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Phaeng Mai Gallery
Phaeng Mai Gallery is one of the best textile galleries in Vientiane and sells an exclusive collection of exquisite fabrics made using naturally-dyed silk painstakingly hand-woven on traditional looms. To preserve the weaving heritage of Laos, designs used are derived from antique textiles such as those commissioned by the ancient royal courts.
Phaeng Mai Gallery is run by two sisters, Konghtong and Viengkham Nanthavongdouangsy from Sam Neua Province who began to weave at six years of age under the expert guidance of their mother. They both continue to work together to supervise the entire weaving process at Phaeng Mai in an extended family manner where the weavers are part of the design planning, color choice and deft sense of tradition and skill.
It was in 1990 that Phaeng Mai first opened its gallery and handloom weaving facilities to train the people of Laos and others in the intricate skills and techniques required to produce Lao textiles. Their textiles are created from various types of silk thread. From one cocoon they gather 3-4 qualities of yarn. The thread from the outer layer is chosen for a durable, textured fabric. The finer second and third layers are ideal for their superior lustrous accessories, and signature quality contemporary design. They use both the natural yellow silk from a specific kind of cocoon only grown in Laos which provides a natural look and soft texture and use the white silk more for its pastel color.
Thanks to numerous sources of natural dyes they are able to continue dyeing using the same techniques that have been used by their ancestors. In order to keep a high standard and consistency in the colors they are very selective about the plants they use to extract their natural colors from.
We are not only big time fans of Phaeng Mai for their gorgeous textiles, but we greatly admire their educational efforts. In 2006 Viengkahm wrote and published the book Sinh and Lao Women and was co-writer of the book Legends in the Weaving and author of the small book Weaving Cloths, Weaving Naga. After reading these books, one looks with even greater admiration at the incredible accomplishments of Lao weavers and the importance of Lao textiles in understanding Lao culture.
If youíre interested in textiles and in Vientiane, Laos, you have to visit Phaeng Mai Gallery. Itís only about a fifteen-minute drive from downtown and their gallery is located on the second floor of a new building located in front of their weaving center. The gallery is spacious and thereís always a marvelous selection to look at.
And when youíve finished deciding on what textiles you canít resist and want to purchase, then you can treat yourself to walking behind the gallery building to see over fifty weavers at work. Many of the textiles being woven are custom-ordered for their Japanese galleries and youíll see textiles here on the looms you wonít see in the gallery. And if youíre flexible youíre always welcome to place your own custom order too if you see something you like. Itís magical to see all the weavers at work and you will also see the spinning and dyeing of silk being done.
Here at Laos Essential Artistry weíve chosen just a few designs to initially introduce in our online gallery and we especially like their pink scarf with the lotus design. Weíve never seen anything like it and think itís the ideal gift. The quality at Phaeng Mai is superb and their designs combine a captivating fusion of tradition with modern interpretations. We hope to expand our online selection in the near future!