This project has been guided and partnered by Aid to Artisans, Hartford, USA and supported by a grant from American Express Foundation, New York.

Special thanks to

Aid to Artisans

  • Clare Brett Smith, President Emerita

  • Sonu Rangnekar, Director - Programs and New Business

  • Jessie McComb, Coordinator - Programs and New Business

In Laos

  • Ms. Rasanikone Nanong, Vice President and founder of the Lao Handicraft Association

  • Chanthao Pathammavong, President, Lao Handicraft Association

  • Khamla Phandanouvong, National Project Coordinator, UNIFEM

  • Lao Handicraft Association, Vientiane

At Craft Revival Trust, New Delhi

  • Ranjana Mohan, Coordinator

  • Meha Desai, Editor

  • Sisel Peter, Software Analyst

  • Ragini Lal, Chipsoft

  • Parveen Kumar, Chipsoft

It is always interesting to read about another place, another country, another community as it allows one to partake of the culture of that place, albeit remotely. And here was a country, a political entity, small in size and yet with so much cultural and ethno-linguistic diversity, much like India.

While politically and geographically speaking Laos may well be small – it is in no way an indication of its simplicity, its homogeneity. Each area or province has it own unique distinct traditions, colours and patterns and a way of life. There is a tremendous plurality of musical and architectural forms, handicrafts, ritual practices, customs, family structures, languages, literature and oral traditions.

In this documentation, craft categorisation is based on the materials used with the following exceptions:

  • Musical Instruments

  • Textiles

  • Buddhist Art – painting, sculpture and carving

  • Jewelry

This documentation has laid greater emphasis on textiles as compared to other handicrafts, for two reasons. Firstly, information is more readily available and secondly, the fact that 80% of the contribution to the handicrafts sector comes from textiles.

Statistics have been used – but these are to be regarded as general indicators rather than accurate numbers – for statistics vary notably from source to source.

In Laos, like many South East and South Asian cultures, crafts and cultures have survived partly because the producers and consumers of the craft have to some extent been the same. Crafts are well integrated into the customs and lifestyle of the people - textiles are woven for daily usage and as rites of passage, basket and fish nets meet the daily needs of the people, tools are hand crafted to meet the agricultural and other needs of the people. The upkeep and patronage of the Buddhist temples and wealthy families further supported the system.

This equation is fast changing. How Laos fares remains to be seen. There are several efforts and initiatives taken by the Government, at times with the support of foreign agencies to bring the crafts, especially textiles, from the domestic into the commercial sector – by raising both the quality of the final products and raw materials. There is a recognition that something needs to be done.

The photographs in this documentation have primarily been taken by Craft Revival Trust. The material has been compiled from the following secondary sources, researched by Craft Revival Trust –

  • Websites primarily

  • Published works

    • Lao Textiles and Traditions
      By Mary Connors

    • Costume and Culture: Vanishing textiles of some of the Tai groups in Lao PDR By Patricia Cheesmann Naenna

    • Lao - Tai Textiles: The Textiles of Xam Nuea and Muang Phuan
      By Patricia Cheesmann Naenna

    • Lao Textiles: Ancient Symbols-Living Art
      By Patricia Cheesmann

    • Hmong Batik: A textile technique from Laos
      By Jane Mallinson, Nancy Donnelly, Ly Hang

    • Laos Culture And Society
      By Grant Evans

    • Laos: Its People Its Society Its Culture
      By Frank M. Lebar and Adrienne Suddard

    • Lao Mien Embroidery: Migration and Change
      By Ann Y. Goldman

    • Laos and Ethnic Minority Cultures: Promoting Heritage
      by Yves Goudineau, (Editor)

    • Laos (Lonely Planet)
      By Joe Cummings and Andrew Burke

    • Textiles as Texts: Arts of Hmong Women from Lao
      By Amy Catlin and Dexie Swift

    • Lao Buddha; The Image and Its History
      By Somkiart Lopetcharat

    • Musical Instruments of South-East Asia
      By Eric Taylor

    • Sinh and Lao Women
      By Viengkham Nantgavongdouangsy

    • Textiles ofSouth East Asia – Trade, Tradition and Transformation
      By Robyn Maxwell

    • Legends in the Weaving

    • Jewelry of South East Asia
      By Anne Richter

    • Traditional Lao Patterns
      By Veunvilavong Bounleung

    • Official Tourism Guide Books

  • Unpublished works
    Identification of Market Development Needs for the Silk & Wood Handicraft sectors in Lao PDR, an unpublished article By Cameron Brohman and Nick Pigott

Many of the complexities have been simplified to make reading and comprehension easier. This documentation like the crafts of other Asian countries represents work in progress and the gaps in the documentation particularly where processes are concerned will be filled on an ongoing basis.

Compiled by Ranjana Mohan

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