Studio Naenna is a community of women weavers, embroiderers, designers and support staff based in Chiang Mai, Thailand, who comprise the women’s group “Weavers For the Environment” (WFE), bringing together craft makers from various ethnic groups to create high quality, environmentally friendly and sustainable products. We aim to encourage pride in traditional techniques and empower women within their villages. Patricia Cheesman, our founder, created a unique system of working that gives the weavers fair-trade returns for their skills as well as the freedom to plan their time to participate in village activities, thus preserving their traditional culture and communities. The designers in turn, have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to work with the most skilled artists in their field to create internationally acclaimed textiles and garments.
Patricia Cheesman, renowned textile expert and author of “Lao Tai textiles : The Textiles of Xam Nuea and Muang Phuan” ( link to purchase book) founded Studio Naenna in 1988. Her love and passion for textiles led to years of research in the history and identification of indigenous crafts in Thailand and Laos. As Patricia traveled though the region she connected with weavers, starting strong friendships that have continued over the years. In 1985 she was invited to lecture at Chiang Mai University, and built the Main gallery and dye shop of Studio Naenna at the foot of Doi Suthep Mountain, Chiang Mai, where she now calls home. Patricia invited weavers to come together and form the weaving group called “Weavers For the Environment” (WFE)
“Working together with respect for one another and the environment”
In 2001 Lamorna Cheesman, Chiang Mai Creative City Ambassador, became manager of Studio Naenna and has taken it to the next level. Passionate about sustainable fashion, Lamorna has learnt all the complex production techniques of Studio Naenna, studied fashion and pattern making and is leading us into a bright future by connecting us with environment-responsible buyers and designers worldwide.
Weavers of Chomtong
The Weavers for the Environment Group (WFE) in Chomtong District, Chiang Mai, that weave exclusively for STUDIO NAENNA.
Khun Viroy is the master silk ikat weaver and mentor to the WFE weaver’s group. Viroy was born in Surin province, northeast Thailand. She was taught the ancient Thai-Khmer skill of intricate weft ikat preparation and weaving in fine silk in her teens by her mother. In 1988 Patricia invited her to join a weaving workshop in the village of Chomtong district, just south of Chiang Mai. Through her skill and focus Viroy became a master weaver and established the Weavers For the Environment group. Over the years she has trained more than 40 young and senior weavers in the community the weft ikat technique and skill of weaving with silk yarns. This has increased the weaver’s income capacity and given them status in their villages. Her leadership and dedication has inspired weavers to learn the traditional skills of their ancestors. Viroy is currently creating wonderful pieces of wearable art and interior textiles for Studio Naenna and living in Chomtong district with her husband and two sons.
Khun Rutt is our key ikat maker. Rutt joined the WFE when she finished high school. Although she has learned all the techniques of preparing weft ikat and weaving with silk and cotton, she prefers the ikat planning, preparation and tying the most.
“I like the more complex ikat designs because they are challenging.”
Khun Buachan, also known as Mae Euay, is one of our senior weavers and sister-in-law to Khun Viroy. She was an experienced plain cotton weaver when she joined WFE and learned the art of silk ikat weaving from Khun Viroy. Working with weft ikat has allowed her to gain a better income for her weaving skills.
“I am older now and my body can no longer weave the wide width fabrics but I enjoy working on the narrow width making ikat
scarves and shawls in 100% silk and silk and cotton blends.”
Khun Yao is a multi-skilled weaver in both cotton and silk. She joined the WFE in her mid teens at the start of the weavers group. She has learned the skill of weft ikat preparation and helps Khun Rutt with making ikat for all the weavers in the group. Her son is currently studying at University in Chiang Mai city.
“I left the group to work in a factory for a while but returned after having my son because weaving allows me to work at home and care for my family.”
Mae Sri is one of the most senior weavers of our group and mother-in-law of Nittaya. Mae Sri helps with the yarn preparation of winding from skein to large spool and weaves on a narrow silk warp making silk and cotton blend scarves. She also makes the fringes on each scarf, twisting each tassel by hand.
“Actually my name is Sri but everyone in our village calls me Mae Sri, because Mae means Mother in Thai and is used to show respect in our culture.”
Khun Nittaya has been part of the weaving group for nearly 20 years. She is the daughter-in-law of Mae Sri, a senior weaver. Nittaya is one of the main cotton weft-ikat fabric weavers.
“Weaving ikat is much slower than plain cotton, but I enjoy it because the patterns change and each time I receive a new set of ikat yarn I am excited.”
Khun Lek is one of the youngest weavers in the WFE group. She weaves plain cotton fabric on a fly-shuttle loom but has also trained in weft ikat weaving and is building up her skills. Weaving from home, she can care for her grandparents and earn a good income from weaving.
“I am very proud of my daughter because she is about to start university and have a higher education.”
Khun Fong Chan used to weave for the WFE group and she recently returned to weaving with us after spending some time working in her family fruit orchards.
“This year the fruit orchards are not profitable, I am glad I can weave to earn an income for my family and myself with weaving.”
Khun Fon started embroidering for Studio Naenna when she was caring for her first child. Her skilled cross stitch technique that she learned from her mother and her attention to detail and finishing made her pieces stand out from the other makers. Her daughter is now in school and having had her second child, she is happy to be able to work from home. Fon is proud she can use her Heritage Hmong skills to sustain her livelihood.
Khun Saeng has been part of our team for over 20 years. She is a master weaver on the back strap loom and key indigo dyer. Over the years Saeng has worked closely with Patricia Cheesman to work and maintain our indigo vats.
“When I weave I feel peaceful,” Khun Saeng explains as she creates her original wall hangings at Studio Naenna main gallery.