Making a Difference - An update from the villages
Why hello there! My name is Ashley and I am the designer for Lotus and Luna. In the spirit of National Make a Difference Day, I wanted to remind you all that you were born with the ability to make a difference, and that even the smallest action can create a ripple effect of positive change and growth. Here at Lotus and Luna, our action is supporting and empowering our artisan villages with consistent work they love, a more comfortable life, and lessons in business.
Personally, I have the unique and fulfilling privilege of travelling all the way to Thailand to work with our talented artisans and sharing their beautiful creations with all of you. Having the opportunity to see first hand how our impact has improved their local economies and overall quality of life is one that I never take for granted, and that reinvigorates and inspires me with every visit. Here is a little update from my most recent trip, where I worked on our upcoming Spring/Summer '19 Collections.
This past trip was a quick one - two weeks in Chiang Mai. I always stay in the old city, which is about an hour away from both of the two villages I visit. One is in Doi Saket and the other is in Mae Rim.
I spent most of my days in the jewelry village working with our head artisan, Rung. She is one amazing boss lady who taught her entire family and village how to bead. She makes sure that all of our production runs smoothly and that each bracelet is made with precision and care.
Bead by bead, I design each bracelet with a particular collection's theme in mind. When I finish laying out the design, Rung assigns an artisan to make the sample. Physically being in Thailand and communicating with them directly makes this process a lot easier than doing it from overseas on a different time zone. A few of the artisans are even picking up some English through this process, so as I teach them English words, they teach me a little Thai and then we all giggle at our mispronunciations!
My favorite part of the day is lunch time when we get to have a home-cooked Thai meal made by Rung's mother or the artisans will take me to their favorite local spots.
After many days of creating the designs and samples, our collections are laid out and finalized. Rung then assigns each artisan a bracelet design along with the materials needed and they are able to make each bracelet from the comfort of their own home. Although we may only have five to ten artisans working with us at Rung's there is a constant flow of artisans coming and going on their scooters to pick up materials and deliver finished bracelets - it's really fun to watch!
Now, let's take a journey into our Apparel Village. Below are two artisans that manage production of all our apparel lines.
Watini is one of the most talented seamstresses I've ever come across. She works extremely hard to provide for her daughter who attends a university in Bangkok and for her 14 year-old son with special needs.
Wilawan is one of Lotus and Luna's first artisans! She helps translate and communicate with our artisans who do not speak English. Sometimes I think she cracks jokes about me in Thai and then translates something completely different back to me--it's pretty hilarious!
It is always such a humbling experience spending time with the artisans. I meet their families, watch their children grow, we share stories over delicious meals, and most importantly we learn from one another. Getting to know our artisans on a personal level is a strong reminder of why we do what we do. Their culture, world views, and keys to happiness are so different than ours, and with each visit I become inspired in a new way.
Also on each trip, I am able to see the direct impact Lotus and Luna has made in the lives of these villagers. This time, I noticed Watini had bought some more updated and comfortable furniture for her home (it was previously very minimal), a new sewing machine, and she even told us she is saving money to buy a new house for her family. Through fundraising and increased wages in the village, Watini is working towards building a new, safer road in this village, something we take for granted here in the USA.
Rung's village started with one small order of a couple hundred singles, which she made all by herself. In 2018 as a whole, that order is about five hundred times the size, and employs roughly sixty five people full time. Imagine one artisan- Rung- making our order- to 65 staff in her villages all working together, but from the comfort of their homes, surrounded by their families. A few short years ago, these same artisans were working long hours, sometimes late into the night, selling their goods one by one at the markets, or working hard in the rice fields.
Seeing how these people are directly benefiting from our company mission is an amazing feeling that I cannot begin to explain. From small house improvements, to new roads and an ever-growing team, we are humbly honored to be changing lives. In all honestly, my life has changed as well. Being out in Thailand I picked up a new sport that I absolutely fell in love with, Muay Thai--which I've continued to do even back in the states. I wake up every morning grateful for my health, friends, and family, and also for being able to do something that I love that actually makes a difference in someone's life.
With that being said, I want to thank you...Without you, Lotus and Luna would not be able to make a difference in so many people's lives. So I'll be sure to keep doing my best in creating designs you love and we can work together in building this new cycle for these amazing artisans.