Posted by Walter_Davison on 02-19-2006 07:42 AM:

Tai Dam Weavings

Hi All,

If possible, I generally prefer to collect items as close to the source as I can, but I often discover that that approach doesn't work as well as purchasing from a dealer. Here is an example where buying from a dealer who has already screened the merchandise makes much better sense than trying to purchase something directly from the source on my own.

Below are three examples of Tai Dam headdresses that are a lot better in quality than what I got when I tried to do it myself. Before wrapping the cloth around the head, each measures about 15" by 67" when laid out flat. According to the dealer who sold these headdresses to my wife, they are from a Tai Dam tribal group who live around the border area of Laos and Vietnam. He travelled there to get them.

And here are close-ups of two of these followed by a close-up of the one I bought directly from a young (and beautiful) tribal girl in Luang Prabang. You can see for yourself the difference in quality. When looking closely at the head cloth, even the black background weaving of the one I bought on my own is thinner, less dense than the others, and I interpret that as an indicator of a lower quality weave. In other words, while I had fun going out on my own to buy a Tai Dam headdress, I would have been better off purchase-wise if I had relied on the sharper eyes (and language ability) of my spouse. As I wrote in a separate thread, I usually hope for a close identification of the the collectible item with its own environment - a kind of gestalt, if you like. What I got was a tourist item while traveling in Laos, while meanwhile my wife purchased much more genuine articles from a dealer in Bangkok. At least I got a good photo.

Ain't life fun?


Posted by Chuck Wagner on 02-19-2006 11:36 AM:

E Pluribus Unum

Hi Walt,

So you know you're not the only TT'er out there with some interest in Southeast Asian textiles, I'll toss a couple more images into the effort.

My wife and I cannot claim to have a focused collection; our place looks more like an old whaling captains home than a museum dedicated to some specific ethnicity. We don't have many SE Asian pieces; a couple incredibly detailed batiks and a few finely done embroideries. When we were overseas, we picked up these not very old Thai textiles (about 20 years ago, now). They are embroidered rather than woven, but I think that's the case with the pieces above as well, so I don't feel like I'm straying very far from the point.

The person we bought them from did not have any specifics about provenance other than they were purchased in north Thailand. If you've seen a million of them, feel free to say so. We thought the work was pretty good; very fine applique:


Chuck Wagner

Posted by Walter Davison on 02-20-2006 11:37 PM:

Hi Chuck,

I haven't seen anything exactly like these two pieces, but the whorl design is widespread in the hill tribe weavings in northern Thailand and in Laos.

A quick check on the internet makes me think your pieces are related to Hmong tribal weavings. For examples see