Celebrating the Women of Ock Pop Tok
Humblebrag: we have some pretty amazing women here at Ock Pop Tok. Of the current team members, 75 percent are women — many of those in leadership roles.
There are many words that apply, both personally and professionally: friends, daughters, mothers. Artists, businesswomen, leaders.
But in particular: they are inspirations.
The art of weaving is intrinsically a celebration of women. It’s a tradition that’s typically passed down from mother to daughter. A way for women to bring extra income to their families.
So on this International Women’s Day, we wanted to share a bit more about what makes the women here special. Let’s start from the beginning…
Ock Pop Tok was founded 15 years ago by two women — Jo, a British photographer, and Veo, a Lao weaver. Together they built a social enterprise with the mission to elevate the profile of Lao textiles and artisans. In doing so, the company supports women’s empowerment by offering a means for more economic stability and leadership opportunities, both in Luang Prabang and throughout Laos.
The backbone of Ock Pop Tok are the weavers and dyers themselves. The more than 20 Master Weavers and artists at the Living Crafts Centre are continuing the tradition of so many women before them. There are dozens of more weavers throughout our Village Weaver Project doing just the same — each as unique as the pieces they craft on a daily basis. (Learn more about our LCC weavers here and our Village Weaver Projects here.)
Many of the women at Ock Pop Tok are teachers in their own way — sharing the importance of Lao textiles with the thousands of visitors, guests and shoppers that come to Luang Prabang every year.
Mrs Suxioung, also known as “Me Tao” (MAY-tao), or “Grandmother” in Lao, is one of the only Hmong batik teachers in Luang Prabang and patiently watches over students as they take the wax pen to their own piece of hemp for the first time. Our Living Crafts Centre teachers and tour guides, like Phitsamai (hospitality manager) and Sengchan, share their deep knowledge by answering each and every question that comes their way, whether it’s through a natural dyes class or one of the daily free tours. Members of our shop team, like Sonnalee (retail manager) and Moonoy, work to educate shoppers so they can not only take a piece of Lao history home, but know the story behind it as well.
Then there are those behind the scenes. Lear, our head of production, strives to pair innovation with history. She’s been with Ock Pop Tok almost since the beginning, a self-taught designer who uses modern computer programs to lay out traditional motifs. Her team includes coordinators and interns from around the world (Marie from Greenland, Chanika from Thailand) and continues to grow. Chef Keo, a weaver turned head culinary creator, runs the kitchen and makes a mean papaya salad. And our head of finance, Helen, along with her team, works hard to keep everyone on track (and on budget).
There are far too many more team members to name, but each contributes in ways that words can’t express. (Personally, I’m honoured to get the chance to work with — and learn from — each and every one.)
Ock Pop Tok wouldn’t be what it is today without the women here. So Happy International Women’s Day, from our family to yours!