"The doors to our workshop are open to the public, so that everyone can come and learn about the manufacturing and decorating processes."
"You used to know me through Wicharn Wongkham, a very skilled painter who worked with me. But now that he has left for greener pastures, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Nikom Boontunjeen and I was born in northern Thailand in the early 1960s. I grew up in a village known for their saa paper parasols. I enjoyed a peaceful childhood. I was a regular and filial country child, and often helped my parents crafting umbrellas.
"I studied in Bangkok, then I came back home and set up my saa paper and umbrella workshop in the late '80s. It was a good decision for my parents, my family and the neighboring villagers.
"It was also very inspiring to work with family and friends who shared the same interest. We improved the design as well as the patterns, and changed stages in the procedure and techniques in order to improve the quality. The doors to our workshop are open to the public, so that everyone can come and learn about the crafting and decorating processes. When demand for our products is great, I dispatch work to people living nearby. I think this has a major impact on their life because it can be a part time or full time job. And for those who already have a job, it can be a way to earn extra money. I provide them with the design and raw materials. This way they work at home with their family, at their own pace, without stress, without the burden that comes with business responsibilities. Moreover they do not need to leave their homes to find work in larger cities, living uprooted and far away from their loved ones.
"Today, although I still mainly craft umbrellas, fans, and accessories made of saa paper and fabric, I try to diversify with other lines. I tend to keep to traditional Thai patterns, but I also have been creating new designs, either my own ideas or suggested by customers. I am proud to say that my products are traditional, decorative, useful, and locally made.
"I am married and we have two children. I would like us to travel, see our country and the world, but I want to improve my craft first. I hope people around the world will enjoy the products I sell through Novica."
Saa paper has been handmade in Thailand for more than 700 years from the bark of the mulberry tree. Originally, it was used as a filter in the making of lacquerware, but it is today used for Buddhist scripts, temple decorations, umbrellas, fans, and kite making. The largest concentration of mulberry-trees is to be found in the Northern Thai forests. The saplings are coppiced and the bark is stripped from the branches and dried. The smallest branches produce the best quality bark and it takes therefore a full day for one person to harvest just ten pounds of good quality washed and dried bark. Because the mulberry tree is a fast growing variety, the branches, once cut, are quickly replenished and can be cut again the following year, while the tree itself lives its natural course.
The bark is soaked in clear water for about 24 hours. Then it is boiled with several kinds of ashes in cauldrons over a naked flame to soften the fibers. It is left to cool and soak overnight and then rinsed many times until clean. Dyes are added if necessary and the fibers are beaten to a pulp with mallets. Fibers are then put into a tank of clean water and stirred with a paddle until they are suspended in the water. They are hand-sifted with a screen, and the screen full of fibers is placed in the sun to dry. The fibers on the screen become a sheet of paper that can be peeled off easily.
My beautiful Lanna scrapbook arrived *much* earlier than I expected it to. It's wonderfully made, and I can't stop looking at it. I was born in Chiang Rai in 1974, and I meant this book as a gift for my parents - but I think I'll keep it :) By the way, kudos to the person who wrapped the book in paper and tied it with string (over the bubble wrap). The packaging gave the unwrapping process an exotic feeling, like I'd just bought the book in a marketplace somewhere. It made a dull morning in Northern Virginia a little more fun, even if I recognized it as the slick marketing it was.
- Sanya T, Falls Church, Virginia, USA
I ordered three saa paper parasols from Nikom and Wicharn. Each parasol is absolutely exquisite and of museum quality. My only problem is to decide how to share them among daughters and granddaughters all of whom want one. I think I will simply have to order more ! A C
- Ann C, San Diego, CA USA
Hello, I'm getting married in October in Cyprus and have been looking for a pretty parasol to help keep me cool on my big day. I found Nikom's parasols on the NOVICA website and found one that I thought looked perfect! - so I order it and within 4 days it arrived! Beautifully wrapped and the parasol was even more stunning than I could have imagined! It's obvious that a lot of time, love and skill had been put into making the parasol - which makes it even more special and I can't wait to show it off on my wedding day! Thankyou Nikom! Kind Regards, Miss Lisa Godwin.
- Lisa G, England, UK
I ordered the Saa paper address book and notebook, 'Autumn Memory', a little over a week ago, and I have already received it (a full week before the 'not guaranteed by' date!). I ordered to use as a Guest Book at my upcoming wedding, as it fits in with the fall theme we are going for, and we get the added bonus of having our guests fill out our address book for us. I must say I was overjoyed when I took them from the shipping box. The wrapping job done inside the box was so beautifully done I almost didn't want to open it. The product is beautiful, and you can feel the love the artist puts into it. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
- Kyle Boland, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada
The saa paper parasol I received was PERFECT -- from the lovely ribbon-wrapped packaging (with a hand-signed postcard, no less!) to the breathtakingly beautiful peacock/flower design, this parasol is exactly what I was looking for to make my wedding day unique. Even though the parasol was listed as backordered, I received it well before the listed shipping time for even normal orders -- amazing! Novica (and particulary Nikom and the Thailand Team) has most certainly found a future customer in me. Thanks for the gorgeous work and speedy service!
- Shelli LaPlante, Fargo, ND, USA
I bought the elephant scrapbook for my mother for Mother's Day. She really enjoys the artistry in the handmade paper and the sweet elephants on the front. It has a beautiful blend of earth tones. As always, it was wrapped with the utmost care.
- Jennifer Barry, Dallas, TX USA
I have ordered 5 of your amazing parasols, originally for my daughter's friends -- but then she and I fell in love with their beauty, that we have each kept one for ourselves! They are absolutely stunning, and completely unique. Thank you so much!! Katherine Donovan-Sherpa Charleston, South Carolina USA
Nikom, The saa paper and bamboo parasol I purchased is more beautiful than I expected. It is a work of perfection!! I will treasure it for many years. Sincerely,
I am so pleased I've been introduced to t he wonders of saa paper. The notebook I purchased from Nikom is being put to several uses, among them, watercolor painting. The story of the paper's creation and the bits of nature embedded in the paper intrigue me. I also paint on the strong, wonderfully textured, leaf-embedded wrapping paper many Novica items are wrapped in
- WENDY, Valley Village, CA, USA (near Hollywood)
The scrapbook I ordered from NOVICA by Wicharn Wongkham was just delivered. It was so beautiful! The craftsmanship and design of the elephants were well beyond my expectations, and the quality of the book is outstanding! I can't say enough about how beautiful it is, I will surely order more from Wicharn Wongkham in the future!
- Laura S
The album was just beautiful. It made the perfect wedding gift for my brother. Thank you so much!
- Sara P
Yesterday I received my lovely, lovely scrapbook. The paper sculpted elephants are exquisite and there is truely a sense of having purchased a piece of art. This will make a delightful gift to my daughter in law. It is perfect for displaying pressed flowers. Thank you. katherine z
- katherine zeigler, WA, USA