History

The Galle region in Sri Lanka has been a world centre of lace making since Portuguese invaders introduced the skill to local fisherwomen 600 years ago. At the time, lace was a status symbol for the rich and powerful.

The craft has been handed down from mother to daughter for many generations. The skill and patience required to produce so-called pillow lace is staggering, involving a paper pattern wrapped around a special pin cushion and the throwing of around 30 wooden bobbins. The work is so intricate, delicate and difficult that it took one highly experienced lace maker well over three months to create a single elaborate collar.

Lace making was once a lucrative occupation in Sri Lanka but has not been a viable commercial export since the 1930’s.

Power of Hands Foundation is committed to preserve, foster and help create a sustainable future for craft industries like lace making and its skilled craft workers.

The project in Sri Lanka was launched in 2005 in the wake of the 2004 Tsunami. Power of Hands Foundation became a UK registered charity in 2008 in order to release funds donated after the Tsunami to set up a training and assessment centre for impoverished female craft workers in Galle who suffered the devastation caused by this wave. A basic centre in Galle was set up and from this base ethical rates for lace-making were developed and the quality of working conditions improved. Funding to provide adequate living/housing/working conditions goes hand in hand with ethical trade and these women need support beyond simply help with their skills to help them out of poverty to become self sufficient.

Even though the unique skills of the crafts women enable them to produce some of the most beautiful lace in the world, they struggle to survive. Their livelihoods are coming under increasing pressure as their country develops and aspires to a Western lifestyle and their crafts are replaced by mass production. Read more about the history of Galle lace here.

View the conclusive document for the Sri Lanka lace project here.

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