At RedGreen Rivers™, our products are not mass produced, because we focus on quality and authenticity. We believe that artistic talent born from traditional indigenous designs can create sustainable communities.
- We believe the maker is as important as the art.
- We promote artisan handicrafts to create economic opportunities and preserve cultural designs and knowledge.
- We recognize that the status of women and girls is the litmus test of how communities are doing overall, so we choose to work closely with women and girl artisans to increase their economic opportunities.
- We believe in fair and direct trade practices and use them to benefit the artisan maker.
Please learn more about our artisan makers below:
Ying comes from a long line of batik experts; her skills have been passed down from generations of grandmothers. She married at 18, and has made and sold her batik textiles to support her six children. Since 2005 when her husband passed away, Ying has been the sole provider for her family. To make ends meet Ying also has a maize farm where she and other small farmers export their maize to neighboring countries. In the past, on an annual basis, she could earn up to $2,000 from her batik, and $2,250 from her maize farm. With this earning she has single handedly put all her children through college.
Today, Ying is a master batik artisan; among only a handful left. Ying is frequently invited to demonstrate her skills at handicraft fairs. She has passed on her skills to her 20 year old daughter. She uses natural bee’s wax and indigo to make her batik textiles. She is able to replicate traditional designs, but also works with RedGreen Rivers to create new designs. Watch Ying's story.
Pang has been a silversmith for 22 years, making traditional Hmong jewelry. Pang’s parents were very poor and didn’t allow her to continue her education; so she decided to learn the art of silversmithing from her three uncles who were all silversmiths. Three days after she got married, at the young age of 15 years old, she began making jewelry full time to support her family. During periods of high demand, Pang and her husband can make up to 8,000 baht per month ($244), but that does not happen regularly. To supplement their livelihood, they are also seasonal rice farmers.
Pang and her husband understood the importance of education, and returned to school as adults. They both now have graduated from high school. Pang has five children and she made sure they all received formal education.
Chu dropped out of school at the age of 15. Her parents could not support five children, and her teachers showed little interest in her education. Lacking support, she felt leaving school would lessen the stress on her parents. Her story is like that of many young women in Laos.
Fortunately, Chu’s aunt re-enrolled her at the Vientiane Capital school a year later. Being a young Hmong woman from a remote village meant she was not fluent in the official Lao language, and at 16 Chu was placed in third grade. Taunted and teased by younger children, Chu did not quit. She persevered to become a successful student and leader.
She joined VivNcaug, a Hmong women’s group. With their support, she spent a year in Cambodia learning English. Chu’s amazing journey is an inspiration for other Hmong girls. Today, making Hmong handicrafts, such as the Hmong cloth balls or “pob,” helps Chu earn money to pay for school uniform, books, transportation, food, clothing, and English classes.
MaiYang lives in a small village on a picturesque hillside next to a two-lane highway surrounded by rice paddies where the jungle is her backyard. Her village is in the center of one of the most heavily bombed provinces in Laos by the US government during the Vietnam War.
MaiYang is especially talented with her hands. She makes a variety of handicrafts, including embroidery, reverse applique, and cross-stitching paj ntaub. It takes at least one day to finish one piece, but she’s had to sell it for less than $2. She hopes more people see the value of her artistry and skills and supports her handiwork. The income earned will help her achieve her goals.
At the age of 8 Mang learned to batik Hmong skirts from her parents. When she married at 16, she began teaching her husband’s family to batik. Her husband saw how hard she worked using the traditional tool (dlav/diav, which translates into spoon), and eventually developed metal molds in the same designs as traditional batik drawings. The metal molds made the batik process faster and more precise because instead of drawing every line and swirl, one could now dip the mold in wax and just stamp the pattern onto hemp or cotton cloth. It takes approximately one day to make three rolls of six meter cloth (not including the indigo dying process). Mang has been able to support her family by making batik fabrics, and she’s also been able to employ other family members. Watch Mang's story.
Bao Moua and her husband, Shoua Ying Thao, have been making jewelry since they were teenagers. For over 20 years, they’ve refined their craft carrying on the skills that have been passed down the family for at least three generations. Shoua Ying’s grandfather was recruited to work among a select group of silversmiths for the Royal Hilltribe Project founded by the King and Queen of Thailand. This history makes Shoua Ying feel proud of his family’s skills.
MAY YIA THAO
May Yia is a young tenacious business woman who has taken care of her family since she was a teenager. Watch May Yia's story.