All products have a story. At Sop Moei Arts, 95% of our woven textiles and all of our baskets come from the Sop Moei area and travel far before they reach our shops. The area where we work lies two hundred and eighty kilometers south-west of Chiang Mai in one of the least accessible areas of Mae Hong Son Province. The journey takes 6-7 hours depending on weather conditions.
I spend roughly ten days to two weeks a month working closely with the weavers, dyeing threads and preparing orders along with my co-designer, Po. On our latest trip (Jan 6-9), my daughter Linnea joined us. Linnea also works with Sop Moei Arts and helps to co-ordinate the colours which we use in our textile collections.
Thi U Lu village is our first stop. This is our second largest weaving center among the Pwo Karen in Sop Moei district. Here, ten women weave the textiles that you find in our Chiang Mai and Bangkok shops. Our stop is to deliver thread, collect fabrics and have a chat with the weavers. Apart from weaving, they have also been busy harvesting chilli, which is an essential ingredient in any Pwo Karen dish. After we have measured the fabric and paid the women their wages, we are given bags of chilli to take with us and continue on our way to Mae Tola.
Mae Tola is our main weaving center and the place where I brought up my family. Linnea grew up here until she was thirteen, so going to Mae Tola is like returning home. I still live here when I am not in Chiang Mai. We arrive just as it is nearing dusk and hurry to make preparations for the night because there is no electricity in the valley.
The next two days are spent working with the women in the weaving houses, sorting yarns and dyeing silk for wall hangings. At present there are six women who weave for us in Mae Tola, though the number fluctuates according to the Pwo farming cycle.
(photo above by Blaise Kormann)
January 9 – Back to Chiang Mai
On Sunday at dawn we begin the long journey back to Chiang Mai – with the truck loaded full of baskets and textiles.
– Kent Gregory (Director)