Category Archives: Uncategorized

A charm bracelet for our time?

image

image

The charm bracelet was once a common gift used for the transitional age when a child looked towards becoming an adult. It was once the subject of fine craftsmanship as each charm contained delicate castings and intricate mechanisms. Today it has been largely replaced by the Pandora, which is a closed system of crudely manufactured components that emphasise fashion rather than meaning. Pandora is like the iPhone of jewellery. Components are all designed as modular units that fit together exclusively. A Pandora bracelet even comes with special ‘apps’.

image

image

Older charm bracelets tell unique stories. On the verge of adulthood, the child is given a chain bracelet for the wrist. On the chain already are two or three intricate objects charged the meaning – a secret diary, a horseshoe for luck, a locket inscribed with the words ‘Travel time to happiness’ that opens to reveal a clock. Over the years, relatives returning from travels bring new component to fill out the bracelet  – an enamel ladybird, a turtle, a French horn and guitar…

It seems a to be world made to measure for a small person. It’s a way of inspecting the things of the world at close range. There’s also perhaps an element of magic involved, as though these were seeds for the eventual possession of real objects. But they are also public goods, that draw others into conversation – a magnet for the incidental praise that surrounds the world of a growing child.

image

image

This may well be a good time to return to the roots of the charm bracelet. The Italian cimaruta is an ancient charm that takes the form of a ‘sprig of rue’, at the end of which are a number of symbols, such as moon, fish, dagger and flower. The cimaruta is associated with the goddess Diana and often placed on the breasts of infants as protection, particularly against the evil eye. Without getting ‘neo pagan’ about such pre-modern symbols, the cimaruta offers an interesting model for jewellery as a form of symbolic value to be invested in the future.

So should the charm bracelet be revived? There is reason enough for their return as testaments to craft skills in gold and silver smithing. But as cultural artefact they can be seen as consumerist trainer wheels, preliminary to the eventual acquisition of domestic charm bracelet, featuring a Wedgewood dinner setting, Scandinavian furniture, French car and Milan coat.

The principle, however, seems inherently marvellous. The charm bracelet provides the armature around which a family circle can pin their hopes and support on an emerging adult. We were to keep this principle, what might be the charms for our time?

27 Light years

Helen Light has retired from the Jewish Museum of Australia after 27 years (!). She was its inaugural director and created a remarkable string of exhibitions including the Judaica series, which invited craftspersons to make contemporary versions of ritual artefacts.

For her, the purpose of the museum was to demonstrate how a minority culture could flourish in Australia, far away from its origin. It was a generous and successful vision.

Taking Chilean pride to heart

The jewellery scene in Chile has been growing strongly in recent years. A large number of new outlets for art and designer jewellery have opened in Santiago, including work that draws from distinctively Chilean forms, such as the horse-hair weaving known as crin.

Corazón de Loica

Corazón de Loica

Marcela Bugueiro

Marcela Bugueiro

At the end of 2009, Chile held its first national jewellery competition. Organised by Galeria Ceppi, this competition took its context from the Bicentenary of Chilean independence. The inaugural winner was an established jeweller based in Concepción, down south. Marcela Bugueiro won with Corazón de Loica (Heart of Loica) including particularly Chilean elements, including feathers of the Loica bird and lapiz lazuli. Here is her statement about the work:

Throughout these 200 years, Chileans have travelled a unique and special path. This represents 200 years of love for the land in which we were born, grow and live. So how does a piece of jewellery reflect the importance of our mother land and the identity that we have forged from it? From this arises the idea of a reliquary, containing within itself a portion of our land, stressing its value and importance to us who have lived there already for 200 years. The bicentennial demands a homage piece adequate to the occasion. This evokes the image of a Chilean woman who carries on her chest this tribute to our country with pride and as a token of our country’s identity. The identity, the heart of Chile, is reflected in the traditional Chilean legend of the red Loica bird, and how chest of this little bird became red due to its nobility and generosity. This work is jewel is inspired by our people, in the nature of our earth and the elements that we draw from it, such as silver, copper and lapis lazuli. We find a piece that combines these elements to represent the noble heart of Chile and the sacredness of our land, in thanks for 200 years of support.

How did you become interested in jewellery?

Travelling and meeting places and experienced jewellers. I am captivated by the beauty of the stones and bright metals and their infinite combinations. I consider items of jewellery almost magical elements that remind us of the wonders that are within the earth. I think of each gem as representing someone in particular. That’s why do I care about individual pieces, rather than jewellery made in series.

