I recently stumbled on Above Studio, a small business supporting artisan villagers in rural Thailand, and was immediately drawn to the tasteful and beautiful designs of their handwoven bags.
Sommy, the founder of Above Studio, grew up near Bangkok and works with artisans in three different villages, providing them with work in their off-seasons after the harvest. Sommy has a passion for providing economic empowerment to Above’s makers, improving their local communities, and upholding sustainable environmental practices in her production process. Scroll through for my interview with Sommy!
What inspired you to start Above Studio?
Ever since I found the hidden beauties of handcrafted products from local villagers, I want to be the one who help connect their extraordinary weaving skill to the world. Their woven baskets are so durable and neat. I came up with an idea of designing products that I like and making orders to them. Lastly, I always want people to experience our unique culture from my home country and, at the same time, to help local villagers improve their quality of life through their skills.
How many artisans work on your pieces?
I am currently working with 3 villages. (approximately 10-15 ppl per village, so total would be 30 roughly.)
What is the design process like?
I create the designs and patterns and sourcing the natural materials together with locals. After that, I pass them the patterns, designs, colors, and then the local artisans will weave the bags for me.
How are the bags made? Do you use natural materials?
“Most of the products are made from Water Hyacinth from the Chao Praya River, Thailand. Water hyacinth is a serious weed that clogs waterways. We recycle those unwanted plants to become accessories while making money for the villagers.” -Sommy, founder of Above Studio
The process takes more than a couple months to preparing the material for weaving. Dedication and passion are what make this work special and unique!
How do you incorporate sustainability into your business?
Sustainability is the number one objective of Above’s business.
“We looked only for local artisans who are in need and are from small remote villages in Thailand. We also ensure the raw materials used by the artisans are from natural resources and do not create a negative environmental impact.”
Furthermore, it is very important to make sure that the work we do makes an impact to these local communities, helping them create a sustainable environment and long-term economic growth.
Tell us about the artisans-how does Above empower them and help them build their lives?
“There are many villagers in Thailand and most of Thai craftswomen are farmers since our country is agricultural. During the farmer's season, there is plenty of work but after harvest season the farmers don’t really have a job. Above Studio provides them with an income during the off-season.”
Every product sold contributes back to the local communities and aids whatever the local people need. For example, clean water and the local school’s needs, in order to help our community to create a better and more sustainable life.