Weaving the Way for Local Artisans

Sustaining a tradition and empowering a community.

In a few bold words, this is what Woven Crafts is set to accomplish. As a social enterprise, Woven aims to uplift the lives of the artisans they work with. Woven’s mission is to enable these artisans to emerge from poverty and achieve financial sustainability for their families and community. Ultimately, Woven aims to sustain the weaving tradition for another generation.

At the helm of this social enterprise are Trish Lim and John Francia. The two co-founders have developed an array of products which are attractive for customers and profitable for the weavers.

Woven’s catalog boasts of items which are functional, eye-catching, and unique. Their collections reflect the identity and personality of hip and dynamic creatives. Even more remarkable is the story of how Woven came to be.

The Woven Journey, Then and Now

Yolanda, the strongest typhoon to make landfall in the Philippines, left chaos after it plowed through the provinces of Leyte and Samar in November 2013. The town of Basey, Samar, considered as the “Weaving Capital of the Philippines”, was one of the hardest hit areas. With the hope of another day and the resilience to keep earning a living, life went on for them.

While doing research and area development plans in Samar, John Francia, Woven’s Co-Founder, chanced upon the weavers who created the beautiful and famed Basey banigs. The weavers created striking and colorful mats which sold for a few thousand pesos on local and global markets. Unfortunately, the weavers only received around an average monthly income of Php 150.

Woven’s co-founders decided to shake this status quo and help these artisans earn more from their main livelihood. Backed by various NGO’s, Woven organized the artisans into community craft associations. This enabled them to maneuver an increase in the industry price of banigs, doubling individual incomes from weaving.

Aside from achieving economic empowerment for the artisans, Woven also aims to pass on the tradition to the youth in Basey by holding weaving workshops. They’ve conducted a banig weaving and embroidery workshop for children in the community. Consequently, it will inspire and mentor a new generation which will help sustain the craft.

Woven has taken the tradition and made it their own, modernizing the designs of the banig mats and developing products for stylish go-getters. Receiving demand from customers locally and globally, Woven’s success and sustainability is on a steady rise.

The Woven on the Move Project

Woven recently implemented their workshops for young students in Metro Manila with their project called Woven on the Move. They flew in weavers from Samar to Manila for a series of weaving and embroidery workshops directed at senior high school students. With Woven on the Move, the goal was to raise awareness on the centuries-old tradition of weaving among the youth in Manila. They also hoped to empower the weavers to protect and preserve their craft.

The students who participated in the Woven on the Move workshops were able to weave and embroider mats for the first time. This helped them to experience this local craft and at the same time, gain an appreciation for handmade products which would normally take quite a lot of time and effort to create.

Many people have this notion that weaving is a drying craft. But it’s only fading into obscurity because younger people aren’t too keen on carrying out this tradition anymore. It’s quite understandable since older weavers made so little from this craft. To add to this dilemma, demand for woven products is not as strong.

The tradition won’t die out if we continue to support the work of our weavers. We can sustain the tradition and their livelihood by purchasing their products and learning more about their craft.

Weaving Beyond the Banig

As a creative social enterprise, Woven is constantly on the lookout for artists to collaborate with for product and design development. They’re also open to working with schools and organizations to hold weaving workshops. With their mission rooted on the lives of the artisans and the sustained tradition of weaving, Woven is ripe for massive success.

Woven’s story is one of triumph and sustained development. As they continue to improve and reinvent their social enterprise, we can all be hopeful that Woven will continue to sustain a tradition and empower a community.

Visit Woven’s online store at wovenph.com! You can also drop them a line at wovenhandicrafts@gmail.com.

All images are from Woven / Trish Lim