Where do you get the skills in jewellery?

I started over 20 years ago, doing the finishing work for jewellery in a family workshop. At my first school, you received the raw piece, which you filed, sanded and polished until you could see an object that is lustrous and full of beauty, often crowned with gems of extraordinary brightness and colour. Then I developed on my own with endless hours in the workshop where I discovered how the metal could be adapted to the forms that would emerge in my designs. I also sought to learn from experienced jewellers who allowed me to observe and work with them so I could mix craft jewellery techniques with other more classic styles.

Now, where to sell or display your jewellery?

Joyería Bugueiro is in the center of the city of Concepcion in southern Chile. You can see pictures at www.marcelabugueiro.cl

What are your three main influences on jewellery?

    1. The ancient jewellery that joined symbols and stones, from cultures like the Egyptian, Mayan, Incas, Etruscan
    2. Importantly, Rene Lalique, (European jeweller early 20th century) with its organic beauty and delicate lines and magic,
    3. and now the Japanese design for its extraordinary success in simplicity and harmony of forms.

What is most important to you: to find a market, to search for beauty, to fit the body, or to make a statement about the world?

If only they could all be combined … It’s important to me to make jewellery of excellent quality, which reflects the mark of the author, a person. I prefer that the result is beautiful, although I am open to admire other forms of aesthetic beauty beyond the obvious. 

How would you like to develop your career further?

Marcela Bugueiro

Marcela Bugueiro

To promote the development of jewellery design in the region where I live, through personal achievements as well as joining with other goldsmiths to create a core of identity making jewellery from southern Chile. My intention is to achieve a balance between sustainability needed in my shop-showroom and the development of a clear artistic practice, where you can take advantage of opportunities and present my designs in international fairs (I have been invited to "KARA Exhibition" in Paris, however for economic reasons is a difficult project to do). I wish I could have more time to create unique designs. a good way to combine sustainability with design and art could be to create a line of cufflinks (W Hotels in Santiago have sought an order from me)… "Business versus art" a complex formula.

Jewellery is a particularly important medium for countries like Chile and Australia that are faced with the challenge of finding their own identity. While European traditions of ornament favour precious metals and stones, such as gold and diamonds, it’s ex-colonies look to privilege elements unique to their world. In Australia, German modernism played an important role in wiping the slate clean of tradition. It’s fascinating to see how Chile engages in this common quest.

Loica bird

Loica bird

Crafted Over Time – the other side of DIY

Faythe Levine’s documentary about DIY, titled Handmade Nation, reflected the collective craft movement sweeping the USA. This movement includes a broad spectrum of makers who are setting up small businesses, attending craft markets and engaging in craft activist events. Textile arts figure greatly, as do women.

Journalist and ‘comix historian’ Patrick Rosenkranz has made a documentary that tells the other side of the story. Crafted Over Time features revivalists who are seeking to return to the roots of craft in the pre-technological age. These include  ‘glassmaker, a stained glass designer, bookbinders, instrument makers, stonemasons, a cannon maker, and even flint knappers.’ These revivalists work mostly in isolation, with little economic engagement in the world, and they are mostly men.

Both worlds seem passionate about the making process. But each move in fundamentally different directions. One moves collectively into the world, mediated by all the new social networking technologies. The other wanders alone away from the madding crowd, isolated in their craft. Is one path more true to the spirit of craft?

While lone craftspersons can seem to be hiding from the world, in terms of continuing craft traditions and maintaining diversity of skills, they do seem to play an essential part in the world. But their potential still waits for someone to come along who can find a way of linking it with the world outside. Meanwhile, they keep the flame alight.

In the clouds

Craft Unbound has been posting for four years now. To celebrate, here’s a view from the clouds:
[SWF]http://cdn.tagul.com/cloud.swf, 600, 500, [email protected][/SWF]

The latest gossip about Gup Shup in Pakistan

Here’s some news from the Gup Shup project in Pakistan (‘gup shup’ refers to the gossip that happens around cups of tea).

Winter has truly arrived, and the Chitral valley is surrounded with the snow-covered peaks of the Hindukush. In this cold weather, the women gather around the fire, chit-chatting and embroidering. Somehow, Israr and his team from MOGH Ltd (our local partners) miraculously manage to get us the textiles across the Lowari Pass (3200m altitude). Sometimes by air, sometimes through the new tunnel, sometimes across the icy mountains. So if you have had to wait for a bag you are coveting, there are very good reasons!

