Hmong artwork at a morning market in Sapa, northern Vietnam. These designs have been adapted for contemporary tastes, while still retaining traditional design elements, like the whorl patterns modelled after snail shells.
Many of the villages I visited during my travels this year were Hmong, because papermaking is one of their traditional artforms. I have a particular interest in the Hmong because some of my classmates grew up in one of the largest Hmong communities in America in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Hmong have survived countless threats by majority cultures: from China they migrated to SE Asia, then many came to the US after the Pathet Lao took over the country of Laos.
Whether you’re travelling in southern China, northern Thailand, or San Diego, you can find similar batik and embroidered designs that have been made for hundreds of years. The blue and white of indigo-dyed batik is a common sight in the mountain regions of Southeast Asia. Here’s a photo essay I published with ThingsAsian that describes batik on hemp fabric, handmade made in many Hmong households in the region.