June 23 2010
Lucia van der Post
Tee Sangkhampone was born in Laos but now has a studio in London’s Notting Hill, where she dreams up very special silky pieces for interior designers, for architects, for hoteliers, as well as for those of us who might just want to buy a single delicious cushion cover, a luscious bedspread or one of her hand-knotted rugs or lampshades.
She works only in silk, having decided that she wanted to build a business that would provide work for the highly skilled weavers in Laos, who weave silk on looms that are some of the most complicated in the world and so produce silk that is finer than is found almost anywhere else. It is incredibly labour-intensive to produce, as even the best weavers can only make about 80cm-worth a day at a maximum width of 110cm, but the results are astounding. A single patterned woven cushion, for instance, takes three to four days to weave but the result is totally unique and of very fine quality.
Around three out of four women in northern Laos depend on weaving for an income, and finding an outlet for their skills has been Sangkhampone’s chief motivation. So she started Tee Silk, turning the hand-woven silk into beautiful bedspreads, cushions, rugs and wallpapers. The company also makes hand-gilded Japanese-style wall panels, which can be hung on walls or used as screens.
Often the silk is hand-gilded or adorned with Swarovski crystal, pearls or fine feathers. And she has found a way of weaving crystals into the body of the silk: “They are not sewn into the fabric but are part of it.” She is mainly sought after by interior designers and architects, as a lot of her work is bespoke, but anybody who wants to see her range of cushions, bedspreads, rugs and lampshades can make an appointment to visit her studio in Notting Hill. She has just launched a website so that her pieces can be bought online, while Fortnum & Mason also has a selection of her work. Since everything is hand-woven and much of it then hand-gilded or embellished, cushion covers cost between £100 and £500, while bedspreads range from £650 to £2,000.
First picture shows Starlight throw with Swarovski crystal, 60cm x 200cm, £797. Second picture: Russian Vine cushion, 40cm x 40cm, £115. Third picture: Breezy Grasses silk rug, 120cm x 200cm, £6,800.