Sop Moei Arts is a non-profit organization, which has been working with the Pwo Karen in Sop Moei district of Mae Hong Son Province, Thailand for the last 30 years. We collaborate with local villagers to create unique, limited edition and one off products, employing their expertise in weaving and basket making. This provides not only a sustainable source of income for the Pwo Karen but also helps keep alive their traditional craft skills, which are rapidly disappearing.
The wine holder is one of the earliest examples of innovation and adaptation in Sop Moei Arts baskets. Here is Kent’s story of how he came up with the idea that was to become one of our most successful models:
“Many years ago a Pwo Karen man showed me a small, oddly shaped basket which his people once used for storing pumpkin seeds. He wondered if I might want to include this basket with the others we were already producing.
I could not imagine that anybody would want to buy such a basket, but the shape interested me and I thought it would be a pity for it to disappear altogether simply because plastic bags and bottles had made the basket obsolete. So I kept my sample on my desk, and slowly the idea formed that if the basket were enlarged, it might hold a wine bottle. I took this idea back to the man who had given me my sample and asked him to make a new one – this time adding a stand so that the basket would have a stable base. Then we added a handle. When this mock-up was done I took the basket to Chiang Mai and had the stand made of metal. This was then taken back to the mountains, where the weaver fused basket to stand.
The final stage was to give this simple wine bottle holder a beautiful outer finish. We did this simply at first, just weaving a new layer over the inside basket. Then I asked the weaver to innovate, to come up with a dozen or so new patterns, and to incorporate new material such as fern stems, cotton and silk yarns into this product.”
In May 2012, Sop Moei Arts received the Chiang Mai Design Award 2012 for the Wine holder in the category “For Excellence in the Crafts, Decorative items & Furniture.”