Silk Weaving Artisans
Cambodia used to be known for having the finest woven silk products in the world. It was especially famous for its golden silk. Because of the Khmer Rouge, the mulberry bushes that the silk worms eat were completely destroyed, and this, in turn, destroyed the silk weaving industry for many years. Silk weaving was Cambodia's national pride and a huge part of Cambodians' identity.
All of the exquisite silk fabrics and scarves that Talis offers are woven by thirty families living in Kampot province, on island villages two hours from Phnom Penh. Our trading partnership has been revitalizing the silk industry and, thanks to the fair wage, drawing younger people towards their cultural traditions.
A lot of time, effort and traditional production techniques are incorporated into weaving a single silk scarf. The silk managers in Kampot province first buy the un-dyed silk thread in bulk from Vietnam, but thanks to revitalizing the weaving industry, the weavers now plant mulberry bushes in their villages, with the goal of harvesting the silk solely in Cambodia. With generations of experience first with using vegetable dyes, they now dye the threads using azo-free, low-impact dyes. In large pots of boiling dye, the silk threads sit for about one hour. Then they hang above the pot to dry. After the thread is dry, it will be immersed in a solution to soften the threads. Then the thread will be spun onto spools for use on the shuttles to make the scarves. As well, the threads need to be set up on the loom to create the desired pattern. This entire process takes 10 days from dyeing to loom set-up. Weaving takes only a short time in comparison. A good weaver can make 4-5 scarves a day.
From 2010 to 2015, Cambodhi Silks with Talis raised donation funds to support the purchase of 3 new looms for the families. The looms turned out to be money-generating machines: they have an automatic shuttle that doubles the speed of production and they are high quality which translates to a better quality, and thus – higher price, of an end product. Worth mentioning is also the fact that when the weavers work in the rice fields, the others are welcome to use the looms, so the whole community can benefit from them.
Sam Oeun Pon
Sam got sick with polio when she was a little girl. She lives with and supports her father, who also has polio, and her younger brother, who is still at school. Sam’s sister with her family lives on the other side of the street and Sam spends a lot of time with her nephews, who, as she says, are her joy and a reason to live. Every time I see Sam she strikes me as a very hard-working perfectionist whose work is truly outstanding. During one of my visits to her village I asked her if she needs a better-quality loom. She said that she can use her sister’s loom any time she needs it, but what she really needs is running water. She explained how hard it is in her condition to walk to the local stream and carry water few times a day and how she is always afraid of falling into the lake. I purchased a water pump with a filtration system for her and asked Sam and Kong to have it installed in her house. When I saw her the following year she seemed very well. She told me the water pump is working great and has incredible power to it. It raised the quality of her life (an easy access to running and drinking water) and she even got an indoor toilet (which are more and more popular among fair trade weavers).
P.O. Box 98083, 970 Queen St. East
Phone: 416 465-9943