Each morning, Saeng, a fifty-something Karen woman who looks younger than her years, crouches her short, robust body over a large, aged, clay jar that is plastered with spots and splatters of every shade of blue. She studies the glossy dark indigo stew inside and coos her morning greetings. “Hello, how are you today? You look beautiful…a little brownish though…what can we do for you to help you feel better?” Studio Naenna’s master weaver and most experienced indigo dyer is communing
with the indigo goddess.
Indigo dyeing has been a part of Thailand’s culture and customs for generations. Thai people believe that to start and sustain a healthy jar of indigo, an offering must be made to the indigo goddess and she must be nourished daily with words, love and devotion. Quietly spoken and modest, Saeng has been weaving since she was nine years old. She came to work at Studio Naenna 20 years ago and has woven some of the studio’s most elaborate creations. Saeng’s expertise and character make her a natural carer of the indigo goddess, a role that only a unique few can master. The indigo goddess is a sensitive spirit who requires the right touch, tone and attention.
Given the importance of indigo in Studio Naenna’s intricately woven textiles, this is no small responsibility but, it is a job and a relationship, Saeng enjoys. “It makes me happy when I see the goddess’s colors are beautiful, nice and strong,” she explains. When the color is pale and the odor is different, Saeng knows the indigo jar needs a remedy. Sometimes it’s a touch of tamarind, pineapple or sugarcane. Every carer has their own secret recipe. The weather can make all the difference too. Like most of us, the indigo goddess will perk up and be active when the sun is shining. But, when the sky is overcast, the goddess “feels unwell and a bit dizzy,” Saeng explains. “If it’s a rainy day, I won’t even bother waking her up. I let her lie in bed” Saeng says with a small, warm chuckle.