Marie Hill is a British designer graduating from Plymouth college of art and design, she had always been concerned about injustice and oppression and wanted to use her creativity to address it so in the ninties this brought her to work in a refugee camp for South East Asian refugees in Thailand. In 1993 some 360,000 refugees from the camps she worked in were resettled back to their homlands, some had lived in these camps as displaced people for 16 years.
In 1993 she went to work with an NGO in Phnom Penh where founded The Rajana Arts and Crafts Association which trained, skilled and employmed repatriated refugees and disadvantaged Cambodian youth.
She moved to Siem Reap in 2001 to open Saomao social enterprise with the goal to provide income and employment opportunities to the rural poor.
Marie speaks fluent Cambodian and has been continuously involved with artisans, producers and the handicraft industry in Cambodia. She has a M.Sc. in Poverty reduction Policy and Practice from SOAS (The London University) and wrote her dissertation on the cambodian handicraft industry.
Saomao’s jewellery and silk products are handmade by skilled artisans who come mainly from underprivileged backgrounds or from the rural population.
Our team of artisans and producers work either in a workshop on our premises or from their homes and our tailors are trained for one year by a local NGO who selects and trains young women from the most disadvantaged of rural families.
All of our staff works in a free fair and dignified work environment, they are paid fair wages, and they receive benefits such as education, training, sick pay, maternity and compassionate leave.
Saomao partners with experienced independent Cambodian women weavers who hand weave using traditional methods on fully manual looms. Our silk cloth is a, unique work of textile art, which carries an imprint of the weavers character. Its slight imperfections and unevenness in the weave is the sign of manual manufacture unlike machine woven silk, which is a monotonously perfect industrial fabric.