Craftsmanship - Samorn Sanixay and her very relevant work with Eastern Weft

Craftsmanship - Samorn Sanixay and her very relevant work with Eastern Weft

Today, on the last day of Fashion Revolution Week 2020, I am sharing with you an email I received from Samorn Sanixay on the 8th of January. When I received it, I was working on my own in studio before we had officially opened the doors after our Christmas break. It was such a terrifying start to the year with all the damage and destruction of the bush fires, who knew things were only going to get worse. Samorn’s email was such a delight to receive at the time, written from the heart if made me smile, it made me laugh and made me feel a whole lot better about the world with people like Samorn making it more beautiful for many through her work with Eastern Weft.

Eastern Weft is a weaving co-operative based in Vientiane, Laos founded in 2004 by Samorn Sanixay and Khaisy Sopabmixay to showcase the beauty and diversity of Laos textiles and craft.

Craftsmanship is very important to me therefore supporting and shining a light on artisanal crafts is very close to my heart. I encourage you to read Samorn's full newsletter below and to follow her work directly at Eastern Weft or through her Instagram @samorn_sanixay. Several years ago I was lucky enough to attend one of her natural dyeing workshops which was fascinating and truly inspiring – she really is the master of natural dyeing in Australia.


8 January 2020

Dear friends,

I hope this letter finds you well. It has been a long time since I’ve seen you or sent you an email. 

I had started this letter just before Christmas but then I had no internet while I was at my parents house. 

Right now, Miss Marple is on TV in the back ground I have time and head space to write you. Oh yes! I have watched all the British crime drama’s imaginable. Is that so terrible that Im so terribly boring?

 I start each year with the best intentions and a list of all the things I have planned.

As news of the fires spread to the town where my sister lives, it made me anxious with fear and worry that all the things I do are irrelevant and I should not send you a letter, but I said I would.

So to recap 2019 for me. 

The few high lights for the year was a visit from Khaisy, my master weaver along with her husband and two weavers. 

They went to South Australia first to visit a long lost relative of Khaisy who works as a farmer pruning grapevines in the vineyards in the Adelaide Hills. 

There was no room in the small house Khaisy and her husband was sent to stay in caravan for almost four weeks. 

She rang me with such excitement about how the caravan was the best invention they had ever seen, a mobile home that you can attach to a car and take anywhere with you! They happened to arrive in winter and it was freezing.

In late July, Khaisy arrived to visit me and finally I had a foraging partner once more. Each morning we would walk along the nature trail and collect fallen leaves. What I liked most about being with Khaisy and Saiphon, her husband is that they are true hunter-gatherers. 

They know how to read the landscape and find useful materials for shelter, to weave or eat, simple but incredible. Each day we saw hundreds of native birds but they were disappointed when it was told to them that the birds are protected. 

I just loved that they appreciate life so much and are so grateful to be visiting Australia. 

As usual, they were not interested in big cities or what’s the latest trends in shopping centres but more in awe of the nature and diversity of animals. 

They got to try a hamburger, a meat pie and sausage roll for the first time. Saiphon liked everything but Khaisy prefers eating rice.

In June, we were invited to submit up to three of our traditional weavings into to ASEAN Textile Awards for 2019. The piece that we decided to show was a weaving that depicted the life in a village in northern Laos where Khaisy was born, new spring buds and blossoms, the forest and shapes that are traditionally used in Lao weavings that symbolise protection and prayers of prosperity. It took almost five months to weave this piece. 

There were over one hundred entrants from sixteen of the Asian countries and member states.

One morning in early August, we got the call to say that we won the category of Best Handwoven Textiles (in Supplementary weft). Supplementary weft weaving is one of the most difficult, similar to free style weaving where individual threads are slotted in to create a pattern or motif. 

As Khaisy was with me in Australia, we sent her youngest daughter, Thidaphon to accept the award. The ceremony was held in Bangkok and the prize was handed out by the Thai Princess, Her Royal Highness, Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

We had a little chat about the early days and how hard we have worked and  far we have come and never thought we would be around almost twenty years later.

Part of the award is a trip to visit some of the oldest weaving houses that still exist in Japan, China and India. 

As Khaisy and I were about to leave for Laos together, I received news that my beloved Granny was really ill. She has been an inspiration to me, not in a creative way but for strength in my work and why I want to keep supporting disadvantaged women. I would have invited her to join our weaving house but she would have to sit a test first! No preferences for family. Grandma had a really great send off, a true ’natural die’ experience in the middle of a rice field with coconut oil poured over her before being cremated. Now, I think about creating some weavings to honour her life. 

I had the opportunity to visit and teach natural dyeing in many studios and schools. I thank you all so very much for taking time out to attend class or hosting us. Thank you for believing in me because I know that some of you attended my first classes and I was absolute rubbish! It was like pushed on stage without learning your lines properly or having stage fright. 

I have enjoyed meeting all of you and sharing what I know. You have all helped me in huge ways as well. The many questions in class that I have not thought about made me go away and work on colours or further techniques, we never stop learning or those of us who do, stop living a meaningful life. 

The preparation for class and travel is tiring. It has taken me away from real creative work like weaving.

To be honest, Im a rubbish teacher who just brings a mess with me. I need to work on a more effective method of communication and explaining things to you. 

So I will take a break and go away to refresh and step up! 

However, what Im really excited to share with you is that finally after sixteen years the little farm that we started in Vientiane has flourished into a garden of Eden. It is a 12 acre farm where we were totally self sufficient and should there be a war, we wont be starving. 

In 2004, over a thousand teak seedlings were planted, tropical fruits ( banana’s, papaya, mango etc ) bamboo, rosewood, rice and plants that can be harvested to make thread to be woven.

The fruit trees are in abundance and our weavers are able to sell the fruit for extra income. 

So it was only time before we should build a weaving house out in the farm. 

Im so excited that in 2020, we will open the farm and have visitors come to learn natural dyeing and weaving in this space that we planned and started so long ago. Our hard work, the labour of love has come into fruition, literally. 

In February, we have our first group of people who will come for a one week intensive and immersive dyeing and weaving course. You will learn from the very best Master weavers and dyers in Laos. 

If you are interested, please let me know and I will send you the details. Our first class beings February 1st, 2020 with two more classes planned during the year. 

Through out the year, there is so much to share but I travel a lot. Ive become such a scatterbrain and remembering to write after an exhausting day was hard. 

It will be a new years resolution of mine to be more engaging with those who Ive met through my work. 

I thank you again and looking forward to seeing and working with you again.


(Images are from Eastern Weft)

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