Pot Swap

Pot Swap

Pot Swap

Zaibonda sold ‘Pot-Swap’ on the opening night of the ‘Gup Shup’ exhibition at the National Art Gallery (NAG), in Islamabad on International Women’s Day 2009. Using part of the money from the sale, her son Sajjid started his commerce degree at the Commerce College in Chitral. He had initially wanted to go to Peshawar, but the tense security situation in the city kept him up-country, close to his family.

Handbag

Handbag

The ‘Pot-Swap’ bags remain popular. As one key supporter, who carries ‘Pot Swap’ on a daily basis, emotionally exclaimed “I feel such a connection to the woman who created this bag!”.

And other news – Naseema (one of the artisans responsible for the creation and embroidery of the lovely ‘Mantlepiece’, ‘Mehndi’, ‘Calender’ and ‘Harvest’ textiles) had her own mehndi in October. She is happily working as the warden of a nurses’ hostel in Chitral town, living with her husband, and occasionally travelling the 6 hours even further north to her husband’s village.

Though the crops were harvested in October ‘Gup Shup’ continues to bear fruit. Some news from across the globe:

Gup Shup Exhibitions

Following the success of the textile exhibitions in Islamabad (8th March 2009), and Karachi (28th May 2009), we are hoping to be in Lahore next … the cultural capital of Pakistan. We’ll keep you posted on the exact venue and dates when we are passing through early next year.

Drawing for 'mantlepiece'

Drawing for 'mantlepiece'

Drawing for 'Mantlepiece'

The textile ‘Mantelpiece’ recently sold, to an Islamabad resident. And ‘Ice-cream’ has found a happy home and should be landing in Dubai soon. If you are interested in a textile, please do get in touch, as there are only a handful left …

‘Gup Shup’ went international, to Polly&me’s home shores of Australia at Craft Victoria in Melbourne, June 2009. Two textiles (‘Sultan the Sitar Player’, and ‘Games with Didi’) did us proud down under.

With such a multitude of loyal supporters in Dubai, we are eager to bring the ‘Gup Shup’ textiles with all the narratives and the endless cup of chai to Dubai, March 2010 – watch this space!

Do you want to know more? Email Ange at info@pollyandme.com

Proudly Produced in Pakistan!

Made in Tuvalu, heard throughout the world

Mrs Tagifoe Taomia at the Wasawasa Festival of the Oceans

Mrs Tagifoe Taomia at the Wasawasa Festival of the Oceans

Mrs Tagifoe Taomia at the Wasawasa Festival of the Oceans

The recent Wasawasa Festival of the Oceans in Suva was a golden opportunity to meet with members of the broad Pacific community. One of the stalls I admired most was created by the Tuvalu community. The stall was decorated with a wonderful range of crafts, including leis for dancing, elegant fans, tiputa garlands for weddings and ti-ti skirts. One wall had a complex display of shell necklaces, usually given when returning to the island.

Fo from Tuvalu

Fo from Tuvalu

Fo from Tuvalu

One of my favourites was the fo, or garland used for dancing. It is usually made from fresh flowers, but these were made to last. They had intricately folded pandanas leaf with flowers made of shells and seeds.

I was greatly impressed in meeting a representative from Tuvalu, Mrs Tagifoe Taomia. Mrs Taumia told me that after celebrations, these craft objects are usually hung on the walls to decorate homes, particularly of those from Tuvalu who have come to Suva for education.

Given all the resources in Fiji that are lacking in Tuvalu, I asked Mrs Taumia if it matters to her that the island still exists. She told me emphatically, ‘There’s no place like home. You always want to go back to Tuvalu. And when you grow old you want to go back and stay there.’

Even though a small population of 12,000, Tuvalu represents a unique story of a vibrant culture. Though the expatriate community carry the culture in their hearts, it seems they do not continue to make traditional objects. The crafts are still only made on the islands. This seems an important factor to keep in mind with rising ocean levels – we can re-locate people, but much of the culture remains attached to the land.

As the Swedish proverb goes, ‘Worry gives a small thing a big shadow.’ It is heartening that Tuvalu has a strong voice in the current Copenhagen negotiations. Let’s hope the world listens.

UNESCO workshop for Artisans and Designers – who owns culture?

