Sa’lah – Northern Artisanship – A Way of Living

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      Imagine yourself taking a journey to Northern Thailand, starting in Chiang Mai. You are interested in design, craft and local culture. Where would you go, where do you start? Or maybe you are a buyer or an interior designer from afar who is looking for new sources for materials, accessories, decorative items or other craft products. How can you find out more about the beautiful craft objects from Northern Thailand, a region also called “Lanna”? Lanna refers to an ancient kingdom that is famed for its craft products; sa’lahmade (salahmade) aims to provide a simple gateway into this realm for visitors and potential buyers of craft products.

      Northern Thailand has a unique culture that is different to Central Thailand in that it is a blend of ethnic minorities. The region’s uniqueness is strongly influenced by the natural environment in which Chiang Mai and other cities are located in valleys separated by hilly watersheds inhabited by different ethnic groups living in upland villages. In both lowland and upland communities, traditional craft making was a way of life, deeply connected to religious beliefs, cultural practices and practical every day needs. In recent times, this diverse cultural heritage and its expression in the form of crafts has been further influenced by new ideas from the West, Japan and other countries. Often due to international designers and artisans choosing to visit or even live in Northern Thailand.

      Even today, crafts are still a significant source of income and employment. Although some forms of crafts like wood carving have become harder to find, new forms have emerged and younger people are turning to craft making as way to live more meaningful lives and build their own craft businesses. Hence Chiang Mai has several significant craft markets during almost any weekend, and feature events like Chiang Mai Design Week, NAP Art & Design Fair and others take place annually, usually in December. These events are where you can find creative designers and artisans trying out new ideas as they evolve their repertoires and businesses.

      Encountering Northern crafts is both a traditional and contemporary experience. International designers and companies have established businesses here, local artisans may offer you traditional tea or herbal drink; or have a freshly roasted coffee served by a local barista in Southeast Asia’s coffee capital whilst thinking how many products you carry or ship home – or how to collaborate with local artisans for new product development.

      Chiang Mai is a UNESCO designated City of Crafts, signifying the importance of crafting to Chiang Mai and the entire Northern Region. If you are traveling to Northern Thailand, we hope salahmade can be a guide and companion on your journey. If you are looking for new products, materials and ideas, the many stories, photo galleries, videos and collections on this website should help you discover what our sa’lah have to offer.