Past Program

From Seed to Cloth: The Mindful Approach to Craft in Thailand

Throughout this 3-week summer course, you will delve into the mindfulness approach to craft and creating while exploring 4 different cities around Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Nan, and Sakon Nakhon).

You will work alongside hand weaving, Tai Lue textile, indigo process, and natural color dye artisans and their communities in each of the cities and study their cultures with an in-depth approach to mindfulness practice along the way.

Please Note: RISD has announced the cancellation of RISD Global Summer Studios 2020. Read more.


Global Summer Studios
  • Bangkok, Thailand
  • Chiang Mai, Thailand
  • Nan, Thailand
  • Sakon Nakhon, Thailand
Summer 2020

Course Dates: Jun 6, 2020 — Jun 26, 2020

Open to RISD students, Brown University students, non-RISD students

2.5 GPA required. Non-RISD participants see eligibility requirements below.

  • Artisanal Textiles
  • Sustainability
  • Craft
  • Mindfulness
Academic Credits
  • Apparel Design
Course Numbers
  • APPAR-1510-01

Includes tuition, accommodation, studio space, transportation, field trips, entrance fees, group meals and international travel health insurance.

Thailand: From Seed to Cloth: The Mindful Approach to Craft in Thailand

About this Travel Course

Course Description

When making craft time slips away while you’re creating, it becomes a meditative work. The click, clack, click, and clack of the loom becomes a repetitive ritual, much like a mantra. The hum of the sewing machine or even unpicking stitches requires concentration on something tangible instead of our thoughts.

The creation of Thailand textile and garments is undertaken by women in groups. In some villages, all the skilled processes, from growing seeds to finished dyed cloth, are practiced in a time-consuming cycle. In others, a particular method of technique is the key to their livelihood. In this summer course you will learn from the traditions of hand-making, and about stages of production and aesthetics of design in 4 unique locations around Thailand.

Course Objectives

  • Learn from the local knowledge of the environment and think about the sustainability of natural resources and health and safety practices
  • Sustain the expression of human diversity and well-being through craft practice and cultural understanding
  • Hear the voice of Southeast Asian ethnic minorities regarding regional socio-economic agendas
  • Learn from a contextual overview of the production of artisanal textiles in Thailand in specific relation to women
  • Gain a greater understanding of the current skills gaps and labor shortages affecting the production of handmade textiles
  • Demonstrate an ethical and respectful awareness while engaging in cultural research and for design inspiration
  • Investigate various forms and begin to analyze new sources
  • Employ selective decision-making skills and knowledge of sustainability while making fabrics and yarns choices for designs
  • Match craft skills with new product designs evolved within the communities in a culturally sensitive way
  • Cultivate the mind (mindfulness) and to be the device for problem-solving in daily life

Learning Outcomes

During your duration of the three weeks you will document what you learn through photo journal /essay and sketchbook process and reflective journal. Showcasing your understanding and your attempt/ understanding from all of the workshops. At the end of each workshop you will have the opportunity to present your work/ sample to the group.

CRAFTS HELPS IMPROVED CONCENTRATION SKILLS: Modern society involves so many distractions — television, advertising, cell phones, video games, and other demands on our time and attention. People are continually multi-tasking and spreading their attention dangerously thin. Creating a work of art is a time intensive process which requires a huge amount of focus and concentration. Learning to concentrate in this way is an important skill that is disappearing in the modern world. Practicing and refining this skill is a valuable technique that can be applied to all other areas of life where focus is required.

CRAFTS DEVELOPS PROBLEM-SOLVING ABILITIES: There isn’t a manual to being an artist/ designer, and there isn’t a manual for being alive. Obstacles and challenges throughout life are inevitable. However, when we make creativity a habit, we continue to learn new, resourceful ways of solving problems in our artwork, and in life.

CRAFTS HELPS CONNECT WITH YOUR COMMUNITY: When we create, we connect to other people doing the same and an instant sense of community is formed. Whether we’re exchanging ideas, providing feedback for our peers, or simply creating next to each other in silence, the sense of connection experienced as artists/designer is undeniable and deeply rewarding.

CRAFTS HELPS UNDERSTAND YOURSELF AND THE WORLD: Creativity is the route to authenticity. As we create, we plumb the depths of our being, accessing what we think and believe. The more we create, the more we discover and realize our habits, impulses, and desires. When we take the time and energy to develop our own ideas, we respect our inner nature and are better able to express ourselves to the world on a regular basis.


