Friday, April 30, 2010
Thank you everyone for following us, checking in, writing comments and supporting us so many different ways! We couldn't have done it without you!
There's a new post already waiting for you here. See you there!!
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Thanks to the genius of Yumi Ichida, the patience of Yeng and the tweaking of House 32, we're up and running.
Have a look at www.cambodiaknits.com and tell us what you think.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
To this end, CK is on Twitter. Find us and follow us here.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
We're growing to a new stage and we need your help to get there!
Cambodia Knits is excited to announce that we'll soon be working with Caritas in Toul Sambo to set up a full knitting workshop right in the community. Caritas are building new housing and community spaces, and there is room for a CK workspace! This means we'll now have an on-site dedicated space to assemble our products to completion.
Currently, CK has to purchase unfinished knitted parts from Toul Sambo, then assemble them together in the Phnom Penh office. With the new workspace, knitters will now be able to earn more by making completely finished products!
We're thrilled with this opportunity, so to get the space running we're asking for a small funding infusion.
Our immediate goal is to:
- fund the knitters' new training for assembly, and
- afford travel to the community during training
- purchase equipment and materials to create a safe and healthy work environment
Your donations will also go towards:
- setting up a contingency fund for staff; a set reserve that staff can borrow from, with no interest or advance
- signage, brochure printing and advertising to raise awareness for and promote CK
- business registration fees
Because we're not a registered charity, we can't issue tax receipts — however, donors will receive a heartfelt email of thanks, and a mention on our Donor Wall of gratitude.
Every bit will help CK get through this challenging stage. Please donate today via Paypal by clicking the button on the right hand panel.
Donations are fully secure using the PayPal system.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Last month when we were en route to Sydney, (and nearly missed our flight because we forgot that Singapore was one hour ahead and while happily checking emails using Singapore airport's free wireless service at what we thought was 6:45pm with lots of time until our 8pm flight and Yeng's name got called over the PA and we both immediately realized our mistake and ran, ran, ran to the gate...) I got an email from a woman who runs a baby products store in Canberra, interested in our toys. It was serendipitous because we planning to be in Canberra only a few days later! We managed to meet Emma at Brindabella Baby and are more than happy to supply her shop!
She's just moved her shop to a new location in Canberra, Rodney's Nursery, 24 Beltana Road, Pialligo, and had the opening last week. We didn't get to see the new shop but from the photos below it looks lovely and inviting. Emma has been running the business for a few years, selling eco-friendly, fair trade products for the under 5 kiddies. She started doing this out of her house, but as the business grew and she found more and more great products from around the world, she eventually opened a shop. She focuses on products that are fairly produced and help the communities in which they are produced, a true ethical consumer. You can read more about Brindabella Baby and see more photos here.
Thursday, April 8, 2010
So for the past few months, I've really wanted to improve on the display and since Phnom Penh is a great place to put idea into practice at any variety of small scale wood, metal, plastic workshops I thought it would be snap. Not so. Well, yes so, but you need to have the right person to do the legwork for you. Luckily, CK has Chariya who is not only a great translator, but a Sherlock Holmes when it comes to tracking down any variety of un-simple requests I have. Thanks to her, in less than three days we have our puppet stands!
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
We're preparing some products to go to Monument Books today and we're debuting our new price tags. These will include the name of the knitter. The knitters were very excited about this. The website is almost ready for (go and have a peak, but there are few tweaks still to be made) public consumption. It's looking fantastic!
Tuesday, March 30, 2010
So the new office is a great space for us to grow into. The knitters are more comfortable, there is more storage space and we can prepare a small retail area at the front. The main purpose of the space remains a workshop and office, but it will be nice to be able to showcase our products to guests, visitors and potential buyers.
The first photo is looking in. This is a standard one and half floor sized Khmer 'pteah laveang'. The room at the bottom is about 4m by 10 meters with a decently sized kitchen/eating area and bathroom in the back. The front portion of this room has a high ceiling and, overall, the room is quite cool even in the hot season. The back half, where you see the CK staff working, will be the work area.
