The Taileu ethnic groups are known for their exceptional weaving skills and passion for colour. We work with several groups and one is based in the rural town of Oudomxay, 6 hours drive from Luang Prabang. In the first years of Ma Te Sai, the journey took much longer due to the poor road conditions. I would take the local bus there at dawn, arriving around 1 p.m. and then with cotton in tow, I would turn around and take the 4 p.m. bus back, arriving near midnight. It was a hell of a day but the bounty was worth it!.
Now the road is better and with mobile phones I can shop on WhatsApp and the cotton bounty can make it’s own way down, but that doesn’t mean we stop making the journey there. When we want to work on something new, the time spent with our producers is essential. For a new design, we would reach out to Bouajon, a pattern expert, whom we have collaborated with for over 10 years.
(Bouajon pictured with her husband Ounkham)
It was especially important to be present and work with our weaver to figure out the complex set up of one of our ombre designs. This ombre design was based on the warp (vertical length) thread changing frequently, so the weaver needs to know how many threads make up the stripes—, in an ombre it could be as little as one, two or three. Since the pattern relied on the vertical stripe changing, the weavers are going to have to make a whole warp in that pattern. A horizontal change would be easier since then the weaver can have a single colour warp and change the pattern every few metres or so. The warp being around 50 meters means we needed to commit to ordering a minimum of around 30 pieces in one design.
(What happens if we didn’t order enough pieces?, Well one, we would have annoyed the weaver as they would be left with products, and two our design would end up in another store or even the market. So with this knowledge there is maximum benefit for the weaver and minimum risk for the buyer.
Once the loom is set up, then we move on to the colours, Bouajon’s cupboard of natural colours is wondrous. To get to the design we wanted, we painstakingly pulled out colour samples of threads from the weavers’ cupboard that accounted for the thread size to understand how the thread count would work to create the effect. While the process was long, the results were worth it! We were elated when we were finally able to produce the pattern we designed so that we can share with everyone.
We are dedicated to working with local Laos weavers to help them preserve their crafts and traditions, and we are also determined to share and design handcrafted products for your modern lifestyle.
Shop our favourite Oudomxay Taileu designs here.