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From Joanna Smith, co-founder of Ock Pop Tok:

It’s official….VW camper vans are cool in every corner of the globe. Well, so said Phet – Ock Pop Tok’s head dyer who spent two weeks in the U.S. this summer. What’s ‘cool’ can often be universal, much like the shared passion of artisans from all across world.

Every year the OPT team sends a weaver, a representative from the sales team and a chaperone (myself) to participate in the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market. Regular readers of our newsletter will know that this Market is a life-changing event for many of the artisans that attend. Not only does it bring much needed income to communities, but it connects people, creating a global family of artisans.

“It’s amazing to meet women from all over the world who work like I do, making things with their hands, living and breathing their traditional culture. This makes me so proud to be a Lao weaver,” says Dtor, an OPT Master Weaver that went to Santa Fe In 2014.

This year our Assistant Retail Manager Moonoy, Phet and I travelled to New Mexico and San Francisco. Traditional handicrafts from all over the world are sold in a two-day show. This year they also represented our sister brand, Passa Paa, at the Renegade Market at Fort Mason in San Francisco. The trip tends to be a mixture of work and play. The team visits museums and galleries, goes on shopping trips to huge malls, eats weird and wonderful food and even goes camping. The last day before the team took off back home, Mark of Orijyn design (a Lao silver social enterprise) packed up the camper van and drove the girls over the bridge for a sunset picnic facing the ocean. It turns out that this was the highlight of the trip for both Phet and Moonoy.  It seems a beer with friends at sunset is another one those universal truths!

Here are some other highlights from the trip. Enjoy the pictorial!


On the road: Here we are dodging cars on the High Road to Taos. This scenic, winding road passes through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It winds through high desert, mountains, forests, small farms, and tiny Spanish Land Grant villages and Pueblo Indian villages.




Graffiti in San Francisco: Ever since Diego Rivera first took a brush to the fair city’s walls in the 1930s, San Francisco has served as a global hot spot for for outdoor public art. Here we are in the Mission District.





Moonoy with two Kenyan women: These two Maasai women make jewelry. The Maasai tribe of Africa is well known for its traditional handmade beadwork — an important part of their culture for many years.  As a Nilotic ethnic group of semi-nomadic people inhabiting southern Kenya and northern Tanzania, they are among the best known local populations due to their residence near the many game parks of the African Great Lakes and their distinctive customs and dress. The Maasai speak Maa, a member of the Nilo-Saharan language family that is related to Dinka and Nuer.


Phet & Moonoy with South Sudanese Woman: This woman is member of the amazing Roots Project. South Sudan, after decades of war, became the world’s newest nation in 2011.The Roots Project employs over 60 recently demobilized women from 16 different tribal groups, selling and marketing their traditional arts. Founder and human rights activist Anyieth D’Awol believed that South Sudan’s unique cultural history should be preserved to help forge a cohesive national identity. The Roots Project promotes peace-building and teaches traditional arts, skills and techniques through collaboration among different tribes and creates a safe and secure work environment for members, as well as provides a venue for exhibitions, demonstrations, and cultural gatherings.


With the ‘stans: Here we are with artisans that make textiles and jewelry from Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.  Uzbekistan is famous for beautiful textiles like ikat and embroidery.  Did you know Uzbekistan is one of only two doubly landlocked countries in the world? (The other one is Liechtenstein) Also, Kazakhstan is home to about 120 ethnic groups and nationalities. The border between Russia and Kazakhstan is the longest continuous land border in the world (7512.8 kilometers). AND in Kyrgyzstan there are over 88 major mountain ranges in Kyrgyzstan, making up about more than 70 percent of the country’s territory.


Hanging at the de Young Museum: Our products can be found at the de Young Gift Shop.  Here we are posing for pictures. Did you know: the terrain and seismic activity in San Francisco posed a challenge for the designers Herzog & de Meuron and principal architects Fong & Chan. To help withstand future earthquakes, “[the building] can move up to three feet (91 cm) due to a system of ball-bearing sliding plates and viscous fluid dampers that absorb kinetic energy and convert it to heat.”



After the Renegade Show: Here we are at the Fort Mason Building.  Check out: Passa Paa our sister company www.passa-paa.com. Fort Mason, once known as San Francisco Port of Embarkation, US Army, is a former United States Army post located in the northern Marina District, alongside San Francisco Bay. Fort Mason served as an Army post for more than 100 years, initially as a coastal defense site and subsequently as a military port facility. During World War II, it was the principal port for the Pacific campaign.



The team’s last night in SFO: Enjoying a couple beers in the classic camper van, which turned out to be one of their most memorable moments!




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Posted by Katie Malloy

December 12,2015
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