My friend, Monica, and I take a tuk tuk from Luang Prabang to the edge of town where we will stay for 5 nights. Instead of a hotel reception area, we're let out onto a grassy lawn with clothelines of dyed yarn drying, and through the colorful skeins, hear a smoothie whirring at the bar overlooking the Mekong River, and beyond that, women on wooden looms offering a kind of drumbeat to the jazz of this happy band of people. We've arrived at the world of Ock Pop Tok.
It began in 1999 when Englishwoman, Jo, is photographing development projects in Laos; and Veo is a Laotian designing fresh approaches to traditional textiles. These two ridiculously talented women come together and form Ock Pop Tok (East Meets West) and begin to rock the textile world of Southeast Asia.
Jo and Veo started with 5 weavers; they now work with over 500 artisans across Laos. 20 Master Weavers create together at this Living Crafts Center, among them Mrs. Ting, whose smile alone closes the language gap.
Here is why she smiles:
The weavers at the center earn 3 times the official minimum wage of Laos,
can take out an interest-free loan,
receive a bonus as a share of profit,
and travel abroad, often for the first time, as cultural Ambassasdors for Laos.
And they create. Out of their own traditions, they innovate - like the long cultural thread of real-deal indigo now finding expression in a new kimono design with ibu.
Veo and Jo and Mrs. Ting and the women of Ock Pop Tok live close to my heart. Watch the video below and let them tell you in their own words why they are smiling. And in that is good reason for us to smile, too.
Wear some joy ~
Susan Hull Walker
Watch the video about Ock Pop Tok above!