For nearly three decades, the American master weaver Carol Cassidy has been working with Laotian silk weavers on the grounds of a grand old colonial mansion in Vientiane.
The outdoor workroom in a lush garden not far from the mighty Mekong River seems a world apart from Paris. A dozen Laotian women talk among themselves as the city traffic from the streets of Vientiane swirls by. Their wooden shuttles make a soft slithering sound as they hand weave large swathes of silk fabric in rich colors on handcrafted looms.
Well before the success of handmade crafts on the e-commerce site Etsy, the studio of Carol Cassidy, an American master weaver, has been a favorite stop for travelers in this corner of Southeast Asia. Ms. Cassidy has been working with Laotian weavers in the backyard of a grand old colonial mansion in central Vientiane for nearly three decades. Together they have kept alive age-old traditions of Laotian design in woven cloth and the natural colors of a palette extracted from plants in the forests: reds, pinks, yellows, greens.
Just steps from the garden, her showroom, Lao Textiles, on the mansion’s wood-paneled first floor — a cool retreat from the city’s blazing heat — is a haven for easy-to-pack gifts. Day and evening silk scarves, zippered all-purpose silk pouches and elegant cushion covers are arrayed on tables, all at fairly reasonable prices for handmade pieces.
Few know that they are buying the creative efforts of weavers who also make top-of-the-line drapes, sofa and cushion coverings for the retail palaces of luxury fashion houses in Paris, London and Milan.
On the afternoon of my visit, a weaver was working thin strips of buttery soft beige leather into off-white silk thread stretched across the wooden frame of her loom. Flecks of gold silk gave contrast. Ms. Cassidy designed the fabric with its slightly rough texture especially for window shades for a store on the Champs-Élysées.
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