Meet Mang, award winning Lao Tai Chok weaver.
She lives in a picturesque village by the side of the Mekong River in northern Laos, and has woven many of the scarves in our Laos Collection.
In a peaceful village by the banks of the Mekong, not far from Luang Prabang in northern Laos, a cluster of small weaver's studios create some of the most exquisite and laborious silk textiles you'll find anywhere in the world.
Mang is one of the weavers working at these studios, who specialises in the chok supplementary weft technique of the Lao-Tai community. She weaves textiles using hand spun silk from the workshop's own silk farm, coloured using natural dyes to create unique pieces that tell tales of mythological creatures and that can take up to six months to complete.
The weaving is closely related to the beliefs of Mang and her fellow weavers. Aside from the motifs woven into the patterns, the textiles themselves are believed to offer protection to the wearer. During the weaving, Mang leaves a knife sitting on the loom to ward off mischievous spirits from making a mess of her warp yarns.
Mang is 27 years old; when she was a girl of 12, her mother began teaching her to weave, and since the age of 17 she has been weaving professionally in this weaver's studio owned and managed by master weaver, Bangone Doungdala. She is paid per piece she completes and can make a good living from her work. She's not yet married and still lives at home with her family.
Mang weaves five days a week for three and a half hours in the morning, then another two hours after her lunch break. She is still learning and on her way to becoming a master weaver herself, one day.
Until then, the designs for each piece she weaves are first created by Bangone. These are usually based on traditional patterns incorporating the mythological naga (water serpent): the people of the Mekong believe the naga to be a river god, so this motif features heavily in their designs.
Mang says she enjoys weaving. The most difficult step is arranging the threads to create the pattern designed by Bangone. She knows the patterns she weaves by heart; she doesn't need to have them written down. It will take Mang around three months to weave a more simple scarf using the chok supplementary weft technique. She is the winner of a Luang Prabang weaving competition for one of her own naga designs.
Bangone and her weaver's studio mostly weave for export, though happily there is a healthy local demand for these textiles too: local women wear the sarongs for special occasions like weddings and visits to the temple.