Launched in July 2014, 'From Craft to Art' is a community- based art development project, designed by New Zero Art Space in collaboration with the British Council and SDC (Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Embassy of Switzerland) with the aim of exploring and creating opportunities for combining artistic creation with traditional crafts targeting craftsmen and artisans from local cottage industries from six ethnic regions: Shan, Kachin, Mon and Chin States, Mandalay and Tanintharyi Divisions.
The first two years of the project focussed on building networks amongst local crafts people, building up their artistic skills development and promoting the newly designed craft items through exhibitions, with the 1st exhibition held in Rangoon in March 2015 where Shan lacquer ware, silversmith work, bamboo products, marionette puppets, pottery, golden embroidery and wooden sculptures were displayed and sold to the general public.
A second round of site based workshops were held in Dawei (Tanintharyi Region), Mon State and Northern Chin State in 2015 followed by ‘Craft Forward’, a two day craft conference in Rangoon, the first of its kind in Burma, in January 2016. 11 Burmese speakers and seven international speakers from Vietnam, Japan, Laos, Indonesia, Singapore and the UK debated the current state and future possibilities of the artisan craft market. The event gathered 160 delegates including artisans, designers, NGO representatives, small business owners, government officials, researchers and academics. The first day of the conference focused on challenges and opportunities for crafts and traditional cultures in the ‘Global Age’ and the second day highlighted good practices and new market models for crafts in the region.
In 2016, a second craft exhibition was held from 26th February to 1st March at Karaweik Garden, Kandawgyi Natural Park in Rangoon. Craftspeople from Inle Lake (Shan State), Mandalay (Mandalay region), Matupe region (Southern Chin State), Myitkyina (Kachin State), Dawai (Tanintharye Region) and Ogre Island (Mon State) participated to showcase and sell their new products, which included silver ware, puppets, wooden products, bamboo crafts and textiles from the site based workshops.
Programmes also included demonstrations of pottery, puppetry, gold embroidery and back- strap weaving and these received a maximum attention of visitors. Also participated in the exhibition were local craft shops, social enterprises, and NGOs who were active in craft sector and it provided the networking opportunity between the former and the regional crafts people.
Currently project activities are being designed based on the findings and inputs from the country and regional craft experts.