"Thai-Burma Bordercrafts provides a combination of a safe place to learn and work, and an opportunity to open young Burmese migrants' minds through the creative process."
"Thai-Burma Bordercrafts is a social enterprise providing a combination of a safe place to learn and work, while opening young Burmese migrants’ minds through the creative process," explains designer Nancy Chuang. "Talented budding artists develop their skills under professional tutelage and learn to manage a sustainable business by setting their production schedule and working with customers. We are located in Thailand’s Tak province which shares a border with Burma’s Karen state.
"While there is a thriving art scene in larger cities like Yangon, most migrant Burmese on the Thailand border come from small towns or villages where art is unfamiliar. There are skilled teaching artists among the Burmese migrant population, but there are far too many migrant schools to provide art education for all. Creative expression and critical thinking are unusual concepts in schools along the border, where learning is done by rote memorization.
"Some of our staff pass their knowledge on, teaching art to migrant Burmese students at primary schools. Our young staff has also given training in sewing, paper jewelry, woodworking, and motorcycle repair for middle school-aged migrant students.
"After completing high school, apprentices train with us in art foundation or the basics of woodworking. When the apprenticeship period is finished, the staff continues to develop skills and vision while working on our unique products. Our social enterprise strives to be self-sufficient, and run only on income from sales.
"Most of our designs fall within four categories: ceramics, batik painting, recycled crafts, and reclaimed woodwork. We painstakingly hand-paint designs onto ceramic pendants, draw our batik designs freehand, and look around the community for materials we can recycle.
"Artisans earn a living wage in a beautiful outdoor space, with reasonable working hours. They have more free time than many of their counterparts, and many opportunities to learn new techniques from mentor artists and visiting artists. Our organization helps them to get their working documents for Thailand, removing some of the dangers many migrants face, and allowing them the chance to grow through travel.
"We are always in need of more recruits, as many young Burmese (or their parents) don’t recognize art as a viable career, while trained staff often move on to other work. The opportunity to sell products through Novica—increasing our customer base and thus our sustainability—will go a long way towards making Thai-Burma Bordercrafts a final career destination rather than a stepping stone."