As the coronavirus pandemic impacts artisans around the world, our non-profit partner, Turquoise Mountain, has come up with a creative solution to help combat the mask shortage. Utilising offcuts from handmade heritage fabrics, the artisan team in Yangon have crafted a collection of unique, handwoven masks. Each mask supports women artisans in Myanmar.
To celebrate the launch of our face masks, we spoke to the Turquoise Mountain team to learn more about their vital work in supporting women artisans in Myanmar.
How would you describe Turquoise Mountain in one line?
Turquoise Mountain is a charity dedicated to preserving built and intangible heritage, especially in conflict-afflicted regions.
What does Turquoise Mountain firmly believe in?
We believe in the power of creation and beauty. We often work with communities affected by hardship – conflict, poverty, natural disasters. To be able to create something of beauty, to pass on and celebrate those traditions that anchor a community in time and place, amidst all of this can be transformative.
Artisan Hakha with her backstrap loom in Western Myanmar. Image: Turquoise Mountain
As an organisation working to improve the lives of those in the handmade crafts sector in Myanmar, is there anything that you would like people to know?
That Myanmar is a country with incredibly rich craft traditions (textiles, jewellery-making, lacquerware, and so on) and that it can grow to become a leading global supplier of high-end craft products.
Have you received any feedback from people who have benefited from your project? If so, what have they told you?
“My name is Daw La Bi Lu Jan. I received the orders [for fabric headboards for a hotel client] from the office. I want to say thanks to the Lord for connecting me with this job. It was a challenge weaving in silk at the very beginning. I wanted to give up some times but the people I work with always cheer me up whenever I feel depressed. I am very proud of being a backstrap weaver, and that other people from different countries appreciate and notice our work, designs, and Kachin traditional patterns. This work allows me to cover my living costs and is making me feel more comfortable. I am really very thankful that I can weave more tidy and beautiful, and I have felt that I have improved my skills gradually. It is unbelievable that I can do this beautiful work. I hope that we can work together long." - Daw La Bi Lu Jan (70 years), a home-based weaver from Myitkyina, Kachin State.
Weaver Daw La Bi Lu Jan at her home. Image: Turquoise Mountain
Complete the sentence “Social responsibility is…”
Caring for people and the environment.
Myanmar has a rich history of textile production, from backstrap to frame loom weaving, and over 135 ethnic groups, many with their own textile tradition. Image: Turquoise Mountain
Since 2017, Turquoise Mountain has been working with female weavers from rural areas across Myanmar, supporting them to learn new skills, improve their income, and produce textiles rooted in heritage.
We also spoke to the artisan team in Myanmar to learn more about how these face masks were crafted.
What is your name?
My name is Wai Mar Hnin.
What is your age?
I am 38 years old.
Where are you from?
Shwe Pyi Thar township, Hlaw Gar, Yangon, Myanmar.
Where and when did you learn your craft?
10 years ago at Thein Gyi Market, Yangon, Myanmar.
What is your favourite thing about creating your pieces?
The part that I like the most is drafting the patterns. Since I was a young girl, I have enjoyed thinking up designs and creating them. Now, when I am working with clients, they sometimes ask me to create a design for them, and when I see that they like it and wear my creation, I feel very proud and happy.