Each strand of finest silk is carefully and artistically inserted into a pattern by the skilful hands of young women working on vertical looms, and there is an average of 400,000 knots per square metre in these masterpieces from Laos.
The product is the silk carpet from Magic Lao Carpets Handicrafts. Each carpet is handmade and unique, and takes from one month to three years to complete by the young women making each piece priceless.
The owner of Magic Lao Carpets Handicrafts, Mrs Souvita Praseurth, describes each carpet as a masterpiece. “The clients normally have to order and wait because each piece takes some time to produce, but our clients know that.”
It is an artistic product, and not like other normal handicrafts. “We can make about 100 square metres a year, and we cannot do it more because they are handmade and our talented workers can only do a limited amount of work. It is hard to expand the business as it needs skilled workers,” she said.
Established in 1998, Magic Lao Carpets Handicrafts is a family business that has expanded over the years. It was set up to introduce carpet-weaving in Laos, which is known for its amazing textiles. Ancient traditions of carpet-making have found their way into the skilful hands of local weavers, giving Lao silk a new life.
“I got the inspiration from my family. They noticed that Lao women, especially from my grandmother’s generation who cannot even read, are very talented in making complicated textile patterns. It is hard to use computers to do those complicated designs but they did it by hand,” said Mrs Souvita.
“There was no carpet production in Laos at the time, and we thought we could do it even though they were more complicated than textile patterns.”
So she hired people to teach local women how to make carpets. “At first, I didn’t think about this as a business, but I just wanted to know about it because we like handicrafts,” she said.
“Then I thought it might create income for Lao women, and we started the business and expanded it.”
The carpets are made according to the highest standards of carpet-weaving and incorporate authentic, original design patterns inspired by traditional Lao textile weaving.
The technique used is nearly 3,000 years old. First, the silk is carefully selected. Next, silk threads are spun by hand and then the silk yarn is dyed. Carpets are made on a vertical loom by hand-tying knots of silk yarn around pairs of warps (vertical strings running through the length of the carpet).
The material used is mulberry silk. “We now also have a mulberry plantation. We start from the beginning to the end of the process but we still don’t have enough silk to meet our needs,” she said.
Careful quality control at every stage of production ensures the outstanding quality of the products. “From selection of the best local silk, hand-spinning and dyeing, to the last trimming of a finished carpet, we pay special attention to the quality of all materials and processes,” she said.
Mrs Souvita currently has about 40 talented staff, of whom 25 percent are disabled people. “They used to be a burden on their families but now they have become the supporters of their families. This why I’m so proud and it has been the purpose of our business from the beginning,” she said.
“Actually, I want them to learn and move out to start their own businesses and strengthen their communities. But only a few do that, most of them are still with us. We welcome any people without opportunities who want to learn about producing carpets. They can contact us and we will be happy to teach them,” she said.
Mrs Souvita said 95 percent of the firm’s products are exported, mostly to Europe, Scandinavia, North America, Middle East, Australia, Japan and Asia.
“The interest of clients has increased every year but we cannot increase the quantity. The clients know us from word of mouth and also from our website,” she said.
The products from Magic Lao Carpets Handcrafts have received many awards in Laos and overseas such as the Good Design Award from Japan.
“Recently we were awarded the first prize at the Lao Handicraft Festival. It was for a pattern which we called the wave of life. It is a unique piece as it combines old designs and new techniques,” said Mrs Souvita.
“We continually improve and develop our products and this is the reason we have the trust of clients and get awards from different countries,” she added.
Magic Lao Carpets Handcrafts is now shifting towards using natural dyes. “We already have a number of carpets made with silk dyed with natural dyes. These dyes are produced in Laos, from different plants,” she said.
By Keoxomphou Sakdavong