About this Artist
My name is Ampai Wongwut, but please feel free to call me Pah Come, which means Aunty Come, like most people like to refer to me. I was born on Monday, April 27, 1953 in a district south of Chiang Mai. I am the second child of five siblings and my parents are farmers. Just like many other farmers don't think that higher education would be of any help in the farming world, I didn't have the chance to continue my studies after primary school.
"I began helping my parents when I finished school. I helped at the rice plantation and then cultivating vegetables after the rice harvest. On my free time, I learned to sew.
"It took me about a year to learn how to sew. I started taking cloths and bags to sew at home. I was able to earn extra money with the bags I was sewing, although it wasn't much, about two bhat at the time. Still, I was so happy sewing bags. The problem was that I couldn't get work to sew all the time, it depended on the people who sold them. If they received many orders, they would make lots of bags or prepare lots of cloths.
"A few years later, when I was around 17, I decided to go to work in the city as a housekeeper. This kind of work would allow me to have a fixed income on a monthly basis. I met my husband during this time, as he was the son of the landlord. He is a year older than me and we got on very well, we soon fell in love and finally married two years later.
"We had our first son after two years of marriage, and then we had another son. My husband is Chinese and, according to Chinese beliefs, if the first child is a boy that means the parents are real soul mates. But I am not sure this belief applies to us, because we separated after five years of marriage.
"My husband is a good man, but he is addicted to gambling. Most of the money we earned was lost to his gambling debts and I could not tolerate it any longer. I had to think about my sons' future, and I realized I was able to look after them better without my husband.
"I returned to my village with my sons, worked in the rice fields and returned to sewing. I was able to earn enough money to support my sons, who are good boys. They have always helped me the best they can. My first son eventually joined me in the rice fields. He would do any kind of work there, and later on he went to town to do construction work, just to help me with the finances.
"Life was difficult for all of us, especially as a single mother, but we worked through it together. For years I received offers from many suitors, butafter 12 years, I finally met the man I thought I could share my life with. We married with my sons blessings, and we all moved to the Sankhamphang area. My sons get on well with him, and we all live happily together.
"It was my son's idea to start designing and making our own bags, instead of me sewing them for someone else to sell. In 2004, I would sew the bags he designed and my husband checked the quality, the colors and the packaging process. Soon we were making bags of different materials, including cloth, rattan, bamboo, reed, and leather. We started by selling our bags locally, and eventually we started receiving orders. It got to the point where I couldn't sew them all myself, which was really a good thing because it meant we could offer work to women in our village.
"Our plans for the future include continuing to make bags, but also work with other materials such as cotton and silk. We would like to increase our range of original designs, and expand our work so that we may continue to offer jobs to more and more people in our community.
"I would like to thank all the people who have helped and supported us. I would like to reassure you that our bags, and all other items we make, are created with love and the solid relationship between everyone in my family. It's not just about love and a good relationship, but it is also the sentiment we transmit with every single piece we create. I do hope that this happiness will also pass on to every one who likes our work."
Pah Come's life story is a good example of how Northern Thai women are hard working, which goes against the popular belief that they are vain and lazy, or related to prostitution. The reality of it is that women from northern Thailand have proven themselves to be industrious, queen of their homes and capable of leading and providing for their families as single mothers. In fact, contemporary belief nowadays is that women run the country, for as studies have shown, female participation makes up for 56% in trade and marketing.