Handmade Tradition Thriving in Burma
Myanmar, also called Burma, is known as the Golden Land for its many glittering pagodas. Located in Southeast Asia, and just a 45 minute flight from Thailand, it's a country full of untouched nature that boasts five distinct physical regions: northern mountains, western ranges, an eastern plateau, a central basin and lowlands, and coastal plains. Rich with art, culture, and gorgeous architecture, Burma has recently emerged from its many decades of being closed off from much of the world, and is ready to step into the global economy.
The people of Myanmar are known for their wonderful hospitality and beaming smiles, as well as lasting traditions. One such tradition is Thanakha, which is a naturally made product that has been around for over 2,000 years. Made from the inner parts of the Thanakha tree, it is used by men, women, and children alike for not only makeup and beauty-enhancing products, but also sun protection.
Burmese people have become very self-sufficient over the years, and most often not by choice, having to deal with years of political struggle, socialist regimes, and economic survival. It is through upholding the tradition of the hand-crafted industry that Myanmar has been able to keep this noble craft alive and keep the notion of handmade products using natural material thriving.
Arts and Crafts are quite common in Myanmar. Everywhere you travel in the country, you'll see artisan-made products sold in markets and shops. After decades of being separated from the global economy, the Burmese has learned to be creative and use their craft for personal means.
Nearly 60% of the handmade industry in Burma comes from rural areas, and the basket weaving tradition is one of the oldest handcraft that has been passed down from generation to generation as a means of support and providing for the family. This is especially true of the busy housewives in rural villages, who largely stay home and earn extra income by basket weaving to help for living.
Husbands earn the primary income in the family by cultivating rice and seasonal crops, while the wives care for the children and take care of the home. This is where they make time to earn extra income by weaving baskets at home or by going to a village gathering place to use their labor and skills to support their families. The gathering place also serves as a small, comforting community spot where the women can exchange conversation, talking about everyday joys, pleasures, and also share struggles with their peers.
Dancing with Rattan
The delicate craftsmanship and noble skill of these basket weavers in Burma is nearly unparalleled in the entire world. Women and men alike from small rural areas and quaint villages use their incredible manual dexterity and artistic ability, as their hands seem to almost dance with the rattan material harvested from palm trees. With amazing speed and incredible accuracy, the nimble, skillful hands of the weavers shape the rattan into amazing baskets and elegant shapes used for hand-woven utensils and household items. This centuries-old tradition of handmade crafting has survived hundreds of years and continues to thrive among the families of Myanmar. It's a unique characteristic of the Burmese people unlike any other across the globe.
In addition to basket weaving, Burma is known for the skillful wood turners that inhabit rural villages. With dedicated workmanship, these individual artisans transform single blocks of wood in beautiful bowls and more, using their skillful hands to meticulously create works of art. Riding the bevel for smooth cuts, the handmade performance works the material into quality pieces for your collection, all the way through sanding and finishing. In most cases, no two hand-turned pieces are alike, as nature shapes the materials into something special, much like the country of Burma itself!