During the thirty years that we have collaborated with Karen basket and textile weavers, we have continually worked with traditional skills and innovation to develop new products for contemporary use. Some of these have become our signature products, or products that especially encapsulate the identity of Sop Moei Arts. Many of these are customer favourites such as the Wine Holder, Howdah basket, Chenille cushions and table runners.
(Signature products: Howdah basket, wine holder and serviette holders)
When we first started working with the Karen, it was traditionally considered part of a man's education to learn the skill of basket weaving. Baskets were used in daily life for carrying produce from the farm, storing blankets and clothing and even to house chickens. The materials used were bamboo, rattan, and leaves, all found in the surrounding jungle. Today, the bamboo used in our baskets is sustainably grown and harvested in the mountains of Sop Moei District.
While we carry the more traditional Karen baskets, such as the Dome basket, we also decided early on to develop and adapt a few of the shapes for contemporary use. One such is the Wine Holder basket. The inspiration for this is a small, Karen basket used for storing pumpkin seeds. Up-sized, and with a metal stand added, it becomes a beautiful and unusual wine bottle holder. The basket weaver often comes up with his own unique patterns. The body is woven in two layers of bamboo and finished with rattan around the rim. The stand is also bound with fine rattan.
(Weaving the bamboo outer layer and rattan rim of the Wine Holder basket)
Another, more recent addition to our basket range is the Howdah basket. This basket was developed by Karen master weaver Phu Khler, who worked with Sop Moei Arts for several years. The basket is woven from rattan, and was inspired by the shape of an elephant howdah. The addition of a handle of monkey ladder vine adds form and shape to the basket and is a beautiful detail. It also makes each basket unique.
(Rattan Howdah basket)
While basket weaving was traditionally undertaken by Karen men, the textiles for everyday use were traditionally woven by Karen women. This included all the clothing worn by the entire family, as well as blankets and bags. Traditional Karen clothing is still woven on back-strap looms and feature a variety of techniques, such as supplementary weft patterns, chenille work, embroidery, seed applique and pom-poms.
During our work with the textile weavers, we moved production onto up-right looms, which allow for a wider width of textile, and experimented with the different techniques. Our range of Chenille cushions, for example, was inspired by the the tufting found on traditional Karen un-married women's tunics. Woven in panels, the thick cotton yarn is inserted during the weaving process and is painstakingly trimmed afterwards. These cushions are both beautiful in a contemporary setting and a real testament to the skills of the Karen women weavers we collaborate with.
(Traditional Karen tunic, weaving chenille and contemporary Chenille cushions)
Another home decor product that we have developed over the years is our decorative Table runner. The center panel consists of a joined patchwork of hand-woven textiles in cotton, viscose and silk. Starting out as a 150 cm table runner, this range has expanded to include mini-mats, short runners and longer runners that can double as bed runners. Perhaps more than any other product, our table runners show-case the quality and range of our textiles, including the different patterns and textures that we weave and are designed to complement our cushion and basket collections. The smaller sizes also look great framed.
(Table runner, show-casing a variety of our hand-woven textiles)