o Bo Nyan Win (Bo Bo), a 57 years old man and his wife Thinn Thinn aged 56 years old were childhood friends. They got married at the age of 50 after divorcing from their first marriages. Although they were born in middle class families, both struggled when they were young. They worked different kinds of jobs including government staff and as migrant workers in Thailand but they had never thought about handicrafts for their income. It was a turning point when they decided to make craft products and crafts became a major part of their lives.
How does he become a crafts-man?
Bo Bo is a Tour Guide with more than 20 years’ experience. He got a license in 1997 and worked as a National Guide at the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism office at Tarchileik, Shan State. Then, he became a freelancer and offered his guiding service to tourists by travelling around the country. Although he was born in Hpa-An, Kayin state, he grew up in Dawei, Tanintharyi Region because of his father’s duty station. In 2002, he returned to Dawei and opened a travel and tour company in 2016. He was becoming well known among the tourists because of his personality of being a fun and easy man. Whenever he travelled with the tourists, he stared at the decoration of hotels and restaurants, especially with handmade bamboo lamps. These lamps inspired him to become a crafts-man.
Since then, he started learning how to make handmade bamboo lamps. At the beginning, he didn’t have much time to make handicrafts because he was busy travelling with tourists. After a few years, lamp making became a second career job and now, he makes not only bamboo lamps but also wooden, cane and glass bottle lamps by creating and developing his ideas.
Due to the Covid-19 outbreak in 2020, the entire tourism industry in Myanmar was shut down. This caused a lot of unemployment that affected industrial people like Bo Bo. He had no choice but to stop working as a tour guide and the only other opportunity to make an income was to produce craft products. Now, he has 4 years’ experience and produces a maximum of 4 bamboo lamps in a week. There is no co-worker for his workshop and the lamps can take from 2 to 5 days depending on the size and materials. Most of the orders came from friends, friends of friends, hotels and restaurants. Based on the number of orders, there is no stable income but at least he can cover the family cost in the difficult situation.
Why did she select to be a crafts-woman?
Thinn Thinn was born in Dawei and lived with her grandmother. Her parents own some farmlands in the village where they live and do traditional plantation work for their livelihood. But she was not interested in the family business, looked for a job at a government office and company. She also opened a grocery shop in her father’s village but the business was not as good as she had expected so she decided to go to Thailand as a migrant worker. When she returned to Dawei, she married Bo Bo and decided to settle down in Dawei. She was a dependent and a housewife until she learnt how to make natural dyes.
Through her husband, she heard about a natural dye training course which was organized by the International Trade Center. In the middle of 2020, she joined the training together with a craft team and learnt how to make tie dyes and eco printings. The training took 6 months and she came to know the concept of natural dyes and how it is important to the modern world. It is not only using naturally-occurring materials such as plants, leaves and flowers but also wholly organic that there is no danger to plants, animals and humans. For these reasons, her passion for natural dyes prompted a desire to produce natural dye products. Even after completing the course, she continues learning by watching Facebook videos, YouTube channels and practicing at her house. With her enthusiasm and hard work, she learnt more about natural dyes and started making products within a short period. She makes scarves, headscarves and women’s bags for both tie dye and eco-print. She works 20 hours per week, sometimes, working together with her husband. As the business has just started, she can’t make much money in the current situation, but she has received a few orders from her husband’s friends. Meanwhile, she is trying to make enough stock of good quality products before marketing to the public.
Will dreams come true?
The handicraft couple said
“Craft looks easy but in reality it is difficult. Indeed, it is the feeling within the art. For us, we both have the same passion for art so we devote our time and energy in learning, creating and thinking of new ideas to produce the best local products."
Currently, they are trying to combine handmade lamps and natural dyes to create an interesting new product like a handmade eco-print lamp. They want these eco-friendly products to be widely used among the people. Additionally, they want to share their knowledge and skills to a younger generation who are interested in handicrafts. They hope that one day, people will know their house as a craft centre where crafts products can be bought at a reasonable price and in the future be an option for tourists to visit in Dawei. Even if the business cannot make a lot of money or they have a lot of challenges like market access and investment; they will not give up and will continue to do it on their own as much as they can.