A few years ago I attended the New York Home Textile Show in New York City and was amazed at the beautiful home accessories I found. As a Feng Shui designer and practitioner, I have a passion for Asian fabrics and design. When I was introduced to Siw Thai Silk’s beautiful fabrics and accessories I had to learn more!
Siw Thai Silk, Inc. works with village artisans in Thailand to design and manufacture an elegant, eco-friendly line of home and personal accessories by blending their modern aesthetic with time-honored handcrafted techniques, following fair trade practices. Their home collection includes pillows, throws, tabletop, and wall hangings, all of which are hand-woven with silk, water hyacinth, and other natural fibers. The personal accessories collection includes hand-woven scarves and shawls. The company was formed in 2001 by Susan Firestone.
I interviewed Susan to learn more about their beautiful designs.
I understand that you work with village artisans in Thailand. Can you tell us about how you work with them?
Butterfly Batik Silk pillow. Air brushed and hand painted batik on Thai silk. photo courtesy of Siw Thai Silk
Siw Thai Silk is proud to honor Thailand’s ancient craft traditions and support the local artisans’ goal to sustain self-sufficiency. Every Siw Thai Silk purchase helps to empower village women and their families in Thailand. We work with several co-ops, each with its own history and expertise. Working within each co-ops skills and traditions, we bring our own designs and color stories and work with them to create our beautiful products.
What and/or who inspires your fabric designs?
We pay close attention to design trends in the U.S as well as around the world. We like designs inspired by nature and by natural materials. We love patterns, especially ikat, but find that Americans haven’t yet readily embraced or understood the complexities and aesthetics of this patterned silk. All designs keep in mind the skills and traditions of the producers, who live in rural villages with little or no access to any technology.
Silk throws – a luxurious way to wrap your home or yourself in silk. A year-round weight. Natural or non-toxic dyes.
photo courtesy of Siw Thai Silk.
Tell us about your Eco-Conscious Commitment to Fair Trade?
Siw Thai Silk, Inc. is proud to be part of a global movement committed to environmental sustainability and fair trade practices. Founded on a socially responsible Triple Bottom Line philosophy – Planet, People and Profit – Siw Thai Silk adheres to three basic tenets:
1. Commitment to eco-friendly manufacturing and operations. For example, we require natural dyes or non-toxic synthetic dyes and other materials that are safe for the producers and for the consumer.
2. Respect and fair pay for all persons involved in Siw Thai Silk commerce. The villagers control their own production schedule. We pay them 50% upfront and 50% on completion of their work, using fair pay guidelines based on the cost of living in Thailand.
3. Reasonable and fair distribution of the company’s net financial gains. We donate products to several non-profits in the U.S, such as Fashion Delivers and Transfair, as well as several local non-profits.
Where can we find your pillows and accessories?
We sell wholesale to upscale boutiques and to lifestyle web stores. In the DC area, our products can be found at or special ordered from Bungalow Homewares Gallery in Alexandria VA.
Daisy Twist pillow – made from water hyacinth, a very invasive plant species, a creative way to turn a problem into a beautiful and useful product.Silk throws – a luxurious way to wrap your home or yourself in silk. A year-round weight. Natural or non-toxic dyes.
photo courtesy of Siw Thai Silk
Can you tell us about your different pillow and accessory collections?
We focus primarily on decorative pillows, a great way to easily add a splash of color and design to any room. We started out working only with hand woven Thai silk and have since expanded to other natural fibers, such as water hyacinth, hemp, jute, and cotton. Other products include throws, table runners, and scarves. We love silk ikat, a beautiful and time-consuming patterned silk, and make limited edition wall hangings in the U.S. using those silks.
How do you take a design from idea to finished product? Do you design using sketch book and/or computer? What software programs do you use? Is there specialty software involved in creating fabric patterns?
We sketch out designs to scale and send the designs and color swatches, and sometimes finished samples, to the village co-ops. This is truly a cottage industry, with women mostly working in their homes to produce the fabric and to sew the finished product. We have to keep firmly in mind their desire to try something new or stick with traditional techniques, so there is a melding of our American-inspired designs with the Thai villagers’ capabilities.
Tufted Round silk pillow – this is a traditional Thai design updated with on-trend colors. The fabric is woven in one village with non-toxic dyes, and the finished pillow is made in another village.
photo courtesy of Siw Thai Silk.
Do you have favorite websites, blogs or magazines?
We subscribe to several magazines and follow the websites and blogs of our customers. We keep our eyes open for inspiration and information wherever we can find it.
How do you balance your personal life with your career?
Running a small business means that my career is my personal life; however, I make sure to plan time for my family, especially my grandbabies.
Anything new in the works… can we get a hint?
We’re working on developing a new line of home décor items, using water hyacinth and plant materials. Stay tuned for more soon.
Authors note: This blog article originally appeared and was written for DC Ladies Blog.