Marie Hill is a British designer who has always been concerned about poverty, injustice and oppression, she wanted to use her creativity to address these issues. In the ninties she work volunteered in a refugee camp for South East Asian refugees in Thailand, In 1993 some 360,000 of them were repatriated to their homeland, some had lived in camps as displaced people for 16 years.
In 1993 she went to work with an NGO in Phnom Penh and founded The Rajana Arts and Crafts Association to train, equip and employed returnees and disadvantaged Cambodian youth. In 2001 the association was handed over to be soley run and managed by Cambodians.
In 2001 she started Saomao social enterprise to provide income and employment opportunities to the rural poor in Siem Reap.Shas been continuously involved with artisans, producers and the handicraft industry in Cambodia for over 20 years, she has a M.Sc. in Poverty reduction Policy and Practice from SOAS (The London University) and her dissertation was 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.