DSCF6048

DSCF6048

DSCF6058

DSCF6058

DSCF6049

DSCF6049

DSCF6066

DSCF6066

 

The UNESCO Workshop for Artisans and Designers in Santiago brought together participants from Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Paraguay, Colombia and Brazil. For three days, we discussed the ethics of the relationship between those who make craft products and those who develop them for markets. It was a fascinating workshop for many reasons.

First, it was interesting to witness the manner in which people of diverse views come together like this in Latin America. It was very smoothly and warmly facilitated by Rafael del Campo, who used a ‘world café’ method to ensure everyone had a chance to contribute to discussions. Celina Rodriquez from Universidad Catolica helped ensure the program had a warm welcome from local artisan communities. Generally, the event was framed as a celebration of the way artisans and designers can complement each other. The participating artisans spoke very positively about the way designers enabled their careers to develop. The Chilean wood carver Hector Bascuñan described the designer that he collaborated with as an ‘angel’. But there was still plenty of opportunity to consider the tensions that exist in this relationship.

One burning issue was the ownership of intellectual property. I contributed to this inadvertedly by presenting the example of Better World Arts, the Australian organisation that brokers designs from the Kaltjiti community in the desert centre with artisans in the Kashmir and Peru, who translate their designs into rugs and jewellery. This was quite a surprising arrangement to those present. It challenged the implicit assumption that artisans can properly only make works that draw from their own culture. Much had to be explained about the Australian scene, how we lack those that might be called traditional artisans, and how it is difficult for indigenous communities to meet the demand for craft products within their own resources. It helped stimulate some very interesting discussions.

There were many who saw transnational craft as a way of the future. In the global craft ecology, continents like Latin America have the potential to provide the handmade dimension to various foreign creative industries, like product development and fashion – handbags handwoven in Bolivia, for example. But there are serious risks. In attaching the handmade component as an exotic feature, do we trivialise craft? Shouldn’t we consider craft as a whole, as the expression of culture in its own terms? But then if Bolivian artisans decide to accept a commission like this in order to simply survive, can anyone stop them?

DSCF6078

DSCF6078

DSCF6085

DSCF6085

DSCF6062

DSCF6062

DSCF6082

DSCF6082

 

I believe in the power of cultural exogamy. There are many examples of cultural exchange that strengthen tradition. Tango was only really acknowledged in Argentina once it was ‘discovered’ in Paris. It has since been adopted by cultures all around the world, with its own distinctive Scandinavian, Slavic and Japanese versions. Despite this diffusion, Buenos Aires is still revered as the home of tango.

Can the same occur in craft? There are powerful examples, like ikat weaving, raku ceramics, Venetian glass, where its adoption by other cultures has strengthened the status of its point of origin. Seeing our own cultural techniques applied in foreign contexts helps not only demonstrate their potency, but also helps identify what is distinctive to ourselves. Seeing how Australians apply raku techniques shows its potency as an expression of place but also reveals by contrast what is different about the original Japanese version

The critical issue seems to be not one of contamination, but of commodification. Capitalist production does tend to appropriate cultural signs, decontextualise them, and then sell them for the biggest profit. When purchasing products, consumers are encouraged to consider brand identity rather than its point of origin. Given the powerful capitalist neighbour to the north, it is natural you can find in Latin America a defensive position towards cultural appropriation. Rightly so. Contrast the culture of Coca Cola with its indigenous origins in the Andes. But maybe there are other kinds of partnerships beyond cultural predation.

It is here where the issue of moral rights for producers seems to play a potentially important role. So often products that feature artisan origins fail to identify exactly who made the product. We have a system of moral rights for creators to ensure that when works of art or design are copied that the author is attributed. But this doesn’t exist for producers, even if their role is critical in development.

This is not a simple issue, as was made evident during the workshop. Two participants objected to the principle of individual attribution. The Brazilian designer José Alberto Nemer from Piracema Design Laboratory presented a notion of development as a romantic engagement with place which goes beyond self-conscious individual creativity. Piraceme is a native Tupi word to describe the phenomenon when fish return to their point of origin in order to spawn. This spirit of place should belong to no one individual. For different reasons, Pablo Bonaparte from the National Market of Traditional Artisans in Argentina also argued against individual ownership. For him, craft traditions are a communal entity and any attempt to sell this on the open market for individual gain would be a kind of betrayal.

