Ganesh Devotka

the incredible hancraft of felt-making

Ganesh works with numerous artisans scattered around Kathmandu.  He has an import/export office off an alley in the middle of Thamel, the ancient maze of temples, guest houses and shops that is the chaotic but fascinating centerpiece of Kathmandu.

Location . . . . Kathmandu, Nepal

Craft . . . . Felted Wool and Knitwear       Number of Employees . . . . 3

Founded in . . . . 2000      Years of relationship . . . . 3

How we met:

I found Ganesh over the internet, looking for a general handicraft supplier in Kathmandu. With extreme difficulty, I located his office in the bewildering streets of Thamel. After we talked, he took me on the second-most terrifying motorcycle ride of my life to his house in the outskirts of Kathmandu.

Nepalis typically drive straight into traffic, turn across many lanes, and speed over extremely bumpy uneven ground, which is problematic when you are sliding off the back of a motorcycle seat. Surviving this, we were greeted by his beautiful wife Laxmi, and we talked business over milk tea in his livingroom.

Ganesh’s Story:

Ganesh came to Kathmandu from Gurka, the namesake village of the fearsome warriors enlisted in the British Army.  He was a teenager, determined to make his fortune in the big city.  He continued in school, but also began working evenings for an exporter.  That business failed, and he went into business for himself.

Things we talked about on the last trip:  How he went back to his village to find a wife.  His arranged marriage was arranged.   Kathmandu real estate prices.

The Craft: Felt-Making

It’s hard to imagine the amount of time and handwork that goes into making a simple pair of felt shoes.  The workshop is a house on the outskirts of Kathmandu.  Everything is done by women standing at long water tables covered with warm suds.

First, sheets of wet colored wool are massaged and kneaded and worked together into bigger, thicker sheets which are then formed into a tube.  This takes about a half hour.  These are then forced around plastic molds and left to dry.  Different colored yarns are mixed into the surface according to the design.  After the yarn has shrunk to the mold, it is carefully peeled off. 

Meanwhile, the smaller felt pieces like eyes and ears or antenna are being made one at a time, and after the shoe is dry, they are sewn or glued into place.  Finally, the soles are sewn on.