The front area is where we'll set up some displays, photos and information. This is a work in progress and we've got some way to go. Within the next month we'd like to have it ready for visitors though.
A tiny staircase leads up to this small, half room. It's bigger than most of it's kind and works really well for a small office. With only three of us in here, its spacious really. Again, we need to spruce it up and personalize it a bit, but all in due time.
We're all really happy with the space and I'm happy to have a commute to work again that is further than my dining room. I agonized about the colour for a while, but in then end stuck with the colour orange despite all the nays (they thought I was loco). I think it looks great, comfy and friendly!
So if you're in town, come for a visit. We're at House #146D, Street 376 just off street 113 in BKK3.
Monday, March 8, 2010
We'll be flying into Sydney on March 18th, heading to Canberra area for a wedding on the 20th and then finish off the final few days in Sydney. During that time I'll try to do some presentations on Cambodia Knits in Young, Canberra and Sydney so if you are in those areas, stay tuned for more info (or email me for details). And, if you're in Australia and have ever wanted to get your hands on some of our products, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll send you a catalogue.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
First, very little, tiny, tiny worms. So tiny you can't really see them, but I promise they are there.
The worms eat and eat and eat mulberry leaves and get bigger.
They keep gorging and get bigger and juicier. Yum, big juicy silk worms.
After a few weeks of non-stop eating action, the silk worms decide it is time to move onto the next stage in life and hide themselves in a cocoon of beautiful, golden silk.
Unfortunately, for the silk worms, humans love silk and the only way to get it from the cocoon is to boil the unsuspecting worms alive. Silk is not vegan-friendly.
The threads of many cocoons are spun together into a single thread. Slowly each cocoon is unraveled back to its origin, a now expired silk worm, which like anything organic, can be eaten.
And finally, after dying using local natural dyes, from bark, leaves, indigo, the finished product: silk.
Unfortunately, like so many things, silk production was all but decimated under the Pol Pot regime and has yet to recover. There are a couple organizations working to help revive the industry, but it's a slow process. Most silk products sold in Cambodia are made from imported silk which is then dyed and woven in country. If we are ever able to source local silk yarn, it will be in very small quantities and only for exclusive, small lines of products.
Monday, February 22, 2010
Samneang, our accountant (shared with NETPRO-Cambodia, but I always joke with him that working for us is so much better), is heading to SR this weekend to change all the tags to the updated ones and put kramas on all the animals that used to have bows. This way he gets to meet the store owners, finalize our consignment contracts and answer any questions. And he gets a trip to SR which he is very excited about.
The shop looks really cute! I didn't get a chance to visit when I was in SR, so this is my first look at it too. The multi-tiled wall is lovely and colourful and I like the overall look of it. Will have to drop in next time I'm in SR.
Monday, February 15, 2010
Sunday, February 14, 2010
Monday, February 8, 2010
To learn more about Soria Moria visit their website here.
Saturday, February 6, 2010
We're happy to have our products in such a lovely spot.
To learn more about the work of Rachel and Lauren, read and follow the links below.
Circle is a social enterprise which employs young at-risk women from impoverished rural areas of Cambodia. Circle provides a safe and healthy workplace, fair wages, Khmer & English literacy classes, clothing design training, and a variety of ongoing projects promoting self-confidence and creativity. You can read more about the project here.
Keo Kjay is a social enterprise that was established in Cambodia to train and provide jobs for women living with HIV in Phnom Penh through creating handmade items out of their homes. We sell accessories, clothes and gift items, all made of recycled and sustainable materials, and we follow Fair Trade principles in all aspects of our business. More info here.
Thursday, February 4, 2010
It's been a bit of a headache for some. Rofi caught on right away and slowly the others are catching up. I think by the end of the day they'll be semi-pro at it.
