August 14, 2009 / 8:59 AM / 10 years ago

Carpets a new spin-off of Laos' famous silk trade

VIENTIANE (Reuters Life!) - Laos is famous for producing silk in unique, ethnic designs but a weaver in the Southeast Asian nation hopes to use the traditional fabric for something new — carpets.

Magic Laos Carpet, in the land-locked country of 6.5 million people, is the only workshop in the country that uses silk to make carpets.

Laos has a long tradition of silk textile weaving, with ancient patterns still being created in workshops across the country and female government workers and students required to wear traditional skirts made with ethnic designs.

But carpets are a relatively new product.

“Each of the carpets has a unique identity. So, each of our customers has a unique carpet,” Souvita Phaseuth, who set up the workshop in 1998, told Reuters.

Thirty-five weavers at the Vientiane-based Magic Laos Carpet slowly tie silk knots on carpet looms to produce inches of carpet each day, with some pieces taking up to a year to finish.

Phaseuth, a silk fabric collector, started the business with locally made looms after her husband, Ismet Murat, inspired her to marry Laos’ indigenous patterns with his native Turmenistan’s carpet-weaving tradition.

In the beginning, many of the local weavers found carpets a lot more complicated than the cloth they were used to.

“Sometimes we can weave only about a few centimeters a day, compared to at least a meter or more a day,” said 28-year-old Orn Saiwiraiwong, weaver from northern Laos who has been working with silk since she was a teenager.

These days, Magic Laos Carpets produce a variety of designs, some inspired by Middle East and Europe, which are then exported worldwide.

“They just love it for the color and the design then what I love to do is to tell the story,” said Eve Blossom, the agent for Magic Laos Carpets in New York.

“Because I know they appreciate the beauty more when they hear the story about the people and the country and the way the whole process of how we make it,” she said.

Editing by Miral Fahmy

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