While these were not the views of the majority, they were important points to consider. For Australians, this concept of collective ownership resonates with our acknowledgement that indigenous culture is a matter of custodianship. No one individual owns the designs or knowledge of Aboriginal communities. But there is a difference. Within limits, we also acknowledge the freedom of any individual indigenous artist to employ their designs as they see fit – even if woven in another country. Any attempt to resist that on the grounds of heritage would seem patriarchal, motivated more by whitefella romance that indigenous realities.

The UNESCO representative Frederic Vacheron reflected on this tension between communal heritage and individual creativity. Protection exists for both cultural heritage and individual copyright, but they can sometimes be in opposition to each other. Vacheron was confident that they could eventually be aligned, but it would take more than one workshop to do so.

In his concluding comments, Vacheron said that it was important to consider patrimony a living phenomenon, not something that needs to be isolated from the world for its survival. He said it was important to look at what was happening in Australia as an example of how traditional craft practices might find new opportunities in a globalised world. Likewise, we in Australia need to consider the Latin American views if we are to draw on their traditions to revitalise our own culture.

Along with many nations in the ‘collective west’, Australia is on a return journey back from dizzy heights of globalisation to its own piece of solid ground. As our craft skills decline, we become more dependent on artisans in other countries to provide the handmade quality that helps realise the human dimension in our designs. But can we outsource craft in the same way we have our shirts sewn anonymously in China? For the handmade to have meaning it needs a real connection with its maker. We need to know something about who made it, where their skill comes from, what they benefit in making it, and how they would like us to care for their result.

In getting to know artisans better, we can also discover something about ourselves too. What is the status of indigenous culture in their politics? How do they deal with the challenges of climate change? In what way do they respond to the cultural dominance of the north?

I certainly got to know the Latin American journey(s) a little better after this workshop. The status of being a ‘third world’ creates a sense of vulnerability to the more powerful economies particularly to the north. To northern economies, local cultural traditions are often seen as signs of backwardness. Many in Latin America thus try to present an alternative measure of value. For them, a sense of one’s own culture is more precious than the flows of capital that course through world markets. An organisations like UNESCO, which recognise the value of cultural diversity, are held in particularly high regard here. Nevertheless, financial poverty brings its own problems. So how can culture be aligned with the needs of the market without destroying its value?

It’s plain that we need to work together if we are to use globalisation as a force for good, not evil. As Jean-Jacques Rousseau said, ‘If you cannot prevent your enemies from swallowing you, at least you can prevent them from digesting you.’  So it is with cultural appropriation. It will happen. It has the capacity to aerate and enrich our cultural traditions. But we need to be prepared to prevent it also dissolving embodied cultural meanings into mere products for consumption. The workshop was a very encouraging first step in this preparation, but there is much work ahead.

We need now to invite other voices into this conversation, particularly from Africa and Asia. UNESCO is in the unique position to carry this dialogue further. But there are others, like the World Craft Council and International Design Alliance (particularly the Indigo project), who can play an important role. The workshop next month in Fiji is another step towards extending this dialogue. Throughout this process, the development of an international code of practice for craft-design collaborations is one concrete way to ensure we keep talking with each other.

Public Competition For a Painted Mural on a Rented Ghetto Wall

For the After the Missionaries issue of Artlink, a number of artists responded to the hypothetical scenario where a local council was seeking proposals for developing a project with its sister city in the Third World. How might a project bridge the global divide?

ScreenHunter_01 Oct. 31 08.32

ScreenHunter_01 Oct. 31 08.32

Claudio Torres is a Chilean artist/architect/musician who for the last four years has been working in various development projects in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. In response to this call, he proposed a project involving ‘a painted mural on a ghetto wall’. Well, he is now at the point of realising this idea and is seeking support. He needs US$500 for materials, US$500 for rental and US$300 for a small daily allowance paid to the crew of youngsters who will paint the mural, to ensure it is finished in time.

To cover these costs, we are releasing 65 tickets at US$20 each. You can think of these as admission fees to see the mural, but that would involve also a ticket to Nairobi which isn’t covered by the ticket cost. Or you can consider it a small donation that helps spread art a little more widely around the world. Follow www.craftunbound.net to see the results.

You can see Claudio explain the idea here:

 

Basically, Claudio is using an A3 poster as a sketchbook which he is distributing to the people in the ghetto of Mathare. Designs for the mural will then be put up for popular vote among the people in the ghetto. The winner will be then painted on the ghetto wall for one month.

Can you help?

Here is the original proposal:


First of all, how to get to meet fine local artists?

Then, where to show?