We're also going to start knitting the mouths into the monsters instead of gluing on felt mouths. That or we'll start stitching them on. The glued on version is not ideal as quite a few of them end up getting frayed off...
Wednesday, February 3, 2010
Oh no, the picture is not here. The reason for this is rather long. Smoke came out of my computer today. My lovely Powerbook G4 that has been with me for 5.5 years and that I hoped to keep using for another 5. I don't believe in staying up to date with the brightest, shiniest, fastest, wowest technology and preferred to keep a perfectly good computer out of the landfill for as long as possible. But, as I watched the light wisps of smoke emanating from the computer, that dream slowly died.
Yeng asked/told/commanded me to backup my computer last night. I said, 'nah, let's just watch the movie, I'm tired'... All is not lost as my clever husband regularly sneaks onto my computer and backs it up for me. I'm still going to try the Mac techs at UniYoung and see what can be done. I have not given up hope that I can continue my relationship with the G4 for at least another year. I feel like I am cheating right now using Yeng's MacBook Pro....
Pictures tomorrow, I hope.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
I caught up with a friend that I worked with in PP 10 years ago. We did a lot of catching up and when talking about CK, she made a simple suggestion: instead of bows, maybe the monsters can wear kramas. It was a slap-self-in-forehead moment and I've been shaking my head, wondering why I didn't think of it. Thank you Shiela!
I walked around the other booths at the fair to see if anyone can make mini-kramas for us. I bought a few large size ones in 100% cotton to test out different sizes. We cut and sewed some yesterday. This is ok for figuring out the size, but if we can have them woven to size it would be much better as we can get the fringe on both ends.
'What is a krama?' you might ask (if you've never been to Cambodia). Well, a krama is a multi-purpose, checkered cloth used by all and everyone for just about anything and everything. A krama can be used to cover the head, the face, as a skirt, as a towel. It can be used to carry a baby, rice, fruits, goods to and from the market. It can be a table cover, something to sleep under, something to wipe the table with. And now it is used to decorate monsters.
Monday, February 1, 2010
And another photo to show you how not busy it was:
Now the evenings were somewhat better, but most of the people coming out in the evenings were Cambodians out for an evening stroll. Nothing wrong with that, but for the majority of the businesses and organizations at the fair (all of which paid big bucks for the booth), this does not represent the target market. The organizer's promised 10 000 visitors over the 5 days but I'd be surprised if there was even a quarter of that. I also think they failed to advertise properly since there were no adverts in any of the free local booklets that every tourist to Siem Reap pours over and uses to plan their activities. Sure there were a lot of posters and banners, but posters and banners are not that effective at bringing people in, apparently.
Oh heck, while I'm at it, let me just complain about one final thing: gem dealers at the fair. AAC is the Artisans Association of Cambodia, meant to promote local artisans and especially promote fair trade practices. Gems dealers are the antithesis of this! Gem mining that takes place in Cambodia is environmentally destructive, often uses child labour, is underpaid and often done in conditions that are unsafe to the workers. In the end, what the person who finds a gem gets paid and the price it sells for retail is ridiculous. There is nothing Fair about any of it! There were several booths selling gems at the fair and the organizers said this was because they are Cambodian products. I was very disappointed.
And now for something lovely. I asked Mony and Navy to take some monsters and my camera to the temples and get some product shots. At first I was worried there might be something inappropriate about posing monsters against ancient Angkor temples. I also thought they might be embarrassed to wander about with a handful of monsters. Neither of those things were a problem and after a short lesson on the SLR, they went off quite excited and eager. My final worry was that the camera would be too complicated and the photos would be blurry or not so well framed. What they came back with was amazing!!! Have a look:
This one is my favourite:
Sunday, January 31, 2010
More on that later. For now, a picture that is an amazing 'fail'. All around Cambodia (and must of Asia) personal vanity is looked upon favourably. All youngsters who can afford it, get dressed up in their funkiest, coolest gear, get all made up, go wild with their hair and subject themselves to hours in front of a camera at the local photo studio to get hot, funky photos of themselves. They pose. They posture. They make love to the camera. The poses are stereotypical. The make-up is extreme. The hair is just fabulous.
After the photo shoot, the best pictures are chosen and photo-shopped for hours. Bodies are cut out and backdrops range from fashion week at Milan to Hello Kitty parlour scenes. To make the photos even cooler, sometimes random phrases in English are added. Unfortunately, no one checks that these make any sense or contain any obscenities. It doesn't matter. Cool doesn't need spell-grammar check.
Samples of the photos are usually hung around the photo shop to entice new customers. The results are often amusing for those in the know of the English language.... have a look:
After discussing this with Yeng, it seems that spell check might be to blame. He thinks they might have been going for 'gentle' and ended up with 'genitals' instead...
Monday, January 25, 2010
My amazing friend, regular partner in crime and artist extraordinaire designed this banner for us. She is also the mind behind the logo which is plain and simple, wonderful. For those of you not in-the-know, the hands are in the position of an Apsara dancers hands. More are this in the future when there is more time. For now, admire our banner:
I hope to have some time in the evenings to post photos from the craft fair. Our very cheap (7USD a night) hotel has free Internet so I hope I'll have enough energy to keep in touch....
Friday, January 22, 2010
Ali has been working with Alexandra Cousteau (yes, the granddaughter of Jacques) over the past year to highlight water issues around the world. As a member of the good morning beautiful films crew, Ali traveled last year to places like Botswana, Israel, India and the US to document critical water stories and to bring attention to the issue. More about Ali and the expedition if you follow the links.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Back to the sale. It will be held outside the Angkor National Museum on the road to Angkor Wat. We'll have a small booth among 70 others representing other craft producers and artisans from around Cambodia. The organizers are expecting about 10 000 visitors to the fair over the 5 days it is running. Our super designer is working on posters and banners and ideas for making our booth irresistible and we're just planning the logistics of getting there, setting up and spending a week in SR. I've promised staff enough time off to go visit the temples, so I hope there is enough down time during each day for them to do that.
Here are some earless pigs being prepared for next week. They look silly without their ears...
Friday, January 15, 2010
So I'm posting some photos here of what they've knit so far. If you're a knitter and can offer any advice on how to improve what you see below, fire away.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
In times of emergency, aid is more likely than usual to be diverted away from the people who really need it. Food, medicines, supplies need to be distributed fast and this prevents necessary checks being put in place to ensure support is going to those who need it most. Haiti scores lowest in the annual Corruption Perception Index released each year by Transparency International. This will make it even harder to aid agencies to do their work on the ground without the risk of diversion by the powerful. It's an unfortunate reality.
This does not mean that we shouldn't give Haiti as much support as possible. It just means that you should do your research when giving. Give to organizations that are already established and have a history of operating transparently and effectively in-country. These organizations and their people on the ground have already built relationships and know their way around. They can quickly establish fair channels of distribution and get your donations to where they need to go most.
Personally, I would avoid giving to any UN agency. That's a personal bias, based on my experiences in Cambodia and from anecdotes from elsewhere. UN agencies are large, bureaucratic, slow and already very well funded. They don't need small donations. I'd try to find a locally founded and based organization that focuses on the country, is run by locals but with sustained outside support. One such organization in Haiti is the Restavek Foundation. They are already in place, working directly with schools that they have been working with for years, ready to get assistance to those in need. Go here to read more about their post-quake situation.
The other organization I would donate to in any emergency situation is Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). If anyone knows how to get help to people in emergencies, it's them. They already have clinics set up in Haiti and like Restavek are able to distribute aid through already established channels.
From the early reports it looks like Haiti is going to need a lot of support, immediately and in the coming months. Give what you can, but give where it will help the most.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
So if you are a Rav'er, then come on over to the CK group and join: http://www.ravelry.com/groups/cambodia-knits.
