This wasn't our first batch of marble samples. This was probably the 15th batch. This collection was a long time coming.
There is a town called Sagyin, Burmese for "Marble" just north of Mandalay. It is in the shadow of a huge marble mountain which the inhabitants have lived off for centuries. Everybody in the village works with marble: they mine it, carve it, trade it; they use it as toothpaste, make-up and soap. They make giant buddhas and tiny bowls. It pays for their food and they eat their food off it. And it's some of the best in the world: prized for its beauty, hardness and varied texture. So unsurprisingly, we have been working on a little marble collection since day one. Like most of our products, it has taken its time. But we haven't been in a rush. We never are, because we can't be. Everything in Burma takes as long as it takes.
This is Zaw. He and his brother set up a marble workshop eight years ago. Like everyone else in the village, they mostly make Buddha statues, so our products were a bit of a departure for them. When they first opened their workshop, they only had hand-tools, but they've built up their business and have now invested in small hand-held machines to speed them up. Samples chugged up and down the Mandalay-Yangon highway for months while we iterated and refined our little collection. They've battled with bad health, broken tools, broken marble and broken hearts following the coup, but they have never given up. They and their marble are made of stronger stuff.
The Final Product
Almost four years from our first attempt, four different workshops, about forty broken tools, four months of coup chaos, four lockdowns and four weeks at sea, our marbles made it to our little welsh warehouse and are ready for you to shop. But four years feels about right given that the material is hundreds of thousands of years old, and the trade is as old as time.
Each piece clearly shows the manual work of Zaw and his brother. You can see where the chisel has worked down the middle of the toothbrush cup. Where the pestle and mortar has been hand-finished. These are little treasures, ready for you to treasure.