Inspired by a love for native Australian birdlife, and driven to support a community in need, Tasmania local Alexandra Sommer founded Songbird in 2015. While exploring the mountains of northern Thailand, Alexandra first encountered the Akha hill tribe artisans in 2011. A group of women creating colourful sculptures from local clay, they were the primary breadwinners for their families in a village that relied on seasonal agriculture and an unstable tourism industry. Keeping in touch with the community of women, some who had been displaced from Tibet and southern China, Alexandra learned that the demand for their handcrafts had dried up and they had reluctantly stopped using their creative skills. Inspired to action, Alexandra began designing Songbird Collection from her home in Tasmania. She came up with a colourful range of Australian native birds, designed to remind the world of the diversity and value of native birds. Both an artwork to admire, and an opportunity for activism, since their founding in 2015, Songbird has donated over ten thousand dollars to Australian Birdlife conservation projects, namely through the not-for-profit organization Birdlife Australia.
Five years on, Songbird has provided stable employment for nine local artisans, with positive impacts across the entire community. In the village workshop in Thailand, around 30 minutes from the Northern hub of Chiang Rai, each unique Songbird item is hand-sculpted from locally, and responsibly sourced clay. The sculpted earthenware clay is then fired and delicately hand-painted to represent the beautiful birdlife of Australia and beyond. Songbird clay is drawn from existing construction sites that surround the village workshop, meaning the environment is not disrupted purely for our craft, but rather it is thoughtfully harvested as a byproduct of other industries.
Songbird is committed to Fair Trade working practices, providing a fair & stable income, safe working conditions, skills development, and flexible work arrangements to balance work with family responsibilities. Working in partnership with the Mirror Foundation, a local community development organization, Songbird artisans are provided with translation and support services to further their journey towards economic empowerment.
Looking to make an even greater positive impact in 2020, Songbird has launched the Artisan Community Fund. Through this initiative, proceeds from the sale of Asian songbirds provide health and education support for artisans, their families, and their community.