With its inconspicuous location behind the long row of handicrafts stalls that line Norzin Lam from the Three Offering Goddesses traffic circle on down, Tarayana Rural Crafts may look like any other retail shop. But its mission is to help the women and children of Bhutan’s most marginalized communities to become self-reliant.
All of the crafts for sale at Tarayana Rural Crafts—natural-dye silk scarves, exquisite kira dresses, wooden dragon masks painted in brilliant colors, woven bangchu baskets, paper diaries, long burning candles—are handmade by craftspeople living in villages as many as four days’ walk from the nearest road.
The shop sponsors women and men under the aegis of its mother organization, Tarayana Foundation, giving them all the necessities: looms, carving tools, raw materials, work sheds where they gather to work in circles, even early learning centers so that their young children can be educated while the parents create.
Tarayana also practices fair trade and encourages craftspeople to develop new products, giving workshops where participants acquire new skills and learn how to revive traditional Bhutanese arts and crafts. The artisans are given further opportunities to showcase their wares at the Tarayana Rural Crafts retail store and during the annual Tarayana May Fair in Thimphu.
What’s more, the prices are fair. Unlike the virtually indistinguishable crafts stalls from which it can be difficult to choose, Tarayana Rural Crafts does not pay guide commissions. So guides do not bring their tourists here. This shop instead takes no cut, ensuring that the maximum possible revenue goes to the creators. These are goods in the truest sense—things you’ll feel happy to purchase.
Tarayana Rural Crafts is an initiative of the Tarayana Foundation, established to support rural artisans in product development and marketing of craft products. The enterprise was born out of the Foundation’s livelihood interventions in the most remote villages of Bhutan, as a means of sustainable and fair income generation options for the rural poor.
Tarayana Rural Crafts has been providing services to the artisans and Self Help Groups (SHGs) through skills development training, financial literacy, product enhancement through improved techniques and marketing of products.More than 60 SHGs and 100 artisans from all over the country are engaged in organized production of about 8 different product categories with more than 30 distinct product lines.
The overall objective of the Tarayana Rural Crafts is the promotion of the welfare of the rural artisans and their skills, providing them better facilities for self-sustained income and generation of employment; thereby uplifting the economic opportunity of the artisans in Bhutan.
The Tarayana Rural Crafts outlets are currently located at the following locations:
1. The Tarayana Rural Crafts Center, Norzin Lam, Thimphu
2. The Folk Heritage Museum Handcraft Shop, Kawangjangsa, Thimphu
3. Paro International Airport, Paro