Mulberry trees are abundant throughout northern Thailand, used to raise silkworms for the country’s renowned silk industry. Artisans in the old Lanna Kingdom used to pulp bark from mulberry trees, spread in onto bamboo frames by hand and sun-dry it into richly textured Sa paper sheets. It became very popular for recording Buddhist scriptures as the writing would remain legible for very long times.
The skills of making Sa paper have been passed down from generation to generation. However, international demand is so great that northern communities are now creating new-look Sa papers, incorporating coloured patterns and herbs, flowers or leaves embedded into paper fibres. This very attractive paper is used to make paper bags, boxes hand fans, painted umbrellas, book and picture frame covers, and colorful paper flowers.The techniques of making Sa are now being used to create indigenous paper from plants like pineapple and banana leaves. In southern Pranburi district, Prachuab Khiri Khan province, pineapple canning is big business, but pineapple leaves were previously thrown away, until enterprising villagers used the Sa techniques to turn the leaves into their own fancy paper. This environmental recycling is now earning addition income for Pranburi communities from exports of boxes, picture frames and book covers.