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Spotlight on Lao Artisans!

Lao Artisans in the Spotlight!

During our annual Village Market Fair a few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to collaborate with photographers Nicolas Henry and Floriane de Lassée to put some of the Lao artisans we work with - through our Village Weavers Project - in the spotlight. A beautiful opportunity for us to highlight these artisans, their ethnic groups and their crafts.

Customers often ask us about our challenges… One of them is how we make weaving and the production of handicrafts attractive to the younger generation.

We try to do this by, one, proving that handicrafts and weaving are viable ways of making an above decent living.

And two, by raising the social profile of Lao artisans by putting them in the spotlight. Either by participating in exhibitions around the world that promote crafts. Or through collaborations like the one that happened at our Living Crafts Centre during our annual Village Market fair a few weeks ago…

We were delighted to collaborate with photographers Nicolas Henry (@nicolas_henry_photographe) and Floriane de Lassée (@florianedelassee) from @photoclimat_officiel. They literally put the artisans in the spotlight… An opportunity for us to highlight these artisans, their ethnic groups and, their crafts.

Spotlighting the artisans this way goes back to our mission statement…

In these images (see below), the artisans are surrounded by the utensils and objects that they use to create their craft and their craft themselves. Spotlighting the artisans this way goes back to our mission statement and our commitment to raising the social and financial profile of the artisans in Laos. Both here and abroad.

We work with these artisans through our Village Weavers Project which is a series of initiatives that create economic opportunities for artisans in rural locations around the country.

We help develop ranges of handicrafts that combine craftsmanship and tradition with artistic creativity and market knowledge. Our team of weavers, dyers, designers and, tailors transfer their skills to aid artisans to make a better living from handicrafts.

We are able to create thriving village enterprises…

Currently this work takes place in 14 provinces, with 15 different ethnic groups. Combining a passion for these deep-rooted cultures and the handmade traditions with our business savvy, we are able to create thriving village enterprises. They get the opportunity to share (and of course sell) their authentic Made in Laos products at market fairs both locally and internationally.

Tai Daeng

opt laos blog vwp artisans highlight Tai Daeng - Lao

Pictured here Mrs. Ngam, a weaver, from Ban Nakok, Nambak District, Luang Prabang Province. 

Every now and then a textile so exquisite and unique shows up on our doorstep. The first of these was back in 2001, when a trader from Houaphan Province brought to the gallery a long Tai Daeng cloth of ikat and supplementary weaving designs. Tai Daeng weavers are known to be among the most skilled weavers in Laos. Veo, a textile connoisseur, was rendered speechless.

Ethnologists write that Lao textiles can be traced back to specific villages because the design is so representative of that unique culture or family. Jo and Veo decided to put that theory to test. They set off for Houaphan, textile in hand, looking for the woman who had made this cloth.

To cut a long story short they did indeed find that artisan, the connection had thus been made with a remote community and together they started working on reproducing textiles that took in some cases six months to produce. This was how the Village Weaver Projects started.

Read more about the Tai Daeng and the start of the Village Weavers Project, here.

Tai Lue

opt laos blog vwp artisans highlight tailue - Lao

Pictured here, Paa Vanthong, a weaver from Ban Nayang, Nambak District, Luang Prabang Province.

The Tai Lue have one of the oldest recorded histories, their first kingdom being recorded in 1180. The Tai Lue people have many communities throughout Laos and Thailand, often as farmers living in simple stilt houses. Tai Lue women wear long colourful sinhs and typically wear their long black hair done up in a fan-like bun on top of their heads. They are well known for their ornate motifs woven into silk and cotton textiles.

Read more about the Tai Lue and our work with them through our Village Weavers Project here.

Akha

Pictured here, Mrs. Feng Tonglai, an embroiderer, from Ban Lhakham, Sing District, Luang Namtha Province. And Mrs. Saper, an embroiderer from Ban Phapoun, Bouneua Disttrict, Phongsaly Province.

The Akha people are found in Northern parts of Laos, Thailand, Burma, Vietnam and China. Their population in Laos is estimated at just over 100,000. The Akha speak a Sino-Tibetan language and are believed to have originated in China and moved to Laos early in the 19th Century. The Akha ethnic group is used to group together a number of sub-groups and clans that share a strong identity and lifestyle. Women in these clans are famous for their silver headdresses, adorned with coins and beads. They traditionally live in remote mountain areas in the North of Laos and practice indigo dying, embroidery and, appliqué.

Read more about the Akha and our work with them through our Village Weavers Project here

Katu

opt laos blog vwp artisans highlight katu - Lao

Pictured here, Ms. Phet, a weaver, from Ban Houeyhoun, Laongam District, Salavan Province. 

There are roughly 83,000 Katu spread out in villages in Salavan, Sekong and Champasak Provinces in southern Laos. A Mon-Khmer group, the Katu are believed to have migrated to Laos from southeastern India and southern China. Skilled weavers and cotton growers, the Katu weave using backstrap loom and are known for incorporating beads into their weaving. Strong animist beliefs are reflected in the abundance of nature motifs in their textiles.

Read more about the Katu and our work with them through our Village Weavers Project here.

Khmu

opt laos blog vwp artisans highlight khmu - Lao

Pictured here, Mrs. Ven from Ban Mang, Bang District, Omdomxay Province. She crochet bags and other products from piet, a local jungle vine.

The Khmu are native to Lao and represent nearly a third of the country’s population. Khmu means “real people” or “human being”. In the 13th century, the Lao ethnic group immigrated to the areas occupied by the Khmu, who retreated to the highlands. The Khmu have continued to live in relative isolation, practicing animist religion and cultivating rice and foraging in forest, much as they have for centuries.

Read more about the Khmu and our work with them through our Village Weavers Project here.

Lanten

opt laos blog vwp artisans highlight lanten - Lao

Pictured here, Mrs. Tamon, an embroiderer from Ban Nam Chang, Houey Xai District, Bokeo Province.

The Lanten are the indigo masters of Laos, in fact their name Lanten means ‘those that dye cloth’ in Chinese. They migrated from China around one hundred years ago. There are only eleven Lanten villages in Laos. With a population of around 6,500, they are one of the smallest of all the ethnic groups in the country.

Read more about the Lanten and our work with them through our Village Weavers Project here.

Oma

opt laos blog vwp artisans highlight oma - Lao

Pictured here, Mrs. Khaisoung, an embroiderer, from Ban Lonthang, Bountai District, Phongsaly Province.

The Oma are one of Laos’ least populous ethnic groups, with an estimated 2,000 persons in seven villages of Phongsaly Province. The Oma are accomplished cotton farmers, indigo dyers and embroiderers, as seen in their colourful and unique traditional clothing. Residing in remote mountain villages, the Oma still retain many of their traditional practices. For example, Oma women still make and wear traditional clothing, including a long distinctive appliqué headscarf worn by married women.

Read more about the Oma and our work with them through our Village Weavers Project here.

Lao Lum

opt laos blog vwp artisans highlight Lao lum - Lao

Pictured here, Mrs. Panee from Ban Phonsay, Luang Prabang District, Luang Prabang Province.

Mrs. Panee is a full-time weaver at Ock Pop Tok. You can meet the rest of our weavers, most of them are from the Lao lum ethnic group, here.

Read more about Mrs. Panee here.

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