Situated in the Southeast Asian region, Cambodia is a country with a long history of great culture and tradition. Khmer silk weaving dates back to Angkor times. During the Angkorian period, silk fabrics were used by Angkorians to dress statues of divinities and trade commodities. As an example, this craft is clearly apparent on the artistic skirts of the Apsaras on the walls of Angkor Wat and other temples across Cambodia. Motifs and symbols on woven silks were recorded on old stone sculptures. This tradition was passed down from generations to generations.
Traditional silk clothes; which are popularly worn in wedding ceremonies, traditional festivals and royal ceremonies; have long been used by ordinary people, low and high-ranking officials and even the king himself.
Khmer Artisanry Silk Products
Khmer people could weave many kinds of silk products with different decorative patterns, such as lboeurk, Preleat, Anlounh (checkered cloth), Krama (scarf), Sarong Sotr (silk Sarong), Chorabab, Soeng, Hol, Phamuong, Pidan (used in Buddhist ceremonies), in magnificent colors extracted from trees and other materials.
However, during almost three decades of civil wars and political strife, Khmer silk yarn production declined tremendously. In the 1960’s, Cambodians produced 150 tonnes of silks per year. In the 2000’s, Cambodians produced about six tonnes per year. This is because mulberry plantations were not well revived after many skilled weavers perished during the wars.
WE REVIVE TRADITIONAL WEAVING METHODS AND NATURAL DYEING TECHNIQUES.
KHMER ARTISANRY has become more concerned and aware of the significance of cultural pride. For the last few years, we have been working closely with weavers in Kampong Thom, Kampong Speu, Kampong Cham and Takeo provinces to give a new lease of life to natural dyeing as well as hand-woven silk fabrics and scarves.
Kiedh is a skein of silk which weavers tie for dyeing, in English being called Ikat. The process involves dyeing only certain segments of the yarn. To do so, our dyers need to wrap those parts that are to remain undyed. Traditional patterns and lanterns on silk rely heavily on the ikat technique. Our weavers have their own special techniques to do that. White kiedh is first dyed with red, then with yellow and lastly blue. To tie the kiedh, our weavers use banana sheath or nylon. The ikat process and weaving are one of the most complicated and time consuming ways to pattern cloth.
THE PROCESS OF IKAT SILK DYEING
After certain segments of the yarn are wrapped, the silks are ready to be dyed with colors. The process of silk dyeing involves four main stages: washing, extraction, bleaching and etching.
THE PROCESS OF SILK WEAVING
To weave silk, our traditional weavers need several tools including handlooms, shuttles, spinning and reeling devices, etc.