Wow, what can we say about these ladies! We don’t know what it is about Muang Sing
, but these Hmong women, the Mien women and Tai Dam women are all very talented, creative and extremely dynamic. These Spirit People cloths are unique in all of Laos. It’s amazing really, because they have a huge evening market in Luang Prabang where many Hmong women sell their embroidered crafts, and while you see simple cloths with one or two figures embroidered or appliqued on them, there’s nothing even close to being as complex or beautiful as these appliquéd cloths from Muang Sing. These intricate and creative designs have evolved from the Hmong's traditional use of a single figure that would be sewn on the back of a jacket of a child or sick adult to frighten off bad spirits. Take the one figure and multiply it many times into a wholistic design like the Hmong ladies of Muang Sing have created and it's easy to imagine the protective power of our Spirit People Cloths!
We first saw them about six years ago when the Hmong women were selling them along side the main street in Muang Sing. We immediately realized how unique they were and the next day went out to their village to discuss placing an order with them. There was one cloth we really liked and wanting some uniformity we asked if they could make all the cloths with a similar design, but in different colors, rather than the same dark blue cloth most were using. They agreed, we placed an order and came back six months later. You have to realize no one had ever placed an order with them for a large quantity and they were very, very excited. We dealt with one woman in particular, and you can see her holding the orange double-sized cloth and when we came back we found out that she had broken down the order into smaller quantities and about eight women were involved in creating the cloths for us. What turned out to be very special was that although I had asked they all have a similar design, each of the women took it as a challenge to try to create something different and we were blown away at how wonderfully all the designs turned out.
The hand-cut designs are appliquéd against a translucent cloth and if there is some kind of backlighting we think the cloths really stand out. They look best when viewed from 5-10 feet away and several together are quite striking. An arrangement down a hallway would a perfect way to display them.
While not sophisticated and complex, they are innovative, one-of-a-kind and very inexpensive. If we sell a lot we can then go back to Muang Sing and place another order. As we write in our description of the Tai Dam women
, over the last several years since most of the tourists are backpacking types, they haven’t sold a lot and correspondingly their creative energy has diminished. We want to reverse that trend!