CAMACRAFTS fosters family unity by decreasing rural unemployment and subsequent migration to urban centers. An estimated 70% of women who sew for CAMACRAFTS provide the only cash earnings for their families. Money earned from the handicrafts is largely used to send their kids to school, and to supply food and medicine. This income supplements the produce they receive from their farms, which is typically their only means of livelihood.
CAMACRAFTS’ handicraft products are entirely handmade by Lao and Hmong village women who use traditional patterns and techniques. CAMACRAFTS strives to preserve the traditional needlework skills of Hmong and Lao women, such as Hmong appliqué, cross stitch, embroidery, and batik.
CAMACRAFTS is a non profit project of CAMA Services and was established in 1990. CAMA Services has been involved in building schools and clean water projects in the Lao PDR and is currently involved in teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) and working with Lao partners in a silk and mulberry project. For more information about CAMA Services, click here.
CAMACRAFTS has worked with over 400 Hmong and Lao people, in over 20 different villages. CAMACRAFTS initially taught villagers how to make the handicrafts they sell today. The villagers then use their traditional skills to make the handicrafts and pass on the methods to others. CAMACRAFTS currently employs around twelve Hmong and Lao men and women who work in the CAMACRAFTS office, and over two hundred Hmong and Lao villagers who are mostly from the Vientiane municipality and the Xieng Khuang province.
CAMACRAFTS strives to generate income as an aid to development for local people, and as a result of this, approximately 40% of sales profits return to the original producers. Thirty percent of sales income is used for raw materials, which CAMACRAFTS purchases and provides, free of charge, to the producers. The other 30% of sales covers the overhead costs of CAMACRAFTS national Lao staff. Overhead expenses and all expatriate staff are funded by grants given by private funding agencies, third parties, and individual donors.
CAMACRAFTS takes measures to ensure quality and consistency in the crafts we sell. The process of making a CAMACRAFT handicraft is as follows. Initially, CAMACRAFTS prepares a ‘handicraft kit’ which will be taken to a villager. This kit is supplied by CAMACRAFTS so that there are no expenses to the artisan. The package includes a design pattern of a handicraft to be made, raw materials that are precut, and thread. Packages are carefully prepared by national Lao staff who work at CAMACRAFTS’ head office. The village producer receives the package, which is completely subsidized, and is able to make the handicraft without any expenses.
Next, the ‘handicraft kit’ is taken to a village which specializes in making that specific handicraft. A village may specialize in appliqué, lifescenes, batik, Hmong artistry, or any other design. Producers are given instructions, such as measurements or instructions for custom orders, about how to make each item and when the handicraft is expected to be done by. Handicrafts typically take one to three months to complete as they are made entirely by hand.
CAMACRAFTS currently visits 10 different villages each month. A visit includes dropping off new ‘handicraft kits’ and picking up completed ones. Each village creates a different item, and each village has its own specialty handicraft which it is the best at making. Some villages will start a product, and another may do the finishing touches to the products, or villages may complete the entire handicraft themselves.
When handicraft items are completed they are thoroughly inspected for quality by Lao and Hmong individuals from the CAMACRAFT office. Only the products which meet our quality standards will be sold by CAMACRAFTS. However, CAMACRAFTS does pay all villagers for whatever work they do regardless if it does or does not meet our standards. Only the products that meet the careful inspection will be sold. CAMACRAFTS’ pays the villagers for the work done because we are a self help project which supports development. Handicrafts that meet inspection standards are paid in full. Substandard handicrafts are payed on a slightly reduced rate and the producers are given advice as how to fix the handicraft. If a handicraft is exceptionally done there is bonus pay as further incentive to continue good work. Once the handicraft meets inspection standards it is brought back to the office, packaged and sent to a customer or to a store for sale.
Although we make every effort to accurately represent our handicrafts, please remember that the actual fabric colors may appear slightly different than the website images.