To participate in RISD Global Summer Studios, all students are required to stay in RISD- provided housing for the duration of the course. Students will be accommodated in double/triple occupancy rooms with shared bathrooms.

Background Information


Thailand art and craft are woven into the country's rich cultural heritage and is an inherent part of Thailand's history and national identity. With skills having been passed on for generations, Thailand's art and craft is an enduring reflection of the Thai people's attention to detail and creativity. The natural landscape lends itself to craft with an abundance of rattan, wicker, coconuts, and palm leaves ideal for making handcrafts while religious influences reflect dazzling gold, colored, and mirror artworks pay homage to Thailand's spectacular temples.

Traditional Thai art and craft range from paintings, weaving, silver wear, natural drying, ceramics, wood and stone carving, and much more, during your visit to Thailand you will notice much of Thailand's art and craft is contrast, with spectacular ancient gold-gilded temples surrounded by modern urban environments enhanced with traditional Thai paintings, sculptures and woven materials for a more authentic atmosphere.

Modern-day Thailand art and craft is a blend of ancient techniques and more contemporary methods that have seen that the art and craft industry thrive. With such a unique and beautiful style, handcrafted by locals whose skills have been learned generation over generation.


The capital city of Thailand is Bangkok; it's a 21st-century city. Around each street corner, there's state-of-the-art public transportation, every shopping imaginable, uninterrupted mobile and WiFi service, and cuisine spanning every corner of the globe. But it's difficult to pass through this ancient city without encountering constant reminders of its entrenched Buddhist history, whether it's the immaculate temples towering over the Chao Phraya River or quaint familial spirit houses inconspicuously perched among buildings. As the official religion of Thailand, Theravada Buddhism is practiced by more than 95 percent of the population, and many of its holidays, traditions, and everyday habits factor into this culture.

In Buddhism, meditation is woven into everyday life, and among the ever-increasing chaos and energy of Bangkok, this tradition has primarily sustained. Promising avenues to balance and wellbeing, weary and industrious locals and non-Buddhist visitors alike are increasingly populating these meditation halls.

During our time in Bangkok, we will be visiting temples, local textile markets, studio visits, and meditation centers.

WEAVING (hand weaving, backstrap loom, and tribal pattern)

Weaving on an old fashion loom is joyful, gratifying, contemplative; it's the perfect antidote to our busy lives. Weaving as meditation is to discover this ancient, ancestral craft, to reconnect with yourself and to slow down. During the weaving, you will create a simple handweaving and learn breathing and mindfulness techniques.

In Chiang Mai, you will be learning at the art of hand weaving and backstrap loom. You will be exploring hand-spinning techniques and setting up a loom from beginning to the end. You will experience the traditional weaving class taught by local tribal women: no experience necessary, just a heart and passion for learning. You will be taught basic traditional Thai weaving, backstrap weaving techniques, and learn a detailed tribal pattern. In a separate class, you will learn how to thread and set up a traditional loom. At the end of the course, you will take home your woven work as a tangible memory of your time.

Weaving is a slow rhythmic process. As our hands engage with the loops, our minds can become quiet from our conscious stream of thoughts. Weaving and Meditation are tools for daily self-care. The intention is that you leave the workshop feeling refreshed and empowered with a new set of skills to help you create a sense of calm beauty in your world.


In Nan, this is an area with inherent natural beauty surrounded by forested mountains and vast rice fields. It is the forests that provide the communities with the source materials for their natural dyes. They work in tandem with the land and the forests, maintaining respect for the environments and the eco-culture. The methods and processes of dyeing and weaving have been passed down through the generations, and this ancestral wisdom is valued and celebrated. Their weaving looms, like their traditional homes, are made by highly skilled craftsmen from local timber. They continue to weave both for their consumption and commercial reasons.

The weavers, all women, produce intricate traditional patterns with immense patience and concentration on looms they have been using since childhood. The cloth produced has inherent qualities that possess ecological and spiritual properties that reflect their heritage. The sense of history and skill is visible through fabrics, which take weeks to weave, fabrics which leave a trace of the weaver with every thread.

You will be immersing yourself within the culture of the villages, visiting groups of weavers, gradually gaining an understanding of their weaving, their natural dying, and their way of life. These communities have a distinctive working pattern, and their daily lives are based on traditional family social structures. The weavers typically weave for a set period of their day, worked in amongst other roles. The women maintain a balanced way of life, which is based on a confident, caring, and supportive social structure: such a strong and unique identity.

