Artist Profiles

Artist:

Souksakhone Khakampanh

Region:

East Asia and the Pacific

Country:

Lao PDR

Organization:

Silk Weavers of Xam Tai

Media/General:

Textiles

Medium of Work:

Silk scarves, shawls, and ceremonial pieces

Year(s) Attended:

Santa Fe: 2017, 2018

About:

Situated in the rural Houphan Province of Laos, a group of artisans produce naturally dyed, silk textiles that many consider to be unparalleled—not just in the region, but abroad. Artisan Souksakone Khakampanh is a natural dye artist and designer of silk textiles similar to those made by indigenous communities in the region for centuries. By age 12, she learned how to gather plants and prepare them for use as natural dyes; eager to expand her color palette, the precocious young artisan began to teach herself how to discover and use additional colors.
Khakampanh’s silk textiles, which range from silk shawls and scarves to sacred, small cloths, are full of traditional mythological Buddhist and animist designs. Laos folklore and mythology motifs include the river serpent, elephant-bird, ancestor spirits, and animal/boat combinations to help connect with the spirit world. She works with more than four hundred weavers in surrounding communities with the aim to help them maintain an economically and spiritually successful community.

Everything is done by hand using traditional methods: silk is hand-reeled and comes from locally raised silkworms. Looms are hand-built, and all weaving is done by regional, mostly female artisans, who are trained to accomplish one, two, or even all aspects of the production process.

Lao-Tai silk-weaving is one of the oldest textile traditions in the world, dating to 4000 BC; since then, the art has been contiguous for 250 or more generations. Weaving and motif skills and knowledge are passed down from mother to daughter, in the past through today. Thanks to the incredible dedication of artisans like Khakampanh, the world can now celebrate and cherish this distinctive and ancient textile tradition.