Carol’s Web

Wow!  I sure stumbled into a gold mine.  Last week here in Laos I was busy taking photos of buildings that had a definite French influence.  One of the places housed a weaving studio run by Carol Cassidy (http://www.laotextiles.com/)  I had not heard of her before, but someone mentioned that she is the Lao version of Jim Thompson (http://www.jimthompson.com/index.asp). 

When we had some spare time, Jordan, a friend, and I stopped in for a visit.  We were thrilled and surprised to be greeted by Carol herself.  She is a vivacious lady who grew up in Connecticut and started weaving when she was 17.  She ended up getting a job with the United Nations that took her to southern Africa where she taught weaving to local ladies so they could have an income.  After meeting her Ethiopian husband, they came to Laos and still were with the United Nations.  Once here, she opened her own design studio and has been running the business from the same charming house for over twenty years.  She has also had the same weavers for that long.


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House exterior with its charming French colonial charm

When we entered, we were encouraged to walk through the studio and watch the weavers at work.  They all seemed so happy as they talked, wove, listened to the radio, giggled, and created.  It was so obvious that it was a good place to work.

One of the workers spinning silk.

The weaving area was filled with happy ladies who have worked there for over 20 years.  The looms come in all shapes and sizes and were designed and built by Carol.

They use their bare feet to propel the looms.

Carol has had some top clients – her first major client was Valentino.  She works closely with a New York architect, and she showed us some of her fabrics on the sofas and drapes he designed for an apartment featured  in Architectural Digest.  She regularly does commissions for designers, but she is their secret.  Even though she is designing specifically for them, they don’t mention her, and she doesn’t mention them.   I can’t reveal names, but I can tell you that her fabrics are on the sofas in a major French luggage and purse designer’s  Paris showroom.

 

Carol Cassidy is a dynamic and creative lady who not only is the company founder but also its “shop girl.”
 

She is involved from the very beginning to the end of the process.  She develops and mixes the colors, makes the looms, designs the patterns,  oversees their making, and does her own public relations.  When we were in her studio, she showed us a sample of some wooden flooring she received from the same NYC architect mentioned before.  She will create dyes that work with the floor and then will use those colors to design fabrics.  She is really into ikat and showed us several fantastic  styles of her own creation.

Another venture of hers is a shop she set up in Cambodia.  She hires women who have lost limbs from random buried bombs left over from the U.S. bombings.   These ladies lost their limbs while out doing normal everyday activities like fetching water.  Their jobs with Carol insure that they and their families can have an income. 

This silk is hanging outdoors to dry after being dyed.


This room stored a collection of different colors that are waiting for the loom.

We bought some beautiful scarves and shawls, had a great chat, and left with smiles on our faces.  We were thrilled that someone so busy and accomplished would be her own “shop girl.”   She has woven quite a life for herself and her family here in Vientiane, and she couldn’t be happier.
Here Jordan is standing in front of some of the scarves and shawls.

I was not paid by Carol Cassidy to mention her store or products.

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