NATURAL COLORS (indigo, and eco printing)

"The indigo bath is alive. When I'm in a good mood, it's quite easy to dye. But when I'm in a bad mood, dyeing always fails."

Weaving cotton clothes and dyeing indigo is an everyday activity for people in Sakon Nakhon. Once only a seasonal job for extra income, making indigo clothes has become a significant source of income for villagers, who produce indigo-dyed clothes and grow true indigo in a large plantation, for domestic use, and sale. The plant is a lifeline for the people and has become a treasure of Sakon Nakhon.

In Thai, Indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) is called khram. The plant is widely grown along the Songkhram River that originates in Udon Thani then snakes through Sakon Nakhon, Nakhon Phanom, and Bung Kan. So, the local know-how about indigo dye can be found along the waterway as well. Sakon Nakhon is famed for its local wisdom of indigo dye, which is handed down through generations. Many villages, now thrive on producing indigo clothes. Some villages develop their dyeing skills to meet the textile industry's demand.

The indigo bath is alive. It is the micro-organism that lives in the bath with the indigo. Created by the fermentation of ashes, herbs, and some sugar, the organic compound is a precursor to indigo dye and enables Sakon Nakhon's all natural cold-dyeing process to give it a long-lasting blue.

During the workshop with the locals, you will be learning the process from the beginning, planting the indigo seed, harvest the plants, soak and make an indigo bath. Alongside the indigo workshop, you will have the opportunity to work on Eco printing from local ingredients to create a beautiful and colorful print.

During your duration of the three weeks you will document what you learn through photo journal /essay and sketchbook process and reflective journal. Showcasing your understanding and your attempt/ understanding from all the workshop. At the end of each workshop you will have the opportunity to present your work/ sample to the group.


RISD Students

If your current cumulative GPA is 2.5 or above, you are eligible for registration. If your current cumulative GPA is lower than 2.5, you must first contact the Registrar at to seek exception to this academic policy.

Non-RISD Participants

If you are a college student currently enrolled in another art/design college or institution around the world, or a professional practicing in the field, you are eligible for registration. We will collect a recommendation/support form from your institution/workplace.

In order to register for RISD Global summer studies, you are expected to have a high level of English (speech, writing, and comprehension) as all coursework and critique is delivered in English.

Attendance Policy

Global Summer Studios are three weeks long and take place in June/July, and you are required to attend all program activities scheduled during the travel course. RISD Global Summer Studios comply with RISD class attendance policy. In case of unexcused or multiple absences, you may be removed from the course, given a grade of “W" (withdrawal) or a grade of “F” (fail).

Withdrawal Policy

Requesting to withdraw from a RISD off-campus global learning program, including RISD Global Summer Studios, prior to the start of the course is highly discouraged and requires a formal process outlined in the RISD course withdrawal policy. It is not possible for a student to drop a RISD Global Summer Studios travel course via the standard Add/Drop process after it has commenced. In the case of unforeseen and extenuating circumstances (and only after students have spoken with the faculty lead and RISD Global for approval to withdraw from the program), students should be aware that no refund will be issued.

More Info

In order to reserve a seat, a non-refundable deposit of $1,500 is required at time of application submittal. Students will have 30 days from the date of their deposit to submit full payment. Students that fail to make full payment by their deadline will forfeit their $1,500 deposit and their seat in the course. New application submissions starting April 1 are not eligible to make a deposit and must make full payment by April 12, 2020.

All RISD students enrolled in RISD and other full degree schools/universities are required to remain in good academic standing in order to participate in Global Summer Studios. A minimum GPA of 2.5 is required for all RISD students. Failure to remain in good academic standing can lead to removal from the course, either before or during the course.

In cases where summer travel courses and studios do not reach full capacity, the course may be cancelled after the last day of registration. As such, all students are advised not to purchase flights for participation in Global Summer Studios courses until the course is confirmed to run starting April 13, 2020.

Apply to Global Summer Studios

For summer 2021, RISD Global is offering 4 creative and culturally immersive art and design courses, all taught virtually for 3 weeks between June 7 – 25.

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1:1 Advising Session

Have questions? The RISD Global team is available to meet for a 1:1 advising session. We can give you more information about your study options, help you figure out which program makes sense for you, and assist you with the application process.

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