I am very glad to announce a new partnership of Pelagona. In June this year, I went to Studio Naenna in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand. This studio was founded in the 1980s by Patricia Cheesman and is now managed by her daughter Lamorna who grew up in Chiang Mai.
Studio Naenna makes fabrics such as natural silk, cotton and intricate weavings. They also focus on apparel and accessories. I would call their approach a “from farm to home”-concept: every step of the production process is done by the studio and its associated weavers. This involves planting and growing the plants, producing natural dyes, spinning and dying the yarns, weaving and bringing the products to the customer.
Lamorna and I agreed that I would come back to Chiang Mai in September and I ended up spending two days at their “Main Gallery” in the North of the city. Lamorna not only gave me a detailed insight into her family’s story and the studio but I also learned a lot about weaving and indigo. September is the main harvesting season of indigo and I got the chance to witness the production process of the indigo dye. Furthermore, I personally met the weavers who made the beautiful Mai Table Runners which are now available on Pelagona.
The studio is also a specialist in producing indigo – a natural dye to achieve an intense dark blue colour (like the dye used for our beautiful table runners). The original, natural indigo is made from tropical plants and labour intensive and, therefore, expensive.
When the region became interesting for mass production, it was impacted by the use of the cheaper synthetic indigo. The workers had not been educated about the use and disposal of synthetic dyes and their health risks. They assumed they could work with them just like with the natural indigo and disposed of the synthetic indigo by just pouring it on the ground. The dangerous substance then got into the drinking water, chicken ate them and passed the toxic substances to humans who ate the chicken and their eggs. Patricia Cheesman has always been an important expert in fabrics and dyes and acts as an intermediary between the stakeholders in fabric production. Together they committed to prioritising natural dyes. Therefore, until today, Studio Naenna’s mission in addition to the in-house production is educating the public with dying and weaving workshops.
By purchasing products by Studio Naenna, you help to preserve the local traditions and culture. Weaving has always been an important part of Northern Thai culture. One or two generations ago, traditional fabrics were woven to produce clothes for the family. However, when cheaper Western apparel reached the region, the labour-intensive intricate artwork became less and less attractive. Young people do not want to wear traditional clothes, they want to wear something modern. Furthermore, they move to the bigger cities and look for better paying jobs.
The most important learning for me was that Studio Naenna takes the weavers’ needs and lifestyles into account when they plan the production. Lamorna explained in her interview for my blog The Pink Lookbook:
“First of all, […] weavers are mainly women. They are not just weavers – they are mothers, daughters, cleaners, cooks, community leaders, famers. They help each other with the harvesting. They support each other. There is so much more to their lives than just making money from weaving. They are able to make an income when they choose to, with in their own time. We have to accept that. If we are working on an order, it is our responsibility to plan that into the time schedule. It is not as easy as saying 80 metres will be woven within 80 days. We also communicate this to our customers. Furthermore, it is important for us to show the weavers that they are important and appreciated.”
It takes about one month to weave two of our Mai Table Runners. (This excludes the amount of time to produce the natural indigo dye which adds another four months.) They are handwoven by Peerada who works at Studio Naenna. Saeng, who is also a weaver of the studio, dyed the yarns. The weavers do not need any drawings or draft patterns for the traditional diamond pattern.
By shopping at Pelagona you will receive a beautiful addition to your home but you will also make a significant impact.
- Empower female artisans
- Preserve local arts, traditions and culture
- Support women in becoming independent and providing for their families
- Ensure prompt and fair payment of the weavers
- Create awareness about the supply chain of your products, natural materials and our environment.