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This is one of our favorite photos, taken a couple of months after we first met back in September 2000, eight years ago. Eight years seems like such a long time ago and it was about six years ago when we first began talking about creating a business like Laos Essential Artistry after traveling throughout northern Laos and meeting such incredibly talented weavers/artisans. And this includes Baiís sister, Bouasai, who has been weaving for Taykeo Textile Gallery for five years while attending the National University. Bouasai's graduating this July (2008) and it is one of our goals to get some kind of visa for her so she can come to the states and demonstrate Lao weaving. It's not easy, unfortunately, even if it's for the right reasons...
For some reason Laos seems to be off the radar for most Americans. Granted, there are no fast food restaurants or movie theatres (which some might consider a plusÖ). And since Laos is a landlocked country there arenít any beautiful beaches to wile away oneís time. And the roads, even the main roads (dare I call them highways?), preclude one from traveling at a fast rate of speed. Laos is a developing country and I would say, proud, that itís carefully and slooowly, ďdeveloping.Ē The Thai, who have accelerated into the 21st century, now come to Laos in droves as tourists to recapture that essence of their lives that is now only faint memories. Thereís a message there. And it was with great shock... and delight, that we discovered that Matt Lauer of the Today Show fame, in his yearly Around the World with Matt Lauer series in May 2008, finally parted the now smoggy Siamese veil in Bangkok to discover that surprisingly there was a country, a Shangri-la to the east across the mighty Mekong River, named Laos.
And as Peter Greenberg, Travel Contributor wrote for the Today Show when Matt Lauer finally visited Laos on April 30, 2008 as part of his Where in the World is Matt Lauer series, "Laos is a true magical mystery tour. Few Americans visit. Fewer understand it. However, more and more savvy travelers are slowly discovering this small country.Ē
Wow, Laos as a ďmagical mystery tour!Ē We donít know how much time Peter Greenberg has spent in Laos, but heís right on when it comes to describing Laos as magical, especially the weaving. And itís unfortunate that with Laos being overlooked and so little understood by Americans, that these world-class weavers and artisans in Laos remain relatively undiscovered. And thatís not to say that there isnít a small group of dedicated textilians across the planet who have been collecting Lao textiles, and if one is observant, they will see the occasional talk or presentation on Lao textiles being given at museums, or even more rarely, an outstanding exhibition like the Weaving Tradition: Carol Cassidy and Woven Silks of Laos held in San Francisco in 2004. And since 2006 Laos has been represented at the Santa Fe International Folk Festival by the Taykeo Textile Gallery, the ONLY gallery to represent Laos the last three years, and we are very proud to feature Taykeo's textiles at Laos Essential Artistry.
And with the power and pervasiveness of the Internet, Bai and I are hoping that through Laos Essential Artistry we can greatly expand the base of these Lao textile/artisan aficionados. Itís a challenge, but when youíre passionate about something like Bai and I are about Laos and the world-class weavers and artisans we represent, thereís no turning back. We feel like it's our calling and it seemed like Oprah was talking to us too, when she exhorted Stanford graduates to harness their power to their passion. We wholeheartedly agree with Oprah when she urged the graduates to "Honor your calling... trust your heart..." (Commencement address, June 2008)
The time has come and we would be honored if you join us here at Laos Essential Artistry on our own Magical Mystery Tour into the enchanting world of the weavers and artisans of Laos!