Crafting with the elements

Often people think our beautiful Songbirds are made from wood or even polymer clay... but they are mistaken! Did you know our Songbirds are individually hand-shaped and fired from real clay, locally and sustainably sourced near our production studio in Chiang Rai Thailand?

Yes, real clay! Not the new man-made polymer variety which I would like to point out is actually plastic (PVC). This more environmentally friendly, sustainable and responsibly sourced material makes perfect sense for us to use as it is accessible to our artisans and has a unique character when hand-crafted.

We consciously choose to keep as much of our craft process locally based which helps build purpose and meaning for our artisans, as well as increasing our positive impact within their community. 

With clay being our core material, we are transforming something that is familiar and has a natural connection to the people and place in which we work. What we also find is that through our craft process an interesting dynamic between the material and the local environment is naturally worked into every piece we create.

Shaping clay necklace
Hand-shaping a songbird necklace from real clay
We really are working with the elements.

Our artisans are often at the mercy of the unpredictable, hot, humid, and very wet weather which can delay the clay's drying time, slowing every subsequent step in our production process. Depending on the shape, size and complexity of each piece - and of course the weather - the clay takes between two weeks and three months to air dry, ready to be fired. 

So, when the rainy season arrives, our production process slows. We can, and we do, plan around this but in the past few years as local farmers in the region would agree, the weather is becoming more unpredictable, swinging between greater extremes.

That is the impact of climate change. Working in agriculture is becoming more difficult, less reliable, and more perilous than ever before, particularly in these remote communities whose farming practices rely so much on hand-based labour. To help paint a picture of the local landscape - many of the villages are accessible only by four-wheel drive (or nimble motorbikes), and only when the steep muddy tracks are dry enough to be passed. Village life

Engaging with crafts-based enterprise means that we are diversifying income opportunities for women in these remote villages that are largely reliant on the seasonal work from harvest activities. This also enables them to continue to support their families and to contribute to the development of their communities.

Occasionally customers ask whether we would consider changing our craft process and our selection of materials, but there are so many appealing and meaningful reasons to refrain from any dramatic changes. The slow craft process is manageable for us and is allowing our enterprise to grow at a sustainable rate. It is also preserving a meaningful connection to the artisans and their communities, rather than replacing the clay with an artificial alternative and looking to streamline and smooth out the process.

Embracing the elements, regardless of how slow or how honest / real this makes our craft, is about embracing the perfect imperfections of nature and the human touch that it encounters in its transformation.

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