Ilkat? What’s that?
Ikat is a style of weaving where the threads are dyed before hand and the pattern emerges as it is woven on the loom
What dyes are used?
yellow: bror hut tree
red: an insect nest (called Leak Khmer or lac)
black: mok clua (ebony fruit)
commercial chemical-based dyes (while encouraging the use of environmentally-friendly procyon dyes)
Are the silks woven in a factory?
No, ours aren’t. They are woven in villages that have long weaving traditions.
Typically two or three weavers will weave together under their house, chatting (and gossiping) over the clatter of the weaving shuttles going back and forth. Typically taking breaks to prepare meals or take care of little children, seasonally they may assist in harvesting.
How do you organize weaving?
To create a few thousand meters of a given silk, we provide organization for hand weavers to work together.
This may even involve riding a small motor scooter into various little villages and hamlets, asking “who has empty looms?”; “who would like to weave this color of silk?” – and then negotiating the price for the goods. The price of the weaving is constantly changing and not at all fixed. Sometimes no one will want to work on a silk project if they don’t like the color (a very real consideration, since they must indeed stare at the cloth for a month or more).
The price can go up until we attract enough weavers to fulfill the project. It seldom goes down – due to an enthusiastic desire to weave it, or the ease or difficulty of weaving a particular silk.
How do you pay?
Our sewing staff works in their homes, not distant factories. In our ten years in Cambodia we don’t recall anyone dissatisfied with their salary or project fee. We are pleased to offer significantly greater payment than in the (often dangerous and nearly always unpleasant) regional factories.
We’re also happy to be encouraging stability in the home, as well as acquisition of high skill-sets for fine workmanship. Does this encourage artistic and creative collaboration? Our textiles and garments are proof.
Why do you do this?
We know of nothing that compares to the thrill of conceiving an idea or thought, working with ten or twenty people to create a beautiful item and having it turn out different – better – than we’d ever imagined.
Then there’s loyalty. Having worked for many seasons with the same groups of weavers and sewers, we all benefit from mutual respect, friendships and production “short-hand” teamwork.
Where is more information available about Cambodia and the region?
Cambodian Spinning and Weaving Styles
The Revival of Cambodian Silk Weaving
Cambodian Women and Business