Date of this Version
In Approaching Textiles, Varying Viewpoints: Proceedings of the Seventh Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2000
Thailand is world renown for its luxurious silk. The weft ikat patterned silk produced in northeast Thailand perhaps represents Thai silk in our minds due to the consumption of this type of silk as souvenirs and as tailored clothing fashioned from old ikat tubeskirts sold in the kingdom and abroad. However, the various ethnic groups living in Thailand produce distinctive textiles using a wide array of techniques, motifs, and materials. A weaver combines of various techniques, motifs, colors and materials to create a textile that is a marker of her identity or of the person she intends the textile for. Although the international community is familiar with some of these textiles through the efforts of development projects marketing hand-woven textile products world-wide and through tourism, very little is known about the identity of a particular hand-woven textile once it leaves the locale of production, the weaver's village.
The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) is one of the numerous government agencies promoting hand-woven textiles as Thai cultural heritage both locally and internationally as a tradition thriving throughout the kingdom. When targeting the consumer market, there is less emphasis on the textiles as markers of identity of the producer but rather as a representation of Thai culture. Government departments and offices involved in the promotion of hand-woven and leading authorities on the subject refer to hand-woven textiles as Thai textiles. Even when a hand-woven textile reaches the urban market, the merchant is unfamiliar with its origin since the textile may have passed through many hands before arriving at the market and is unable to recognize its ethnicity. The merchant thus presents the textile as a Thai textile.