This picture shows a long piece of cloth 2.64 metres in length and 56cm wide. It is heavily patterned at both ends and the photograph shows a portion of both the right and wrong side of the item.
Q: When was the piece made and how long has it been in your possession?
A: It was made in early 1992 and I bought it approximately one month later.
Q: Who made it and where was it made?
A: It was made as part of the Thai Hilltribes Project by women in northern Thai villages. This is an ongoing project whereby the people are being re-trained in their ancient crafts and now produce practical items which are being sold to raise funds to sustain their communities. Once a year a huge sale, over several days, is staged in an enormous hall in Bangkok. This event is run and managed by volunteer expatriates and I was lucky enough to be involved in 1992.
Q: What is it made of (cotton wool, silk or other materials)?
A: It is made of cotton yarn. The surface is very even and there is no sheen to the yarn.
Q: Can you identify the techniques that have been used?
A: It has been woven on a loom and incorporates one of the traditional designs of the region it has come from. We might describe this type of effect as in the style of pattern darning.
Q: Was it made by hand or machine? How are you able to determine this?
A: It was made by using a hand-loom. Electricity in hill tribe areas is sparse and sporadic. It is not available to power machinery for this type of work. Only larger towns would have the facilities for that and then they would be working within a factory setting. As I personally visited the Hilltribe Project areas in question I can confirm categorically that all the crafts are made by hand.
Q: What is its purpose? Do you still use it? If not, how was it used and by whom?
A: The purpose is a very good question. What exactly is it? I’m not sure. Many cloths of differing sizes are made and I don’t know who gives the dimensions to the makers and what the purposes for many of them are. In Thailand the expatriates seem to like to put out table runners, cloths running along the top of bureaus, throws on the back of sofas and the like. I bought my share of them, along with this one, but my motives were purely to support the Project. I was fairly well off at the time and the makers weren’t. I did a lot of charity work whilst living there and helping at the annual sale and ensuring that I bought several things was one of the ways to support them. No I don’t use it, I’ve never used it, I keep it in the cupboard and look at it from time to time and remember my life there.
Q: What does it tell you about the maker or the user in terms of gender, role in society, wealth or environment?
A: The maker would probably have been female, because they do much of that type of work in those areas, but not all. Although the areas are remote, poor and without a lot of basic amenities the person making my cloth would have had a reasonable standing within the village. Not just anyone can make things and submit them for sale through the Project avenue. Makers of quality and experience are sourced and helped with setting up equipment. They are given responsibility to produce certain items and they need to be able to communicate with the coordinators. They may work as part of a team on a daily basis and they have a real purpose and the potential to make life better for their community.
Q: What do you particularly like about the piece?
A: With regard to the cloth itself I like the colour scheme of black, red and cream along with the regular patterning.
I like the fact that it has been personally made and is not part of a huge production and that it has helped a charity. I like to think that somewhere, someone got something to improve their life because I bought it, and I especially like the fact that rich foreign expatriates part with loads of money every year at this event. It makes me smile. I never use it but I don’t care – it simply makes me happy to own it.