In Laos, rice has been farmed for over 4000 years. Most rice is grown in paddies. But rice is also grown on hillsides in northern parts of the country. Chances are, you’ve seen the beautiful pictures of rice terraces, if not in person, at least in pictures.
Lao people live very close to nature and rice farming plays an important role in their life. At least 3 out of 4 people in Laos farm rice and, many still farm for their own families and sell the rest.
Lao people eat khao niao, sticky rice in Lao. The rice grain is smaller than regular white rice. They soak it overnight and then steam the grain in baskets in the morning. Make sure to watch our Rice & Loom video to fully experience this morning ritual. The first rice of the morning is usually given to monks for alms. Then they start to eat it! They make a little ball and dip it in jeow which is like a spicy sauce.
In Laos, they eat rice, especially sticky rice, everyday. Rice has a connection to textiles, another important part of Lao culture. How you ask? Let us explain!
The stories of lao culture are told through many symbols and motifs. Most of the symbols and motifs come from legends of magical creatures and from nature. In all the textiles — whether it is an outfit they wear or a fabric they use in their house or ceremonies — you can see symbols of birds, animals, flowers, water, rain and… rice.
At Ock Pop Tok, we value traditional inspirations and techniques, but at the same time, we encourage our weavers to be creative with the design and products. In our studio, we think how to combine tradition and innovation, bring the old and new together and east meet west.
Rice planting is a wonderful inspiration and our Master Weavers have come up with some really creative ways to honour rice in our textiles. Let’s take a look…
This pattern, which brings to life the Square Rice Field scarf, was created by Lear, our head of design and production. It looks like rice terraces on the hills. Shop this scarf here.
The Khanna scarf is one of our most popular scarves! It is woven from silk and the ends of the scarves have colourful stripes, like rows of rice fields. Did you know that naa means rice field in Lao? Shop this scarf here.
The Lanna scarf is full of squares, some light and others dark. It is made to look like rice paddies in the countryside. When rice is planted in a paddy, the light moves freely and creates an open feeling. When the rice grows, the paddies are bright and dark, like the colour of rich emeralds. Shop this scarf here.
The Khao niao — sticky rice in Lao — scarf is incredibly soft, just like the texture of sticky rice. It is soothing and comforting to wear, similar to the warm feeling you get after eating fresh sticky rice! Shop this scarf here.
Rice farming is an important part of village life. Planting, harvesting, threshing and winnowing take time. Everyone in the village gets involved. It’s almost like life in the village and the community revolves around rice farming …
and of course, rice eating!
Watch our Rice & Loom video on YouTube or Instagram and drop us a line if you’d like to learn more about a specific technique or motif.
This blog and video are part of our Shop Talk series. Did you miss the one on the traditional Lao skirt, the sinh? Watch and read here! Follow us on Instagram and Facebook to know when the next Shop Talk video will be live!