Tuesday, 1 December 2015

More on traditional Thai weaving patterns

So in Chiang Mai I found a huge number of shops selling woven items.  Some of them come from the hilltribes in the area: the Lanna, Hmong, Karen, Tin and various other peoples.

The ikat that I discovered earlier is mostly from the silkweaving area around Buriran and Surin.  Other techniques seem to be prevalent in the hilltribes, including layered weaving and sometimes embroidery together with mixed layer weaving and ikat.  Unfortunately the shopowners with most interesting wares tend to speak no English at all.  I found one shop owned by a native English speaker, Adrian, and he was most informative.  His wares included stuff from the SUPPORT project.  From him I learned more about the SUPPORT foundation.  Apparently it is a bidirectional flow of information and products - the Queen supports the industry but to a certain degree modern design and fashion informs what is woven.  So for instance in this amazing tote bag which I just barely avoided buying, ikat is visible in the center, but the beaded decorative spirals are a non-traditional element.

On the other hand, there is Chan.  The owner spoke zero english, but did tell me that these items were made for a runway fashion show!  So this is runway fashion, hilltribe style.  A few of the tops and jackets would be wearable for daily use if you so desired, but the prices are western level, with nothing less than 150$.  (Sorry I was pretty surreptitious with my camera in his little shop.)

In many of the shops older pieces are reused - either by being incorporated into clothing or as decorative elements on bags.  I extrapolate that this is partly because the culture doesn't include as much wastefulness as in the west, but I know from speaking with some of the shop owners that many of these techniques are being lost, so the weavings have value as non-reproducible originals, and I suppose you could call them vintage elements.  One lady explained that the villages use a middleman to sell their weaving in Chiang Mai, so often jackets etc. which have been worn are resold when they aren't needed.  (I tried on an AMAZING jacket made by the Tin people, with bright pink silk embroidery, but it was 200$ and the shopowner wouldn't let me take a photo.) 

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