The concept in Sawang Boran has been to take the existing assets, i.e. traditional skills and the natural resources of indigenous silk and (forgotten or near-extinct) dye-plants, and to nurture the development of a sense of excellence and inventiveness in the weavers.
Initially, there was not much of a ‘community’ as weavers would compete to get the best prices from me, the foreigner, deemed intrinsically rich and powerful. Regular all-membership meetings, slight tweakings of traditional patterns, exciting discoveries with dye-plants, knowledge sharing, and of course fair prices, have all contributed to gradually building a unique community – where the women can really be together in building a very special project.
A major asset is that Sawang Boran has successfully attracted a number of women in the younger age group, 30- 40, who are happier weaving at home in the village than doing factory work. And perhaps something significant is happening for the longer term, since a couple of weavers’ daughters are now joining too, respectively 16 and 28 – a sure sign that their mothers believe there is a real chance for them in the project.