“Before, I used to come to the site myself, or make a sample for craftsmen to duplicate. So the unique thing this time was that I could only rely on pictures and videos to learn the texture of hemp. Nuansri’s daughter was truly helpful!” Chung Chiung-Yi (Eileen), founder of Mee. Textile
“Mama has her own idea and the products were made in her own style. By collaborating with the designer, she got new angles. She is happy to learn from this and get new knowledge from the process.” ── Daughter of Nuansri Promjai, the lead artisan at Hemp Saithong, Maerim, Thailand
Designer and Craft Community
“We want to arouse people’s interest in fiber crafts, not just in the form of decorative crafts or garments, but in the aesthetics and perceptions of art in daily life.” Mee. Textile is established by fiber artist Eileen Chung in 2015. She hopes to promote the contemporary aesthetic and creation of textiles through the fiber craft’s service design. Meanwhile, she continues her personal artistic creation and exhibitions, presenting textile and fiber craftsmanship in a variety of creative forms.
Nuansri Promjai, the lead artisan at Hemp Saithong (Golden Sand Hemp Fiber Community Enterprise), learned to knit using natural hemp material for her personal use. Over time, a group of interested people from her village in Maerim, Chiang Mai Province, Thailand gathered to work with embroidering, knitting, threading, and developing products from hemp, a plant that grows in the highlands of northern Thailand. Unwoven hemp was also developed and combined with knitting to create garments, and other accessories like hats, colored with natural dyes from teak leaves, krakok leaves, kwao flowers, and ebony fruits. The hemp creations of Hemp Saithong have received the UNESCO-AHPADA and World Crafts Council Award of Excellence and are popular both in Thailand and internationally.
Nuansri Promjai, the lead artisan at Hemp Saithong (With her rooster running around and showing up on the screen from time to time, Nuansri Promjai already left a powerful impression during the first online meeting. With a full head of stylish grey hair, she is one key figure holding Hemp Saithong in Chiang Mai together. Her little workshop in Maerim is not just a shop and classroom, but also a place that gathers the women in the village for embroidering, sewing, and weaving hemp products. The online meeting of the co-creation project with Mee. Textile, which focuses on the creative art of textile and fiber, also took place here.
Serving as the interpreter, her daughter played the roles of communicator and supervisor, and continually described how Nuanrsri made samples on a mat. Once, the day before a meeting, Nuansri washed a work she just completed, and the fiber shrunk, creating a hole in the work. After her daughter found out and screamed, Nuansri woke up at 3 o’clock the next morning and spent the entire day fixing the work. To designer Eileen Chung, this collaboration was also a new experience. Her freedom of visiting the production site, feeling the materials, and making samples in the past had been stripped from her by the pandemic. Relying only on pictures and videos for communication, they took some time to adjust to each other, but also slowly learned each other’s tempo.
FIBER CO-CREATED PRODUCTS
Eileen Chung shared her memory of past journeys when talking about the process of co-creating Pathway Hat with Hemp Saithong—mothers in Northern Chiang Mai always folded and sewed a piece of woven fabric into a skirt and despite the local impression that only “old women wore this kind of skirt,” this was a simple and slick way of donning a garment to a foreigner like her. Thus, she decided to introduce this concept of “one piece of fabric” to hemp headpiece, adding long fabrics to the hat so the person wearing the hat could freely decide their own style.
Shake Shake Hat hopes to not only preserve the breathability of hemp fiber, but also change the product’s existing visual perception of being soft. The production focused on the material characteristics, and created layers through plain weaving and herringbone weaving techniques; also, the shape of the hat was made neater by combining different colors and sewing together different parts, whereas fluffy curly tassels were added to the brim for thickness and a sense of contrast. From making test pieces, making samples, to modifying the design, Nuansri always had her daughter trying it on immediately after every step and took pictures, which significantly helped Eileen, who was far away in Taiwan, to understand the different effects on different people.
Hi! I am Chung Chiung-Yi, the founder and designer of Mee. Textile (Eileen)!
Hi! I am Nuansri Promjai, the lead artisan at Hemp Saithong, Maerim, Thailand!