Given most developing countries’ lack of what’s understood by western standards as art museums and galleries and the artists around them, and given also the shortage of art schools and markets, it seems suitable to address this collaborative work as a

PUBLIC COMPETITION FOR A PAINTED MURAL ON A RENTED GHETTO WALL.

1- To avoid biases or shortfalls in choosing local artists, a competition is the soundest way to tap into an un-reached art world, one surely driven by different aesthetic and social motivations. A prize is due to attract and rightly benefit artists that usually don’t get much in retribution for their work.

The actual production of the mural will be carried out by the local and foreign artists together.

2- Those few museums and galleries that exist are even more elitist and inaccessible than their occidental counterparts, allowing the artworks that they deal with to be seen by few people and at best reach only a few rich living rooms.

So, in countries where public art is at the bottom of the development needs’ list, a public wall is the right place to show and share; half of the urban population lives in overcrowded and service-less slums, therefore a ‘ghetto wall’ must be the right place.

3- Most third world walls are rented to big companies’ publicity. They get the best ones, often bordering highly-populated slums. Here is where the north-south collaboration can materialise. Money collected internationally (through web pages, etc.) and among the slum-dwellers will pay the rent for the mural. The show will last until is not possible to pay the rent anymore and the public wall returns to the dictates of free-market.

Thus, as important as the art work in itself is the time that the mural will last: a sort of ‘partnership-indicator’.

4- If more money than the needed is raised, a new competition must be held and another wall will be won for public delight and wellbeing.

The wall is waiting:

Ghetto Wall

Ghetto Wall

Tickets on sale here until 15 November: ghettowall.eventbrite.com

Finding a good home for Lao silk

Samorn Sanixay is an Australian woman born in Laos who has established a company Eastern Weft that seeks a market for Laos silk in countries like Australia. Her project requires a good fit between two radically different worlds. What seems critical to Samorn is an appreciation of serious craft – something more likely to be found in galleries than shops.

She describes how she was drawn to silk production in her home country:

In 2002, my husband was offered the position of United Nations Advisor on Human Trafficking for South East Asia based in Vientiane Laos. Soon after I got a job with UNICEF and all Lao women must wear the traditional sarong. So I went to the markets to look for material but everything was in fluoro colours so I decided to have my neighbours who were weavers produce silk especially for me. I would sit and watch and developed an interest ever since.

Samorn sees a tradition that is passed down relatively unconsciously through family lines.

All Lao silk is woven on traditional looms, there is no industrialisation as yet.

Lao silk is  intricate, sophisticated and of high quality. With Lao silk there is a continuity in the way that it is still passed on from mother to daughter as opposed to having a romantic notion that `this is our culture’ or part of our tradition. Most weavers are poor and mostly illiterate but there is great technical skill required for weaving. There is also a fragility about Lao silk. Unlike most  handicraft  products from around the world which sadly ends up in Fair Trade stores or gift shops,  much Lao silk end up in Museums and galleries.

But there are serious problems. Samorn sees silk weaving in Laos caught between the intrusion of modernity from outside and conservatism within:

[The challenges include] globalisation, urbanisation, competition with mass production from China, in terms of raw silk as well as retail. There is the local market production for the tourist industry versus international market: selling products abroad and few have the skill to do so.

Knowledge and skills about various crafts such as weaving and natural dyeing which have existed for centuries are no longer being passed through generations because the young people today aren’t interest or have no desire to use silk or learn the methods, they want a mobile phone and to wear denim jeans.

It is caught in conservative politics. Lao women have the sole responsibility of being ‘guardians’ of culture. As an example of this, during the  ASEAN summit, women who were not in traditional sarongs during the meeting were fined and men were not.

In describing the motivation for starting Eastern Weft, Samorn wanted to show her adopted world the quality of Laos silk:

It was more of coincidence than desire to start a business. I wanted to ‘conserve our national heritage in the face of bewildering change.’ I wanted to keep my connection with my birthplace by giving some highly skilled young people a chance to improve their lives through producing beautiful silk. To show the world what we were capable of  producing by combining traditional weaving techniques with contemporary design. Eastern WEFT does not purely exist as a Fair Trade business, we focus on the technical skills and the beautiful art of Lao weavings.

But it’s not always easy to work with traditional peoples:

Working with Lao people in general is difficult,  they are unpredictable they work in their own time. They will not work during holidays even for extra pay!

And she hopes for the future:

Funding to expand our workshop. Educating people about the skills and dedication and labour required for weaving.