Write a review
"This is the greatest challenge I face now: trying to help Akha women generate income to improve their lives."
"I’m very proud of my tribe's needlework legacy, and I am fascinated by the colorful products inspired by the imagination and respect for the tribal way of life, culture and art. My mother began to teach me when I was seven years old.
"I'm a member of the Akha hill tribe and my name, Pornpen, means 'Filled with goodness.' I come from a village in Doi Chaang Mountain, so called because it looks like two elephants, a mother and a child, standing with their faces pointing to north. My family grows coffee, vegetables and fruit. Sewing is both a necessity and a hobby for the women in my family. My mother taught my sisters and me to spin thread when we were about six years old because she needed our help, as she alone could not make sufficient threads to make clothes for the entire family. Now my sisters spin thread at every available moment, like when they are walking to the field or when they are sitting by fireside in the evening.
"When I finished elementary school my grades were so good that I received a scholarship from the Queen of Thailand. Being poor, I was so proud and honored, because it is difficult to get this scholarship. I was able continue my studies in a place called Chinese village, founded by Chinese Koumintang soldiers from Yunan, escaping communism in China after the 1949 revolution.
"Later, I moved to Chiang Rai Province to join the Mission of Mercy Project and attend Chiang Rai Vocational College. In 2005, I got an opportunity to travel to Seattle, USA, to study English as part of a cultural exchange. This opportunity changed my whole world. I was able to speak English and learn the way of living and thinking of American people, while at the same time teach them about Thai life and thought.
"In 2006, I came back to Thailand to finish a university degree in Chiang Mai province. To support myself I worked weekdays as an assistant sales manager for a company that exports mulberry paper. I resigned after four years to pursue a master's degree I hoped would help me fulfill my goal: I want to help hill tribe women to improve their living conditions in the mountains.
"I have my own simple way of life and I am satisfied with who I am, living economically. Though I would like to tell you something quite funny that happened to me when I was standing in a very long line to buy a book. So I decided to put my headphones on and play a game, but really the line was moving fast and I hadn't realize the lady at the desk was calling me. Behind me, everyone was trying to get my attention but I didn't see them, they could have tapped me on the shoulder, right? Well, instead they decided to move lines and the lady actually came round to nudge me! I was like, 'what’s going on?!' Luckily a nice man on another line decided to tell me what happened… I was so embarrassed!
"I love my cultural heritage, and I enjoy participating in traditional feasts and ceremonies, such as the Loy Krathong Festival at the palace, and the Songkran Festival.
"When I am in the hills I like to dress up in the traditional hill tribe clothes my mother makes. I also like to listen to the experiences of the elders and learn their lessons in life. At the same time I do not forget to study and to follow world events, in order to be fully prepared to for life's challenges.
"Akha women learn needlework when they are young, to use in their daily and tribal lives. They are very skilled but cannot apply this skill to earn a living due to language limitations, lack of a ready market, lack in knowledge of product development, of organization in a group, systematic management, and lack of working capital.
"This is the greatest challenge I face now: trying to help Akha women generate income to improve their lives. To do so, I focus on designing products that suit a more modern lifestyle while at the same time rescuing traditional skills and artistry. I currently work with financially deprived tribeswomen who are skilled in needlework, who have pride in hill tribe folk art and culture, and who wish to preserve our traditions.
"I meet with the women and together we decide which patterns and color combinations will work best in a specific item. This process is quite lengthy as it involves applying the imagination and ideas of the tribeswomen, and often the integration of several needlework techniques. I supply the necessary raw materials, which are environment friendly raw materials.
"With this work, tribeswomen are given chance to earn an income working from home while still attending to the needs of their families. It means they are no longer faced with having to move away from their community to improve their quality of life. In addition, the tribeswomen learn production skills and gain business experience which strengthen their ability to rely on themselves and thus strengthens their community.
"Being associated with Novica means an opportunity for tribeswomen in remote area to present to the world their beautiful creations. I, on behalf of the hill tribes in Thailand, would like to thank Novica customer for your kindness. You can be the one who supports the efforts of hill tribe women in northern Thailand by purchasing beautiful handmade art from mountain villages."
Love this artist's products? View more