The biggest mining disaster in Turkish history occurred in Soma in May 2014, 301 miners lost their lives. In the aftermath of this disaster, other mines, which were practically the only source of income for thousands of families in Soma, closed. Agriculture had been rendered impossible due to the mines. Consequently, families had enormous difficulty finding a way of earning a livelihood. Projects were initiated by various NGOs in the area to eliminate these hardships.
Soma Artisans was one such project. It was launched by Anatolian Artisans in 2014 in Soma to ensure a sustainable income to miner's families. Anatolian Artisans is a Washington D.C.-based NGO founded in the US. Its aim is to develop projects that will provide sustainable income to low-income artisans in Turkey. The project, which was initiated for the wives of miners who had lost their jobs after the disaster in Soma, was implemented in collaboration with the Soma branch of the Çağdaş Yaşamı Destekleme Derneği (Association for Supporting Contemporary Life).
Anatolian Artisans promotes traditional Anatolian arts and also economically supports low-income artisans by promoting product development and supporting micro-business management and marketing training. It has been able to implement the Soma project through the financial contributions of the Turkish Philanthropy Fund (TPF) and The Poverty Alleviation Fund (TPAF). The funds received have enabled it to set up a workshop where women in Soma can work. With the assistance of international designers, they have created products that combine handicrafts and design.
Through the workshops conducted by the famous American designers Claire Burkert and Susie Vickery, under the joint direction of Anatolian Artisans and TPAF, 24 Soma women have begun producing traditional crochet and lacework items, as well as agricultural products, under the label Soma Artisans. The drawings on the women's handmade products are those made by Soma children. In order to sell the products and to transform the project into a sustainable economic model, the Soma women set up a cooperative by the name of "Rota Anadolu El Sanatları" (Rota Anatolian Handicrafts). There are currently 24 women registered at the cooperative. Soma women are striving to employ more people at their cooperative, to expand sales outlets to enable them to be more economically self-sufficient, and to get their handicrafts into the hands of even more people.