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October 27, 2014

A Taste of Cambodia – The Luminescence Placemat from Lulan Artisans

James Boyce

Lulan Artisans combine authentic craftsmanship and contemporary design to create exquisite products, such as the Luminescence Placemat from Cambodia. Artisans weave each placemat with hand-dyed and hand-woven silk. Despite the modern aesthetic, it is weaved using centuries-old techniques passed down through generations of artisans. In 2003, Eve Blossom founded Lulan, a for-profit social venture that brings together a love and respect for the design and weaving traditions of Southeast Asia. Lulan is built on the basic principles of supporting artisans, communities and the environment, the same principles that guided Eve in the founding of WE’VE years later. Trained as an architect and designer, Eve started Lulan as a creative collaboration between contemporary American textile designers and skilled Asian artisans. Eve discovered her admiration of the hand-woven textiles and culture of Southeast Asia while spending two years restoring French villas in Vietnam. In Vietnam, Eve met master weavers and gathered stories about their traditions as well as their contemporary lives. She recognized the cultural and social significance of weavers, but also a lack of economic resources to sustain their work. Lulan thus grew out of a desire to create economic opportunities for weavers while celebrating and preserving their talents and traditions. During this same experience in Vietnam, Eve was particularly moved by a confrontation with the issue of human trafficking, the motivation behind WE’VE. Since this event, Eve has made it her mission to create positive social change through her work with both ventures. The Lulan business model values the principle of sustainability and puts it to use in all aspects of the social venture. Generally, sustainability is defined as having three aspects: economic, environmental, and social. However, Lulan’s definition and practice of the term reaches further to include the importance of cultural sustainability. Economic – “Beyond Micro-Lending” Lulan does more than provide start-up funds for weaving centers. The business also pays ample wages and opens new markets to their artisans. In addition, Lulan identifies the specific needs of individual communities they work with and tailor the benefits accordingly. This helps build viable livelihoods for weavers, in turn creating a stronger network of support for their families and communities. Cultural – “Non-imposing Market Standards” By opening new and profitable markets to weavers, a traditional cultural art is infused with modern design. When incorporating these designs, local cultural relevance is always respected and maintained. Environmental – “Maintaining a Small Footprint” The weaving process is time and labor intensive, not resource intensive. Lulan uses all natural materials such as silk, organic cotton, linen, as well as natural or low impact dyes. Artisans recycle everything possible, from rice husks to reusing dye baths. Social – “Trickle Down Threads” Lulan provides benefits to artisans and communities that trickle down to create a stronger social fabric. Lulan pays artisans fair wages to respect their skills and talent. This helps promote the artisans’ pride and dignity and the integrity of their work. Lulan encourages weavers’ artistic expression and inspires them to grow and learn new skills. By providing viable employment to parents, children benefit which helps build a brighter and better future for the communities. Lulan Artisans now works with over 650 weavers, spinners, dyers and finishers in small workshops in Cambodia, India, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam. Lulan and WE’VE exemplify cultural understanding, an often-overlooked aspect of social entrepreneurship. The businesses do not approach community aid with a ‘one size fits all’ mentality. Rather, the benefits provided are tailored to each community with their needs in mind. By purchasing the Lulan Luminescence Placemat, you help provide education to artisans’ children, maintain traditional weaving techniques, and in some cases provide childcare, co-housing allowances, and women’s literacy classes in Cambodia. Honor an exquisite art form and talented Cambodian artisans with WE’VE.


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