During a consulting assignment for USAID in Nepal in 1996, Docey met Lhakpa Sherpa at his small mountainside workshop above Junbesi, a village in Solukhumbu, an hour’s helicopter ride from Kathmandu and about an hour’s walk from a good view of Mount Everest. Lhakpa is a fifth generation papermaker whose family has supplied Tibetan Buddhist monasteries with lokta paper for the printing of their elegant, elongated, wooden covered “Sutra” prayer books. He is also a graduate of the first Sir Edmund Hillary elementary school.
Before the Maoist civl war heated up, Lhakpa had two paper workshops in Solukhumbu. Shortly after we met he feared for the safety of his family and moved to Kathmandu, where he set up a small papermaking unit. He also bought four looms to try to break into the pashmina business. Docey offered to design some unique pashmina shawls and to introduce him to buyers in the US. On her next trip to Nepal she asked Lhakpa if he might be willing to try weaving handmade paper on a loom. That began a partnership that has grown from 4 weavers and 2 papermakers to four factories, 100 full-time employees and 500 cottage industry farmers, spinners, and raw materials preparers. They went from a booth at the New York International Gift Fair featuring 12 scarves and a few paper notebooks to supplying and forging partnerships with five high-end purveyors of wall coverings and architectural laminates.
Two back to back earthquakes in 2015 caused extensive damage to Lhakpa's workshops and family home and farms, but with his usual Sherpa fortitude they had very few delayed orders and are now back to normal.