CHATTANOOGA. Former Tennessee designer Lisa Thom returns to her hometown of Chattanooga to visit family as often as possible, but she and her husband now call Thailand home. Both Lisa and her husband have enjoyed extensive world travels, and at each destination they have been drawn to the quality of creative expression.
Her travels and new home have allowed Lisa the opportunity to spend the last several years researching the artisan textile history and aesthetics of Thailand.
This month Lisa opened an online retail site, Fermosura, to sell her designer pillows made from fine Thai silks and other regional fabrics.
“In Southeast Asia, where many cultures have met over the centuries through shipping and trade, there is a rich, broad range of textiles and styles of embroidery,” said Lisa. “The traditional styles have been largely supplanted by modern decorative styles and, of course, mass production methods.”
To view Lisa Thom’s Thai silk pillows, visit Fermosura.com.
The word fermosura represents a crossroads of cultures and derives from archaic Spanish as the word for “beauty.” It is still in use in Catalan only.
“I came across “Fermosura” not from Spanish, but from a dialect of Portuguese mixed with Malay called Kristang,” said Lisa. This dialect is spoken by a blended Portuguese/Malay ethnic group along the Straits of Malacca. Only a tiny number of speakers remain in Malaysia and Singapore, and they are mostly older people. The word “fermosura” is old fashioned and no longer used, even among the speakers of this dialect. It was while living in Singapore that I first fell in love with the varied traditional decorative arts of Southeast Asia.”
“I chose this archaic word, Fermosura, in a disappearing language to reflect my love of the exquisite traditional arts of this region and desire to contribute to their preservation. I am focusing largely on Thai materials, but will incorporate textiles from my travels around the region.” —Designer Lisa Thom, Thailand
A RICH TEXTILE HISTORY
Lisa’s love of textile design led her to the Baan Krua Nua area of Bangkok, and to one of the original suppliers of Jim Thompson designs. Thompson was an American businessman who helped revitalize the Thai silk industry in the 1950s and 1960s.
Jim Thompson’s traditional textiles, along with “atomic age” designs from the Northeast are often paired with Mid-Century modern furnishings. They offer a vintage sensibility, and feature the jewel tones associated with Thai textiles.
“The Baan Krua Nua is a maze of alleys, footpaths, and small teak cottages located across the canal from the Thompson house,” said Lisa. “It is a few stops on the canal by boat from where we live. The silks I buy are generally solid colors, but are woven from contrasting color threads that give them great nuance in different lighting. These fabrics are used on my most popular pillow styles, and are made exclusively on foot pedal-powered looms by one Thai woman. The craft-rich results in an authenticity many collectors and designers seek.”
Lisa learned that at one time nearly every house in the Bangkok klong, or canal, district of Ban Krua Nua were engaged in producing Jim Thompson silk designs. Today, however, the dyes and loom skills have become nearly a lost art, facing the competition from mass production economies of scale offered by the region’s factories and the world’s demand.
Lisa Thom is pleased to support this old method, selecting a few of her textiles from these small production runs. She also uses silk that is screened, or occasionally batik in nature, from other sources in the provinces.
“The silk atelier’s process was fascinating to witness. Silks fabrics were being dyed in small vats in the courtyard, while inside, a woman was working at an old, foot-pedal wooden loom.” —Designer Lisa Thom, Thailand
Lisa has developed an admiration for the artisans who often use a mix of century-old looms along with contemporary methods. The result of her study has grown into a cottage industry for the designer and featured on her e-commerce site, Fermosura.
Nashville Interiors’ readers receive a 20% discount through the month of May by entering the code NI when prompted at checkout.
Travel with Lisa and international photographer Roderick McDougall to the silk atelier in Baan Krua Nua in our Nashville Interiors’ feature: Fluid Threads: Visiting One of Thailand’s Last Remaining Silk Atelier
Made as small batch, or boutique scale offerings, Lisa Thom’s pillows are now available for sale directly to interior designers and retail shops. These accent pillows feature patterns that blend with traditional or modern interiors.
These two complementary pattern textiles originate in Shanghai, China, though most of Lisa Thom’s selections are from Thailand.