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"To this day many people remember mother as a role mother, and I'm proud to be able to continue her mission of preserving Thai and hill tribe textile arts."
"I'm Kanjana Katika, and I'm proud to preserve my mother's textile legacy along with one of my sisters. I'm a single mom, and I hope one day my beautiful daughter will want to continue this family legacy too.
"People still call me by my nickname, Uan which really means 'fat,' but I don't mind it because over here it is a term of endearment… nevertheless, I do take care of my weight!
"We are five siblings, all sisters, and we're so close in age we shared the same interests and I remember we had a lot of fun together growing up. My father worked with furniture and we lived above mother's silk workshop. It used to be located in one of the main streets in Chiang Mai – it was an amazing location because we got a clear view over the most important parades, like the Bubpachat or flower parade. I remember how admiring the floats all beautifully decorated with colorful flowers!
"There used to be a kind of beauty contest in which people had to ride their bike and holding an umbrella at the same time. My sisters and I would try to imitate them, but kept falling – I learned that riding a bike while holding an umbrella was clearly not one of my talents.
"Another memorable event for us has to do with my parents’ blue van – we went on the most amazing road trips. And since it was like a convertible van, my sisters and I loved to stand up and sing – those were such happy times.
"I would spend more time at my mother's workshop than at my father's. I loved seeing how she managed the place, the attention she gave to weavers and their work, how she checked for quality, design products, and choose the fabrics. She started the workshop in 1961, and we're still going on even though she passed away.
"Mother always offered work to the children of the weavers that worked with her, and even if they weren't that good, she would patiently sit by their side and train them. She had such a way about her and was always so encouraging. She inspired people to feel proud about their weaving skills and make a living from them rather than moving into the big city looking for jobs that were not right for them.
"I feel I have inherited mother's passion for hill tribe arts. Once, she took me to the Hmong New Year festival. I was very impressed with Hmong hospitality. They cooked in the middle of the house with firewood, and they had a lift up mattress for guests to sit and sleep. Each of them dressed in very beautiful clothes. New clothes are woven and embroidered every year for their New Year Festival. Mom asked them what they did with the old clothes, and they replied they don't use them anymore.
"We couldn't believe this and mom offered to buy these clothes -- they were amazed that she would want them! Since then, every time she visited them she would return with loads of clothes that were magnificently embroidered, if weathered. Mother explained that according to Hmong custom, since they live high up in the mountains and had no plumbing, they relied of rainfall so they had to save water as much as they could, therefore hardly washed their clothes.
"However, she never objected to washing and cleaning them gently. Our home soon became like a museum of tribal clothes as mother gathered a huge collection of them. My elder sister can tell the story of each piece, where it comes from, which tribe, etc. She knows even how old they are since they have small different details. Mother was the first person ever to recycle these genuine hill tribe fabrics into different accessories and clothes.
"When mother passed away father decided to continue her legacy and stopped working at the furniture store. To this day many people remember mother as a role mother, and I'm proud to be able to continue her mission of preserving Thai and hill tribe textile arts. Some of the weavers that worked with my mother are still here with us, and I respect them in the same way I respect the elders in my family.
"One of my elder sisters as well as younger sisters got married and have their own regular jobs. So, they left us to live with their families. Accordingly, I and another elder sister have continued the shop. We've hardly bought anymore more tribal fabrics because we still have enough clothes to make. Unfortunately, the younger generations of hill tribe people are less interested in dressing up in their traditional costumes, and indeed to make them. It's time for us to revive the old traditional way of tribal embroidery as our mother did in the past. This is what we really need to be successful in meeting her passion and preserve the beauty of tribal embroidery.
"I heard about Novica through my neighbor Achara [Novica featured artist], who has been happy with the way customers have received her silver collections. I believe associating with Novica will be a very good way to tell the story of Thai tribal embroidery which I have been impassioned about since I was a little girl. I sincerely hope that you will be pleased and impressed with my products. Thank you."
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