The Tales behind the Tails
There are some very special little friends in our Kids Collection.
Here are their stories.
Papier Mâché Animals
These papier mâché toys are the Burmese equivalent of a spinning top or cup-and-ball; they are the things that children have played with for decades, but which nowadays are sidelined in favour of iphone games or plastic toys from China. They have always been sold on the steps up to pagodas and at festivals, and you can still find them if you look hard beyond the piles of neon plastic. There's a reason they have stood the test of time: they are completely enchanting. Light enough for little arms and bright enough for little eyes.
Sagaing region in central Burma is the historic home of these little friends. The papier mâché is wrapped around a wooden mould, then the mould is teased out and the two halves glued together and painted. There are only a handful of makers still giving life to these exotic adventurers. Luckily the tourism market is keeping them in business, and now, so can you!
The Final Product
A trio of little pals to take your children on wild adventures. Elephants roam the jungles in Burma, so give them a bamboo shoot and you're off. The zebras and giraffes are more of a puzzle, as there aren't any in Burma, but since when did logic get in the way of play?!
Handmade Elephant Toys
These adorable Ele-pals are made by the Salesian Sisters, a group of nuns from a hill-station called Pyin-Oo-Lwin nestled in the Shan Highlands of Burma. Designed by Hla Day (a wonderful Yangon-based social enterprise), these elephants partially fund a training program run by the Sisters for young women from rural communities. Over two years, they are taught sewing and general life skills, before returning to their villages to establish businesses and economic independence at home.
The elephants are made with hand-loomed cotton from Shan state. The fabric is dyed using natural dyes: the yellow from onion skins, the red from cochineal (crushed insects!), and the green from black beans. Read all about the dyeing process here.
The Final Product
Koko, Mala and Zaza! They've come all the way from the jungles of Burma and are looking for a happy home. They mostly like to eat bamboo shoots and molasses. But they'll settle for a strawberry yoghurt and some pombears... they aren't fussy.