Thai artisans revive old crafts to weave new fashion and stories for modern market

PHU PHAN, Thailand: Drawing was a matter of secrecy for Tavee Meboot when she was a little girl. The more she drew, the more money her father had to fork out to buy new notebooks.Her family could not afford to keep doing that. So the young Tavee used each notebook sparingly and kept her art secret or until she ran out of pages for her childhood imagination. “I liked drawing but we were poor. Each time I needed a new notebook, my dad would ask ‘Why do you buy it so often?’. The notebook was actually for art assignments from school,” Tavee, now 43, reminisced with a smile. “I sneakily used it for my own drawings.” Tavee’s love for art was tucked away in her heart. She grew into a farmer in her hometown of Sakon Nakhon, northeastern Thailand. Her life revolves around the seasons on the Phu Phan mountains, her paddy fields, cassava farm and rubber plantation. A few years ago, a motorbike accident kept her immobile for months. That was when she got to know Bhukram - a clothing brand from her small village of Nang Toeng. Over the past seven years, Bhukram has revived the disappearing art of cotton weaving in the community. Its artisans are local villagers who grow, weave and dye cotton by hand. With needles and threads, they then tell the story of local livelihoods through intricate embroidery that has given Bhukram its unique character. This is a creation of Pilan ‘Meaw’ Thaisuang, a Thai historian who is passionate about nature and the traditional way of life on the hills of Phu Phan.  Meaw grew up in Nang Toeng, where generations of residents have lived a simple life close to nature. Her childhood was shaped by the richness of the forest, where children played and looked for food with their parents. “I love this place very much,” said Meaw, who had left home to pursue a university degree and work in Bangkok, 600 km away, for ten years.  “I always wanted to come home after finishing my education. I wanted to come back to do something and stay with my parents.” Behind her, different kinds of cotton garments fill a new studio. The two-storey wooden building is a place where artisans meet to discuss designs and submit their work for review. The space also functions as a shop and is open to the public every Saturday.

Thai artisans revive old crafts to weave new fashion and stories for modern market

PHU PHAN, Thailand: Drawing was a matter of secrecy for Tavee Meboot when she was a little girl. The more she drew, the more money her father had to fork out to buy new notebooks.

Her family could not afford to keep doing that. So the young Tavee used each notebook sparingly and kept her art secret or until she ran out of pages for her childhood imagination.

“I liked drawing but we were poor. Each time I needed a new notebook, my dad would ask ‘Why do you buy it so often?’. The notebook was actually for art assignments from school,” Tavee, now 43, reminisced with a smile.

“I sneakily used it for my own drawings.”

Tavee’s love for art was tucked away in her heart. She grew into a farmer in her hometown of Sakon Nakhon, northeastern Thailand. Her life revolves around the seasons on the Phu Phan mountains, her paddy fields, cassava farm and rubber plantation.

A few years ago, a motorbike accident kept her immobile for months. That was when she got to know Bhukram - a clothing brand from her small village of Nang Toeng.

Over the past seven years, Bhukram has revived the disappearing art of cotton weaving in the community. Its artisans are local villagers who grow, weave and dye cotton by hand. With needles and threads, they then tell the story of local livelihoods through intricate embroidery that has given Bhukram its unique character.

This is a creation of Pilan ‘Meaw’ Thaisuang, a Thai historian who is passionate about nature and the traditional way of life on the hills of Phu Phan. 

Meaw grew up in Nang Toeng, where generations of residents have lived a simple life close to nature. Her childhood was shaped by the richness of the forest, where children played and looked for food with their parents.

“I love this place very much,” said Meaw, who had left home to pursue a university degree and work in Bangkok, 600 km away, for ten years. 

“I always wanted to come home after finishing my education. I wanted to come back to do something and stay with my parents.”

Behind her, different kinds of cotton garments fill a new studio. The two-storey wooden building is a place where artisans meet to discuss designs and submit their work for review. The space also functions as a shop and is open to the public every Saturday.