Who We Work With

For many years, the hill tribe people of Thailand have led a semi-nomadic lifestyle, supporting their families by engaging in slash and burn agriculture. As these methods of agriculture become less viable for them, most of these groups have found it increasingly hard to support their families.

Creating handicrafts is a positive outlet for these hill tribe communities as it provides additional income for their families and encourages them to continue their culture’s traditions that might otherwise become forgotten.

hilltribe collage

The Hilltribes

There are approximately 80,000 Akha living in Thailand. Akha people are found in the mountains of China, Myanmar, Laos, and northern Thailand. The women spin cotton into thread with a hand spindle, as well as weave using a foot-treadle loom. The cloth is dyed with indigo and sown into clothing for their families. The somber blue-black clothing is brightened with embroidery, applique, seeds, silver ornaments, coins, shells, brightly dyed chicken feathers and bright green beetle wings. Akha men make many kinds of baskets, musical instruments and crossbows.

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The Hmong are found in the mountainous regions of China, Laos, Vietnam and Thailand. There are about 151,000 of them in Thailand. Hmong women produce some of the most exquisite needlework to be found anywhere in the world. Hmong are the only producers of batik cloth among the tribal people. Their clothing is richly decorated with magnificent embroidery, applique, cutwork, pom-poms, batik cloth and silver jewelry. Hmong men are skilled blacksmiths and gunsmiths. They also make crossbows, musical instruments, and other items of wood, bamboo, and rattan.

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The Karen are the largest tribal group in Thailand with an estimated 321,000 living in Thailand. There are two major sub-tribes, namely Sgaw Karen and Pwo Karen. Karen women are noted for their ikat (tie-dye) weaving using cotton thread and natural dyes. The weaving is done on a back-strap loom. Karen living in different areas produce their own style of dresses, which give rich variety to handicrafts they produce. Some of them embroider using Job’s tears (seeds) for embellishment. Karen men produce baskets, musical instruments, betel nut boxes and animal bells.

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The Lahu people are found in the mountains of China, Myanmar, Laos, and northern Thailand. There are approximately 100,000 Lahu now living in Thailand. The four sub-tribes of Lahu are Lahu Na, Lahu Sheh Leh, Lahu Shi and Lahu Nyi and they all produce a diversity of designs. Lahu women are skilled in weaving cloth both on back strap and foot treadle looms. Lahu weaving is unique in that the pattern appears on only one side of the cloth. Lahu women also produce delicate and colourful patchwork trims. Lahu men make baskets, crossbows and musical instruments.

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There are only around 16,000 Lawa in Thailand. We are pleased to carry their silver jewelry and their beautiful black hand-woven cloth with ikat (tie-dye) designs.

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There are approximately 55,000 Lisu living in Thailand. They are known for their rich multi-coloured cloth stitched into outfits, and decorated with applique patchwork, tassels, and bead work. Some Lisu also wear layers of hand-crafted silver ornaments for festive occasions. Lisu men are particularly gifted at producing crossbows, bird and animal traps, musical pipes and bamboo flutes.

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The Mien, or Yao tribe are found in China, Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand. There are approximately 44,000 Mien in villages around Thailand. Mien women are noted for their beautiful cross-stitch embroidery and Mien silversmiths produce lovely silver jewelry of the highest quality.

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