Posted by Walter_Davison on 02-11-2006 06:48 AM:

Ikat Animals

Hi All,

The northeast part of Thailand is called Isan. Many Tai Lao groups have, over the years, settled in Isan, and it is there that the very popular ikat weavings, called mudmee in Thai, are commonly found. These ikat weavings are usually done in silk and come in an amazing variety of patterns and colors. The ikat patterns have, I believe, been diffused throughout Isan so that there are no longer patterns that are unique to specific groups as is still the case with teen choks and some weave patterns used in the central panels in phasins. Every time I ask about where a particular ikat pattern was woven, I get the same answer - Isan.

Also, the Thai government has targeted weaving as a traditional skill that should be popularized throughout the northeast. Probably, there are still some types of specialized ikat weaving occurring, but no one I have talked with knows of them. Still, that doesn't make them less interesting in my case.

Some of the most interesting ikat weavings for me feature images of flowers, and lots of animals - chickens, peacocks, elephants, deer, birds, and even butterflies. I thought a sampling of phasins, or tube skirts, with such patterns would be interesting for you to see as well. Though these are all "modern" pieces, they were all collected over a couple of decades and are now rarely available if not impossible to find in the market. And more than that - in as a complete search as I could accomplish (as a foreigner) in the markets in Bangkok, I could not find ANY older phasins available, much less ones with specialized patterns. The material to make phasins, or blouses or skirts, is available, but finding already made, that is, USED phasins, is a different matter.

The phasins below constitute a part of a collection owned Ajarn Wismai Manomaipibul, former Head of the Dept. of English, Kassetsart University, in Bangkok. She has graciously allowed me to show these to you. All of these phasins are made of silk. Notice the abundance and richness in color in these pieces.

Here are some deer.

This one shows men with their buffaloes plowing fields while women (wearing phasins) are busy placing young rice plants in the ground.

Here is a bird pattern with more birds along the side.

This one shows numerous animals: peacocks, swans, squirrels, deer, rabbits, butterflies, and trees and flowers.

Here we have a row of roosters viewed from the side and another row that looks to be roosters viewed head-on, and then flower motifs.

Here we have rows of elephants and what looks like dancers between flowers.


More peacocks!

People, elephants, horses, mixed in with what look like towers of ancient temples.


Detailed peacocks.

Lots of cats together with birds.

And here is a surprising one - fish. That may not seem unusual since there is such an abundance of fish in Thailand, but apparently they are rarely depicted in ikat weavings. The most surprising thing about this phasin is found in those images that look like dolphins! The maker of this phasin from Isan is not likely to have ever seen a dolphin.


Posted by Steve Price on 02-11-2006 12:08 PM:

Hi Walt

The ikat work of mainland SE Asia is quite remarkable, especially for the level of detail. It's very different in aesthetics (and in technique) than the central Asian ikat work with which most ruggie are famiiar.


Steve Price