Erin Prais-Hintz of http://treasures-found.blogspot.com started the Challenge of Travel blog hop. She asked us to “select a region of the planet that you do not live on and choose an inspiration nation from within that region”. She asked “What one place in the world have you always wanted to visit and why?” We were to research the country and find inspiration for making jewelry.
I chose Laos. I have wanted to travel to Southeast Asia for some time and recently read an article on a boat ride down the Mekong River that sounded fabulous.
According to Wikipedia: Laos, officially the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, bordered by Burma and China to the northwest, Vietnam to the east, Cambodia to the south and Thailand to the west. Its population was estimated to be 6.5 million in 2012.
Laos traces its history to the kingdom of Lan Xang, which existed from the 14th to the 18th century when it split into three separate kingdoms. In 1893, it became a French protectorate, with the three kingdoms, Luang Phrabang, Vientiane and Champasak, uniting to form what is now known as Laos. It briefly gained independence in 1945 after Japanese occupation, but returned to French rule until it was granted autonomy in 1949. Laos became independent in 1953, with a constitutional monarchy under Sisavang Vong. Shortly after independence, a long civil war ended the monarchy, when the Communist Pathet Lao movement came to power in 1975.
Laos is a single-party socialist republic. The capital city is Vientiane. Other large cities include Luang Prabang, Savannakhet and Pakse. The official language is Lao. Laos is a multi-ethnic country with the politically and culturally dominant Lao people making up approximately sixty percent of the population, mostly in the lowlands. Various Mon-Khmer groups, the Hmong, and other indigenous hill tribes, accounting for forty percent of the population, live in the foothills and mountains.
I decided to focus on the Hmong.
According to Lonely Planet “The Hmong are one of the largest hill tribes in the Mekong region, spread through much of northern Laos, northern Vietnam, Thailand and Yúnnán. As some of the last to arrive in the region in the 19th century, Darwinian selection ensured that they were left with the highest and harshest lands from which to eke out their existence. They soon made the best of a bad deal and opted for opium cultivation, which brought them into conflict with mainstream governments during the 20th century. The CIA worked closely with the Hmong of Laos during the secret war in the 1960s and 1970s. The US-backed operation was kept secret from the American public until 1970. The Hmong were vehemently anticommunist and pockets of resistance continue today.”
The Hmong are craftspeople in fiber arts and jewelry.
According to: http://www.sabaidesignsgallery.com Hmong households acquire as much silver as possible and during New Year all the families’ silver comes out on display. There are three main styles of earrings worn by Hmong women- that shaped like an arrow, with the shaft bent around to form a circle, an elongated S shape, usually flattened with a pointed plug worn through the earlobe and a horseshoe shape with flattened end. White Hmong wear heavy round bracelets with engraved designs and neck rings, which may be solid or hollow. Locks shaped pendants with a variety of designs are also frequently worn, sometimes at the back of the neck rather than the front. These ‘soul lock pendants’ are presented during ‘curing ceremonies’ to lock the restless soul to the body until the appropriate time to die arrives. As the New Year approached in years past, Hmong silversmiths would melt silver bars and necklaces to repair jewelry and prepare new ornaments for the coming celebrations. In the early part of last century, silver was often obtained through melting French silver coins.
I acquired a “soul lock” pendant and used it to make this necklace. I used lampwork beads that I had made, sterling silver beads, and a Thai Hill Tribe clasp.
Check out the armchair travels and inspired jewelry by the other participants: