Fair trade textile business wraps up

The following article was published Sept. 30, 2014 in South Shore News (and the Progress Bulletin newspaper in Nova Scotia, Canada).

Note: We will continue to sell our textiles through shows in Nova Scotia until they all find new homes. See our Events page for show listings. You can also order from our SHOP page until Nov. 28, 2014.

We will keep this website and blog to continue to share the stories of these remarkable artisans online. Browse through our blog (see Older Posts too or search for topics that interest you), visit the Artisans page and learn about Weaving Culture in Thailand and Laos.

Young Lao village weaver at her loom
Young Lao village silk weaver at her loom

For seven years, Mahone Bay-based Tammachat Natural Textiles has visited and worked with more than a dozen women's weaving co‑ops, social enterprises, certified fair trade businesses and family weaving groups in Thailand and Laos.

This fall, co-founders Alleson Kase and Ellen Agger will be wrapping up their business with a large textile show in Mahone Bay from October 3 to 5, 2014 and with a number of smaller shows around the province.

By helping hundreds of international weavers reach new customers in Canada, Tammachat supported them in their efforts to preserve their artistic and cultural traditions and to create additional income for rural families.

Ms Kase, who returned to Canada after living eight years in Thailand to pursue a degree in international development, said, "When women have money, they spend it on nutrition, education and housing.

"This work has helped enhance the status of women in their communities," she added, "and we've been proud to support that. Their textiles are beautiful, especially the organic silk scarves and fabrics."

However, the membership of weaving groups in Thailand has shrunk over the years, explains Ms Kase, despite their attempts to find new, younger members.

"When the co-op that inspired us to launch Tammachat Natural Textiles announced last year its decision to close its shop, we were prompted to re-examine our own priorities. We decided, like the members of Prae Pan, that we were ready for a change."

Since 2007, Tammachat has sold more than 5,000 handwoven, naturally dyed and fairly traded textiles through shows and fairs across Nova Scotia. Tammachat has also donated thousands of books to children in rural Laos through Big Brother Mouse, a pioneering social enterprise that works to increase literacy in Laos. Its program publishes and distributes books in the Laotian language, featuring the work of young Laotian artists who create beautifully illustrated books for young readers. Tammachat gives one book to a child in Laos for each textile piece it sells to support this project.

Ms Kase and Ms Agger plan to continue their travels in Southeast Asia and hope to find new ways of connecting with communities there. Meanwhile, they will hold their final big show during the Great Scarecrow Festival and Antique Fair at the Mahone Bay Centre, this weekend.

"We want their stories to inspire others. These are hard-working and remarkable women who weave very special textiles that are both beautiful and environmentally friendly," Ms Kase said.