THAILAND. International photographer Roderick McDougall and interior designer Lisa Thom take us on a rare glimpse inside the teakwood walls of an original silk studio in Baan Krua Nua, a community in Bangkok.
“The nuances in hues cannot be duplicated by commercial factory processes,” notes the designer. “The silks capture the light and refract. It’s as if they are woven of light and water.”
The silk atelier in Baan Krua Nua is one of the last remaining vestiges of Thailand’s artisan textile movement.
Lisa, a native of Tennessee, moved to Thailand with her husband several years ago, and has put her design expertise into a unique fair trade cottage industry. When her e-commerce site opens later this month she will offer pillows made from these authentic Thai silk processes. She has made a committment to employ and preserve these distinct fabrics created by Thai artisans on vintage looms.
“Our visits to the silk atelier has been a highlight of my time in Thailand,” said Lisa. “I look forward to working with these artists to help preserve one of the region’s signature art forms. My company is small, but we are pleased to be a voice to encourage the employment of local artisan efforts.”
This Bangkok silk atelier is one of the original suppliers of Jim Thompson designs. Thompson was an American architect and expatriate who helped revitalize the Thai silk industry in the 1950s and 1960s.
Thompson’s company, Thai Silk Company Limited, was founded in 1948. Ten years later, Thompson completed the pinnacle of his design achievement, a new home to showcase his international art collection. When Jim Thompson silk designs were featured exclusively in the popular 1956 film The King and I, the expatriate gained celebrity status and his company further flourished.
Thompson’s story is one of the most mysterious from the design world. In 1967 he disappeared from the design scene, after living in Thailand for more than 22 years. His Thompson House, a former palace, came under the control of the James H. W. Thompson Foundation under royal patronage. The mystery surrounding his disappearance has never been solved.
Today the Thompson House serves as a museum, and is a popular tourism attraction in the region.
Along with silk threads, there is history woven into this story that dates back to the 14th century when civil war and conflicts in the region caused thousands of Muslim Chams to flee into southern Laos and Cambodia, bringing their exquisite silk-weaving skills with them. In the early 1780s, the new Thai king rewarded their loyalty by establishing a community for the artisans along the San Saeb canal, still known as Baan Krua. It remains Bangkok’s largest Muslim community.
COMING SOON: Lisa’s custom pillows, made from a range of Southeast Asia silks, will soon be available to buyers for retail resale and interior designers looking for exquisite and authentic detail. Nashville Interiors will bring you launch details soon.
Photography by Roderick McDougall for Nashville Interiors