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Make your Art and Wear it too

The One day trip to Ampur DISTRICT Long in Phrae province started with an early wake up call. Ajarn Theera Visitpanich, Vice President for Alumni Affairs and Public Relations and Prof. Jedsada Kasemset, Director of Institute of Science and Technology (IST) joined the group heading to the opening ceremony of a Learning Center in Ampur Long, Phrae. This is the fourth center opened by Ajarn Nittaya Mahachaiwong from the Fai Gaem Mai (Silk and Cotton Project) of the (IST), Chiang Mai University.

We made good time and by 7.45 am we were passing the Tungkwian Market in Hangchat, Lamphun. I’d suggest this delightful stop for a visit for those who like to make a day trip outside of Chiang Mai city. When we got to the south of Lampang city, a sign stated another 16 kilometers to Ampur Long. The drive was through tall trees and beautiful green countryside. Noticeably not a billboard to be seen.

At 9.00 am we arrived at the festively decorated Learning Center. It was a big day for the residents who were excited to welcome the VIPs from Chiang Mai University and the Phrae Governor. The Learning Center teaches all the steps of indigo dyeing as well as spinning cotton and weaving fabrics and intricate designs of teen jok or border pieces of the traditional pha zin or tube skirt. The exhibitions, large area maps and posters on the walls inside the center were very informative. After learning the techniques, the housewives work in their homes and do not have to spend time at the center away from their homes.

The blessing dance entertainment was presented by school girls in lovely traditional dresses. A second dance was performed by four of the women weavers who were graceful with happy smiles for the audience. The Governor wore a beautiful indigo and hot pink colored shirt. A perfect outfit as he spoke about the importance of keeping alive the dyeing and weaving tradition of the ampur. As a matter of fact, he declared that street as pah yoke due to the Learning Center and a textile museum located there. The Governor informed the group of his friends outside of Phrae who greatly admired the neatness that can be seen on both sides of the textiles.

The textile museum has long been tended by Auntie Pranorm a native of Ampur Long and a longtime weaver since her late teens. Many of the exhibited textiles are nearly 100 years old. Auntie Pranorm has also developed a two rai demonstration garden where 42 types of trees and bushes the source of natural dyes are on view.. A schematic map at the garden indicates where the various 42 trees are planted.

This traditional craft has inspired the local department of the Non Formal Education to teach school children as guides to be knowledgeable in explaining dyeing and weaving. The children can study further at Auntie Pranorm’s production center after school or on Saturdays and Sundays. The children will also learn about traditional massage and knowledge about homestay programs.

Another famous textile expert residing in Ampur Long is Komon Phaboran. The exterior of the museum is a delightful, unexpected replica of an old London train station. (It would be a perfect movie set for a Harry Potter movie.) Inside, the Phaboran Museum is professionally set up as a fine art museum. With Khun Komon leading through the exhibit area, he imparted much information using the centuries old murals found in Wat Pumin in Nan documenting the wearing textiles from Ampur Long in the paintings. He pointed out to a mural depicting a royal prince sitting surrounded by a group of women. The more beautiful women seated near the prince were wearing the vivid colors of Ampur Long tube skirts. Later, Khun Komon pointed out details of tube skirts such, as the clever schematics of applying wide red border at both top and bottom of a costume to add the feeling of height to the wearer.

Khun Komon showed us the display of his design of the stunning golden bra in the costume worn by Ms Penpak, the Sankampaeng beauty in the famous Thai historical movie “Suriyothai”. The golden bra is a must-have for daring beautiful Thai women these days.

The fifth IST Learning Center is expected to be opened in Mae Jaem in October 2008.

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