Owners Thanh ‘Albert’ Nhan and Ron Briggs have recently opened a new shop, Wooven, at 28 Water St. in Biddeford. Wooven offers an array of handwoven textiles, designed here and woven in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Tammy Wells Photo

BIDDEFORD — A new shop is celebrating the weavers of Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam with designs created in Biddeford.

The result is a shop full of scarves, bags, silk pillows, throws, other home goods and more.

Wooven, on Water Street next to the Biddeford-Saco Chamber of Commerce, opened in September, but the owners, Ron Briggs and Thanh “Albert” Nhan, have been involved in the textile business for a long time.

Much of the fabric is handwoven in small villages, said Briggs. The fabric is then taken to a workshop in Saigon, where it is made into scarves, bedding and other items.

Traditional weaving offers villagers a way out of poverty, the two owners say; the goal is to grow the market for the craft.

Nhan’s mother taught him to sew at home in Vietnam and gave him a treadle sewing machine he used to make his own clothing. He eventually became a top tailor in Saigon. Business soared when U.S. diplomatic relations were normalized with Vietnam in 1995, and his work was highly sought.

Nhan’s background also includes working with silk goods. First he designed pillows and then expanded and began creating fashion accessories, he said. Design and creating with the use of different fabrics, colors and details are his passions.

“It’s fun,” Nhan said.

Briggs worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development, part of the U.S. State Department, in southeast Asia for several years. He lived in Phnom Penh for five years, and said he got to know a silk manufacturing village on an island on the Mekong River.

“That sparked my interest in textiles,” he said.

Over the years, Nhan and Briggs established a wholesale company, operated a retail shop in Portland with other partners, and for the last 14 years have been designing and producing giftware textiles for the Metropolitan Museum of Art under a private label.

As well, Nhan has expanded his designs to ceramics. Wooven carries ceramic goods made in Bat Trang, Vietnam. Nhan, ever the designer, has expanded on existing products, taking a traditional design for a tobacco bong, for example, and creating other items, like a lamp base and a vase in traditional celadon green or hand painted blue.

The wholesale business continues, but the two owners decided it was time to also focus on a retail shop.

“Some cousins said ‘you should look at Biddeford,'” Briggs said. They took a road trip, saw the space, and went to work.

Wooven, at 28 Water St., opened in September. Current hours are 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. Briggs and Nhan say watch for a grand opening in November.

 

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: