This post is another is a series of 'Meet Your Makers' posts that share with our readers and customers the source of our products, and how (and where) they are made. Check out our other stories Here, and Here.
To talk about Vietnam, somewhere in the conversation, you have to talk about rice. Travel much anywhere in Vietnam, get out of the urban centers, and you are reminded quickly of the country's primary agricultural crop.
Vietnam is among the top rice producing countries in the world. Rice fields sway in the soft breeze. Vietnam enjoys three harvest seasons in some parts of the country, and two harvests in the North.
We spent the afternoon with Mr. Tinh and his family. We have been friends with Mr. Tinh and his family for over 13 years.
He has been our supplier of the semi-lacquered bamboo bowls. It is in his workshop, the first layer of lacquer is applied. It is one of the many steps and processes along the journey of the making of our coiled bamboo bowls.
We had a scrumptious lunch prepared by his wife. Lunch included the best tasting rice we have ever tasted. Mr. Tinh himself harvested the rice from his field just meters from his home. There was a light tenderness to the rice that was quite unmistakeable.
Many of the craftspeople who produce our coiled bamboo bowls are indeed, rice farmers. They are able to supplement their farming incomes, in between the rice harvests, by producing bowls for bambu. There are over a dozen steps and three different workshops along the production journey of a single coiled bowl.
Mr. Tinh lives in Boi Village and continues the business that his father-in-law started over 40 years ago. He and his wife have 3 daughters and a son. Mr. Tinh exhibits care for the craft. The coiled lacquered bowl is a centuries old craft unique to Vietnam.
Mr. Tinh and his team apply the under layer of natural lacquer directly on the coiled forms. The forms are created in a different village inland and near the source of bamboo.
We are particularly excited to be working with the newly formed, Hoa Co May group. (The Hoa Co May name means wild grass flower.)
Hoa Co May is started by two Vietnamese women, Thu and her partner, Hwong. Both previously worked for us. Now they are branching out to create their own company where they source, and finish the finest coiled bowls from Vietnam.
We have been working with Thu Vu for more than five years. And we have helped her get her start as a business owner in Vietnam.
Below are some of images from our visit to the village and to the workshop in April. The workshop is clean and efficient. The quality of the bowls are as good as we have ever seen, and Thu and Hwong are focused building a sustainable business that supports local craft and delivers a top quality product.
If you look closely, you will see a perforated surface in some of the pictures. This is a cushioned work surface for the sanders. We learned that this material is actually the leftovers from making badminton shuttlecocks. The end is what's missing from these sheets! It is a perfect material for production. And ingeniously resourceful too.
It is enormously satisfying for us at bambu, to help Thu and Hwong launch their business. And it came from the realization that they could do it better. They could create a higher quality product, and also treat people well, and pay them fairly. They are off to a good start. We are currently in production for our customers in Europe and in Asia.
Our customers in the US can look forward to new stocks when they arrive later in May.