And if you haven't yet, become a fan of Cambodia Knits on Facebook do it now: here. We've got 110 fans so far!
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Back in June, I was lucky enough to find 5 knitters, two of whom were already very experienced, to start up CK. We had many challenges in translating patterns into Khmer, learning new ways to knit (me English style, they continental style) and finding materials. We found two amazing designers Raynor Gellatly and Rebecca Danger who were willing to let us use their patterns to knit up and sell the finished products locally. We experimented with local acrylic yarn, some cotton yarn brought from the US by a friend and a variety of yarns bought in Bangkok, Thailand.
One of the biggest challenges was finding suppliers willing to sell to us at wholesale prices without expecting orders in the hundreds of kilograms. I must have spent literally hundreds of hours online trying to track down factories that accept small orders for things like safety eyes, yarn and needles. Each time I succeeded was a minor victory! Thanks to the following we can import the small quantity of supplies we need: 8Season-Knitting, Beisica Cashmere and New Li Yen.
Next came finding and training new knitters. After meeting with Davy from City Hall, we decided to work with the Toul Sambo community, which had recently been relocated from Borei Keila in Phnom Penh. Over the course of a month in October and November, we trained 18 knitters (13 women, 5 men) in basic knitting skills and taught them how to make the finger puppets. We were able to do this in large part because of the generosity of sponsors from as far as Sweden, Hawaii, the UK and Canada. One major challenge was finding ways to present patterns for those who could not read and making sure the trainers could, well, train! As of January 12th, 2010, all but one of the people we trained at TS are knitting for us and many more are interested in starting.
Finally, and very importantly, we started to sell our products. We started at Cafe Living Room and expanded to four other locations around the city. We participated in several pre-holiday sales and took orders from Canada. The reactions have been very, very positive! Everyone loves Penelope and the finger puppets always get a great response.
So in summary, we:
- Trained 24 knitters from two communities
- Sell products at five local retail locations
- Currently employ 6 full time staff
- Have 27 piece rate knitters producing our products
- Provided health insurance to our full time staff
- Developed partnerships with other local NGOs and businesses with similar values and models
- Found sponsorships for 19 knitters in training
All this has been possible thanks to the generous support of friends and family and all of you out there who have given advice, words of wisdom, connections and links. We recently received two large yarn donations from the Around the Bay Guild and from a Ravelry member in California. We can use these yarns to experiment with different fibers and needles, colours and see what we can create. We've also received financial donations from generous supporters (both large and small, but always helpful!) which have helped us make sure salaries are paid on time and that we have the resources to do what we do.
All in all, I think we've come pretty far in a short time. Here's to an even better 2010.
Monday, January 11, 2010
My sister, Malgosia with her orange Penelope (we both love the colour orange, must run in the family).
My nephew Jaxon enjoying his full set of finger puppets.
Ok, I'm headed to the random number generator right now, and with my husband as my witness, I'll select three winners. Drum roll please:
The winners are (#s 6, 12, 16 which represent the following:
1. Helena Barkla
2. Jo-Ey Lee
3. Molly Ball
If you see this before I've emailed you, then send me your mailing address and I'll get the package to you this week.
Congratulations to the winners and thank you to everyone for participating!!
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
I gave a presentation on Cambodia and Cambodia Knits for the Around the Bay Knitting Guild. It was nice to have an attentive audience of knitters (all in the process of knitting some lovely items) and to be able to the tell the story of CK. It was my first time giving a presentation on something so close to my heart and I hope to have the chance to do it again.
And since we sold a few items, and I love the photos we've been getting, I'm extending the blog contest until Yeng and I are at Seoul airport for our lovely 15 hour layover. There is a post office in the airport and I can send out prizes through reliable post to the winners then.
So you now have until Friday 6 pm (Toronto time) to get your photo or comment in. At that point we'll be half way through the layover and in need of something to do. A trip to the PO will be just the thing...