in providing employment and education for women in India. “The more resources we have access to, the more we can expand and grow what we are already doing here.”
The story that fueled the cause
How Elephant Landing began is an inspiring story in itself. What started as an initiative to teach women in-demand skills to provide for themselves and their families has now progressed into a long-term creative opportunity to “expand the reach and impact by providing employment and additional education opportunities for the women of these villages.”
The journey began with Jayden on his first trip to India in 2001 to help his parents start an orphanage. As soon as they established it, he and his family discovered a much bigger problem: the children who came for their assistance weren’t orphans, but children of single mothers or widows who couldn’t afford to raise them on their own.
Determined to address this need, Jayden’s parents set up a sewing training center where these women could learn how to make clothes and detailed embroidery. These are highly sought-after skills in these remote areas where there is a constant demand for handmade clothes.
At the end of the program, the graduates take home a foot-pedaled sewing machine where they can begin working and earning almost immediately. As a result, these women now work and earn a decent income to provide for themselves and their families.
The push: Inspiration and design
The cause and the work they’ve done in India have always been at the center of Caroline and Jayden’s relationship. It was attending the What If Conference in 2012 and listening to Justin Lyon’s inspirational talk that really pushed them to launch Elephant Landing.
“Justin spoke about his own experiences in ‘giving back’ in Haiti, and we walked away knowing that something in us had shifted; that we were meant to expand what was already happening in India, and invite others to join us by creating a way for them to get involved.”
As photographers and artists, Caroline and Jayden have always had a deep appreciation for excellent design, wherever it can be found. For them, “design has the ability to express beauty, function, and purpose all at once.” The effect on both the artist and spectator is a surge of creative energy, a jolt of inspiration and appreciation.
This is the creative spirit behind each and every aspect of Elephant Landing, with each beautiful product made with resources that are both available and viable to the very people who make them.
How Elephant Landing saved Layanya
Since its inception and launch, Elephant Landing has made a huge impact in the lives of many of the women they’ve helped.
Caroline and Jayden shared with us the story of Layanya, a young woman who was given in marriage at 15, had a baby girl a year after, and was abandoned by her husband with nothing in her pockets to support her daughter. When she became a part of Elephant Landing, she learned how to sew, received her very own foot-pedaled sewing machine, and has taken on several sewing jobs from the people in her village. Today, her work and participation with Elephant Landing has given her the opportunity to support herself while being able to care for her daughter.
What’s striking about this is how many of the women they’ve helped share a similar story and experience. It’s a predicament that Elephant Landing aims to address by continuing their work in providing additional, meaningful employment, education, and, most importantly, hope and friendship to both the women and their children.
On the beauty of success and failure
With such a noble foundation, you’d think that Caroline and Jayden got to where they are today with enough support, constant clarity, and unwavering determination.
Nope, far from it.
Caroline and Jayden faced all kinds of challenges and failures as they built and grew their program, to such an extent that they would question the validity of their endeavors.
“The spectrum of success and failure is ludicrously elastic. One day everything goes better than could be planned. The next day, nothing works out and it is as if we stepped backwards ten paces! At first, this phenomenon really freaked us out and we questioned everything about ourselves and whether we were doing the right thing or whether we were just crazy.”
What these two amazing people realized is that each trail is a piece of a bigger lesson they learned from starting and dedicating themselves to a meaningful, long-term project. The depth of their insights is astounding:
“After deciding that we are both doing the right thing and also probably a bit crazy, we realized that the success/failure experience is absolutely necessary when you’re trying to break new ground. It is exploration. No explorer with an awesome tale to tell got on his ship and then sailed a smooth journey without some storms or dilemma along the way…That’s what makes the exploration so fascinating. Exploration is initiated by courage, but constant change and trial are what lead to the actual discovery.”
We love the impact that Elephant Landing has on the community, both in India and the rest of the world.
We’re so excited to hear that they’re launching a brand new spring line of products that have sprouted from a brand new medium—block dyeing.
“Our products are still home goods, but we have designed our own fabric and had it block dyed in India for the women to work with.”
New arrivals are due early this year with more vibrant designs, beautiful products, and lots of love for many of Elephant Landing’s customers and supporters. And with more support comes more opportunities, which Elephant Landing hopes to offer for the people they help, such as higher education, interest-free loans, and any other form of assistance “as the needs continue to present themselves.”
With this in mind, how can you, the reader, support Caroline and Jayden’s cause? Besides purchasing a handcrafted Elephant Landing product (which we hope you do!), they offer this piece of valuable advice:
“We’d encourage you to really ‘consume with a conscience.’ Question what you’re buying and where the profits are being spent. Are the people who made the product able to live good lives based on the income they earn from their work? We believe that more conscious consumption would transform our world, and greatly reduce (if not eradicate) poverty in the developing world.”
From our hearts to yours, we at DesignGood send you our love and utmost support for the work that you do! Nothing can compare to the joy and hope you bring to the lives of many women and children under the comforting shade of Elephant Landing.