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■Steps to “Made in Cambodia (KnK)” (Part 2) (2013/07/09)

Please let us present this field report from figurative artist Luna Nakagawa, who held her second workshop in Cambodia in March 2013. (To read the part 1)
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.

Natural Dyeing (Dyeing yarn with natural dyes): Indigo Dyeing
I heard that the technique of Cambodian indigo dyeing has been lost in the confusion related to the civil war.  Only recently there have been efforts to recover the technique in some areas.  The weaving instructor at the House, who is about 58 years old, has heard about it and knows what it is like but has never used it. 
Using indigo is important because it is difficult to find natural dye materials that produce shades of blue, and indigo blue solves that problem.  Also, using the blue color derived from indigo broadens variations of colors; for example, mixing yellow and blue makes green, and mixing red and blue makes violet.
However, in reality, seeds need to be sowed, the indigo plants grown, and then the leaves harvested before the indigo can be used as a dye.  It will take time and effort.  For this workshop, I took some Japanese indigo dye to Cambodia, where no indigo is available, only because I wanted my Cambodian students to experience indigo dyeing and know the fun of it.  If they wanted to use more of indigo, then they would decide to sow, grow, and harvest indigo to produce dyes, as they have done with silkworms.  I dreamed that someday I would see fully-grown indigo leaves next to the mulberry trees at the House.

Process of Indigo Dyeing

Cambodia 1
Soak the yarn in the indigo solution.  The water shouldn’t be heated but should be a little warmer than cold tap water.  The students took the water temperature, but the thermometer read the same temperature as the air (40 degrees Celsius)!  Still, it was a good temperature to use indigo. 
Cambodia 2
The color of a good indigo solution is yellowish green.
Cambodia 3
The oxidization process in the air helps the color change to indigo blue. To get a darker blue, the processes of soaking the yarn in the solution and oxidization in the air should be repeated, not soaking the yarn longer. 
Cambodia 4
Many different shades of indigo blue were produced.  Soymilk is not required to dye cotton in indigo blue. Hoping that we will produce indigo-colored kramas someday….
Cambodia 5 The instructor, who seemed hesitated, showed real interest in indigo dyeing and dunked her own T-shirt in the solution.  Since her T-shirt was so big we had to finish indigo dyeing with her shirt.

Design Drawing Using Paint
The workshop focused on dyeing techniques, but for designing, paint was used.

  • Helping students understand creating colors through a process of blending colors
  • Encouraging students to try something new in order to help them understand that experience broadens their world and gives a larger perspective
  • Helping students experience the confidence that comes through learning and accomplishing something new

In keeping with the above points, I decided to let them try painting. 
Cambodian schools do not teach art or music, and this was only the children’s first or second or third time using paints.  First, they tried to make color wheels (color cards were used in the previous workshop) using the three primary colors of red, yellow, and blue.  Next, they drew checked and striped patterns.  Some children made them so successfully considering their experience levels, and the others made colors appropriate for cloth.  This was unexpected but delightful.   

A future challenge would be to be able to make use of those experiences of painting what they have seen or recreating colors to dye yarn or design fabrics.  Once the students become able to reproduce what they have seen, the ability should lead to the next steps of creating new products and considering whether the products are suited to consumers’ demands or not.  There is a big difference between “do as you are told” and “create things with your own hands and ideas.”
Cambodia 6
A color wheel made using only “red”, “yellow” and “blue.”
The colored squares at the bottom were to practice recreating colors that the student had chosen.  OK!
Cambodia 7
Great combination of colors!
Cambodia 8
One student explains, “Patterns whose colors are completely different from the samples are new designs.”
Cambodia 9
The instructor seems satisfied with the checked pattern which we spent half a day working on.

KnK’s Youth House is run on donated funds, but the salaried staff members seem to be doing their tasks with a strong sense of professionalism.  How could they burn firewood in the steamy weather otherwise?  It might take a long time before they can sell the products that they made and run the house on their own.  But I hope that selling a bag or krama the students made will be the motivation they need to live on, which will encourage them to further consider what kind of products they should make next.  It is also my wish that we, the consumers, buy their products not because Cambodian youth make them but because we really like them.  Then while using the product, we may wonder about the country where this product was produced and the person who made it.  
I hope this report shows how products are made and connects producers and consumers. 

Cambodia 10 Cambodia 11
Each student works on designing
Cambodia 12
Signboard to the “Youth House”
Cambodia 13
Kramas dyed in blue with various patterns dry quickly under the Cambodian sky.
Cambodia 14
Kramas are blue, and bags are colorful!!

(To read the part 1)

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