Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist


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Paper Mistresses

lampang 120
Ms. Sompat peels paper from the mold

This woman is one of the first papermakers to set up a professional mill in her region of Lampang, northern Thailand. I met her earlier this year when I travelled through Southeast Asia to explore handmade papers and to meet the people who make them.

Most of the papermakers I met on my travels were women. Why? I found out the answer from a PhD student in Bangkok, who surveyed papermakers in northern Thailand. According to her results, papermills owned/run by women have nearly triple the exports and double the number of products compared to those run by men.

“The study’s findings erase all irrational doubts about whether female leaders, and substantial numbers of female members, can be successful….too much self-reliance [not enough contact with other papermakers] and poor financial record [by men] limit success because these factors limit the ability to learn from others, form networks and gain assistance in improving record keeping. The findings …suggest that women leaders…motivate their groups much more possibly because they are more persuasive and are more open to new ideas.”

Kanchana Sura, Factors Influencing the Success of OTOP Mulberry Paper Enterprises in Chiang Mai Province p.135

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