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Pa Da Textile Museum  
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Pa Da Textile Museum
By: (1127) | Date: June 19, 2014

                   Off the Chiangmai-Hot highway, an over half-a-kilometer-long road, lined on both sides with lush green bamboo trees forming a pleasant canopy, leads to Pa Da Textile Museum, a significant preservation and development center of the local wisdom of weaving, and also a memorial in honor of Pa (Aunt) Da/Mrs. Sangda Bunsiddhi. Pa Da’s artistic and creative achievement as a weaver made her a precious gem of the traditional Lanna weaving home industry. She was very well-known among Thais and foreigners alike.
 
                   “Mrs. Sangda Bunsiddhi is an expert in the art of traditional cotton weaving, using natural herbal dyes as well as designing unique patterns of exquisite, unparallel beauty…” – that was part of the speech honoring Pa Da when she was awarded the prestigious title of National Artist for Folkcraft (Weaving ) in 1987. Pa Da (1919-1993) was born and grew up in Ban Huey Muang of Tambon Sobtia, Chomthong District, Chiangmai Province. She was married to Second Lieutenant Malai Bunsiddhi. They had only one child, now Mrs. Saowanee Bunsiddhi. In those days, weaving done by women was a common practice in an agrarian society where Pa Da grew up. So she learned the traditional skills of spinning cotton only at the age of 7-8, and did the actual weaving at 12. She was taught and trained by her grandmother Mae Ouy Liam. In 1960 after her husband’s death, she became very earnest about her weaving job by asking her fellow village women to come over to her place to do weaving, in order to preserve the traditional dyeing and weaving techniques and to promote handicraft production. Their work place was the open area under Pa Da’s traditional, elevated wooden house. The neighbor group started with 4 looms, which later became 30.
 
                   The fame of Ban Rai Phai Ngam, or this cotton weaving center set up by Pa Da, spread far and near both in Thailand and overseas. The main attraction certainly was the beautiful woven textiles, like works of art, that embodied the imagination, artistic skills and creativity of Pa Da. The striking uniqueness of the fabrics produced here was that they were made from local cotton yarns and dyed with natural herbal dyes. Pa Da herself grew and experimented with a variety of native species of plants in order to extract various dyes. Also the patterns she designed were inspired by her own native village background and the surrounding environment. All these constituted the special quality, colors and woven patterns of her beautiful textiles.
 
                   Khun Saowanee, Pa Da’s only daughter, has kept alive her mother’s beloved passion for weaving by continuing the legacy as well as by founding the Pa Da Textile Museum, after Pa Da passed away in 1993. The museum is right at the old wooden house where Pa Da lived since she had moved here from Chiangmai. Here also Khun Saowanee established the Sangda Bunsiddhi Foundation. This old teakwood house by the River Ping in the Ban Tha Krajae town once was the residence of Prince Kaew Nawarat (the last ruler of Nakhon Chiangmai). He had it built in 1937, but seldom lived here. Pa Da loved this house, so she bought it from Prince Inthanon and moved in in 1941. The house, in typical Lanna style, is a stilted one. Khun Saowanee often mentions how much her mother loved this place.
 
                   The upper part of the house is maintained the way it used to be while the owner was still alive, the function spaces being the same – the kitchen, the bedrooms. The walls are decorated with old photographs of Pa Da and family at different times, and articles written about her in books and other media. Visitors can thus visualize how she lived her simple, beautiful life here. The hall in the middle part of the house is turned into a display room showing the art of weaving. Samples of various woven patterns of cotton fabrics are displayed together with a collection of “teen-jok” pieces showcasing rare, ancient patterns. Then there is a display featuring a wide range of cotton yarns dyed traditionally with various organic dyes extracted from different parts of various trees and plants. Tools and equipment used in weaving, such as looms and spinning wheels, are also part of the display. All these are a legacy left by Pa Da, testaments to her talent and creativity. Khun Saowanee said that when she founded the museum, she received some help from Ajarn Nakhon Pongnoi of the Mae Fah Luang Farm and several instructors from Chiangmai to set up the display. The function space under the elevated house too retains its old atmosphere and functions. This is where Pa Da promoted the use of natural dyes. Here the weavers of Ban Rai Phai Ngam gather to do their work. They are the grandmothers and the aunts living in neighboring villages who come to do the traditional weaving whenever they are free from daily chores on the paddy fields or fruit farms.
 
                   The whole area of Ban Rai Phai Ngam is pleasantly shaded by a myriad of native trees grown by Pa Da, also for their beautiful dyes – annatto trees, bael trees, for example. Pa Da had her dyeing tools kept in a kind of simple, wooden structure. The dyeing techniques are shown here. So here one can see sample seeds, barks, and leaves that yield natural dyes from such trees like sappanwood, indigo, annatto, ebony, damoles, etc. The dyes are fermented in different pits. A large rice barn is used to store cotton. Other smaller sheds are for barks, seeds, pods and other parts of a variety of plants from which the dyes are derived. Pa Da loved to take visitors around and showed them, step by step, the weaving process and the dyeing techniques. Lastly there is a small shop inside a small wooden place selling handmade cotton fabrics, books and souvenirs. Khun Saowanee in her seventies is still working conscientiously to ensure that the Lanna cotton weaving, her mother’s legacy, lives on. She also has her grandchildren and great grandchildren trained and entrusted to preserve this beautiful heritage.
 
Writer:  Panita Sarawasee
Field Survey:  February 20, 2013
Ref.: Amnuey Janngern. Sangda Bunsiddhi: Beautiful Diamond of the Lanna  Thai  Weaving  Circle  Bangkok:  Sangda  Bunsiddhi Foundation, 2002.    

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  Pa Da Textile Museum  
: 105 Chiang Mai-Hod Rd., Tambon Sop Tia, Chom Thong District, Chiang Mai Province 50160
: 0-5336-1231
: -
: 8.30am-4.30pm daily
: free admission
: -
: -
: 1994
: textile
Management : private
Story : life history
textile
Status : Open
Update Mar 2, 2017
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