Monday, July 15, 2013
Vendor of the Month - Bead Art From the Heart
In my random walk of life a mutual friend introduced me to Thispuda (Da), a woman from Northern Thailand. The village she was from had rain during the rice harvest 2 years in a row, damaging the crop. She was looking for jobs for her people that were unrelated to weather. She taught herself to bead so that she could teach them the fundamentals. Because they don’t speak English and I don’t speak Thai, I make a movie of my hands making each design. I send them a DVD, paper instructions translated by Da and beadwork at various stages of completion. Slowly, I learned the partially made pieces are best since the Thai are not use to graphs and written instructions. It is very rural, so I send them beads, thread, needles, wax, and anything else they need to create the beadwork. When they have made samples, they send the work to me and I show them corrections on the DVD and then they make so many I can ‘t sell them fast enough. They say, “Get more customers so we have more work” (Da translates this to me). I look forward to many more years with Da’s people. I have not visited Thailand yet. So far, I am funding the work myself, so I tell them would you rather meet me or have work? No question in their mind, they need work. I’ll meet them in a few more years when I can sell all they can make.
They work out of their homes and are paid by the piece. Mostly, women do this work, but two of the men bead as well. We pay the beaders about twice the minimum wage. Da says we must pay them a bit less than they make picking fruit so that we do not hurt the local economy instead of helping it. Each August they take a month off to pick the longen, which is a sweet-sour fruit used to make beverages. At the end of every year we have a party where they have dinner and celebration and we give out blankets. It is cold in the northern regions of Thailand and Da says blankets are the best gifts.
I have faced many problems I did not imagine in this process. Importing, exporting, movie production and web sites were all new to me. Every time I hit a problem and felt overwhelmed, I would think of Da and all she does to help her people even though she now lives very comfortably in the US and of her people who need the work. So, each time I hit a new hurdle, I sighed, got a cup of tea and began again. I am glad I did. I find this project has given me a connection to the world I never felt before. And, when I am not overwhelmed, I feel happier than I have ever been. Thank you for your interest in our work.
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