I met Som, a middle aged lady from the village of Baan Na Tong in Northern Thailand, who labors many hours a day to make some very exquisite and colorful quilts. It takes her up to 60 hours to make just one piece.
Located about 32 kilometers from the city of Phrae, Baan Na Tong is a very beautiful village surrounded by greenery. The village offers homestay accommodations and is one of the areas where the endangered Siamese Big Headed Turtles can be found.
In Phrae (or in the village), the quilts sell for 4000 baht ($121USD) and in USA, Europe or overseas, they sell for as much as 10,000 baht ($300USD). When the quilt sold through a retailer -whether it be in Thailand or overseas - her cut of the pie is only 800 baht ($24USD). That averages out to only 13 baht an hour, based on 60 hours for production. It doesn’t seem fair, but she isn’t complaining because she enjoys her work.
It’s a shame that artisans - especially in 3rd world countries - make so little monies from their handiwork, while others profit immensely. I probably should have suggested to her that she market her goods through an artisan or artist cooperative in order to her increase her remuneration.
I have seen the same phenomenon happen in other countries – Mexico, Peru, Ghana to name a few - where locally made handmade goods are very cheap to buy locally, but on the expensive side if you buy them in the USA. Someone is making a lot of monies; it surely is not the local artisan or craftsman. Such is the way of the world!