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■Steps to “Made in Cambodia (KnK)” (Part 1) (2013/07/04)

Please let us present this field report from figurative artist Luna Nakagawa, who coached children for a second time in Cambodia in March 2013.
Term: March 22nd to 27th, 2013
Instructor: Luna Nakagawa (Artist)

* Our Income Generating Activities (IGA) in Cambodia and this project of placing specialists are supported by the Japan International Cooperation Foundation (JICF), a public interest incorporated foundation.

March in Cambodia is the dry season, and it is scorching hot.  The temperatures stand at about 40 degrees Celsius.  However, it is also the wedding season.
In Cambodia, wedding parties are held in the street with chairs lined up and last for three days and nights, and drops of rain can ruin them.  Here brides are “dry season brides” (“kanki” in Japanese, which is a homonym of “joy”), rather than “June brides.”  Anyway, I visited the KnK “Youth House” in Batdambang during this hottest season of the year.  It was my second visit to the house after the first visit in December 2012.

Objectives of This Workshop
・Natural dyeing (using locally-sourced natural dyes)  
・Indigo (trial indigo dyeing) 
・Design drawing using paint
・Improving the issues found in the previous workshop, and others

Natural Dyeing (Using locally-sourced natural dyes) 
The most important objective of this workshop is dyeing with natural dyes found in the local area.  Currently the children of the Youth House are growing mulberry trees, raising silkworms, and spinning the cocoons into yarn in order to produce handmade yarn.  Not only the yarn but also the dye used to color the yarn is handmade.  The final stage of this project is to use locally made materials and involve local people to ultimately realize our goal of making 100% Cambodian products. 
Making products for the Japanese market is not readily realized because the combination of colors preferred in Cambodia is not the same as what Japanese consumers favor.  However, colors produced from natural dyes rarely clash with each other and are easily paired with different colors.  I encouraged my students to find a good combination of soft colors as the first step.

Processes of Natural Dyeing: Silk

  1. Procuring materials (by harvesting or purchasing at a market): Pro hout (tree bark for yellow); curry powder and tea leaves (for brown); Laccifer lacca (nidus of a species of insect for red); and black beans (for red) were used.
  2. Extracting colors by boiling the materials
  3. Soaking and dyeing yarn (silk) in boiling color extract, and leaving it overnight
  4. Mordanting

We also used the bark of mango trees and Indian mulberry trees growing on our properties, and the shells of the mangosteens we bought at the market and ate, and the liquid made from rusty nails soaked in water.  Materials to be used to make dyes, such as trees, leaves, and things found at the market, are everywhere around us.  They are familiar to local people as food and plant materials but have never been used as dyes.  They can only be found by local people, not by a visitor like myself.  I truly hope we will find a lot of these native materials to produce truly Cambodian colors!

Cambodia 1
Tree bark called “pro hout” produces yellow
Cambodia 2
Curry powder we bought at the market turned into this color
Cambodia 3
Nidus of an insect Laccifer lacca
Camboda 4
Khaki color produced by mordanting with iron
Cambodia 5
Color samples of four different colors from each of four different types of mordanting complete
Cambodia 6
I dyed my own stole.  I’m very happy with the results!

Natural Dyeing (Dyeing yarn with natural dyes) 

Dyeing Cotton Yarn
Silk dyeing was successful, but cotton yarn is essential for the krama, a Cambodian traditional towel.  Natural pigments easily stick to proteins and are quite effective for dyeing animal fibers, such as silk and wool, while they only barely color cotton, hemp, and other plant-derived fibers.  Therefore, cotton yarn needs to be processed to attach proteins to its fiber.  The most readily available protein in Cambodia is soybeans, or soymilk.  We first tried soymilk from the market, which turned out to be artificially sweetened and also too expensive.  So we decided to make soymilk ourselves by soaking soybeans in water overnight and then crushing them in a blender.  After being soaked in the homemade soymilk, the cotton yarn can be dyed in the same way silk is dyed.

Making Original Eco-Bags
The major objective of this workshop was to produce soft colors from natural dyes.  I also wanted to let the students make something they could keep for themselves.  So I let them dye plain eco-bags in their preferred color but told them to leave some white areas for prints.  For this activity, the students used chemical dyes.  The colors the students chose were vivid red, bright orange, and brilliant purple!  No one picked blue, green, or any subtle color.  They even wanted make their bright colors more bright.  I was witnessing explosions of power.  I also found that colors of goods for selling and those for something they own are quite different.

Cambodia 7
Soaking Cambodian traditional towel in the soymilk
Cambodia 8
Black bean’s color
Cambodia 9
Put the sugar into surplus soymilk…
Cambodia 10
Sweet, they love it!
Cambodia 11
Beautiful purple
Cambodia 12
Beautiful red
Cambodia 13
A staff member also made her own bag!

(To be continued on the part 2)

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