Writer : Editor Team
Ikat silk weaving was Surin province’s identity. This silk fabric was a famous product of the province’s Yang Krajab community, Promthep sub-district, Ta Toom district.
Somjitr Kerdkaew, the ikat silk weaver and Sakarin, her 26- year-old son both helped developing the unique character of Yang Krajab community’s ikat silk fabric. They believed that innovation building on local wisdom could match customers’ need. This has maintained the demand of Surin’s silk fabric.
Every year, Somjitr’s special patterns of Ikat silk were only sold in Royal Thai Silk fair. Customers would have to wait for another year if they missed this.
Sakarin told us that his mother could weave silk into any ikat patterns. She also knew how to grow silk farming so she was an expertise. They weaved and sold ikat silk fabric for a living. When the Queen Sirikit Department of Sericulture and Department of International Trade Promotion, Ministry of Commerce conducted trainings, she attended and tried all methods by herself. She tried hard to solve problems or used alternative methods. She was like a researcher who learned by doing.
Somjits put all of her efforts in developing new patterns. She would try her best to create patterns according to customers’ requests. If any patterns were too complicated, she would call the customers and find solutions. For example, we would see Somjitr’s distinguished ikat silk fabric in the collaboration fashion show between Srinakharinwirot University and the Queen Sirikit Department of Sericulture.
“Five years ago, we first weaved new silk patterns and colors and sold in the fair. We were not sure if they could be sold or not. Surprisingly, we had a good sell that year. Nine of ten customers liked our new patterns so we succeeded. We didn’t get profit in that year but we had built up customer relation. Those customers were still with us until now. At that time, other weavers in the community didn’t like my mom idea and questioned about the sales volume. They wanted to weave the old patterns only. However, when they saw customers’ feedback, they changed their minds and accepted the new patterns. Now my mom was like a problem solver and the quality controller for the community.”
Sakarin was responsible for marketing and communication with silk lovers. He tried to follow their genuine demands and asked for new trends to produce the right Ikat silk. “I used to ask a customer why she bought my products. She said because she felt relax. I emphasized on knowledge sharing more than sales volume. I valued cultural exchange with customers. I didn’t have many customers and none of them was a new face. Anyway, this small group could buy all products I offered.”
Currently, the community has more weavers who accept new patterns. There are more learning and experience sharing in the community and above all their income is rising.
Cultural products are not only for preserving. The collaboration between two generations with different expertise but same cultural roots can create new ideas without leaving anyone behind.