Column: Shoi's Pick
An Ancient Tradition Which Almost Disappeared
I've always loved the whisper of luxurious, liquid silk against skin... and the decadent rustle of heavy silk furnishings.
Growing up in small town Ipoh (my hometown in Malaysia), I used to follow my mother to the little, crowded textile shops Fingering lengths of rainbow-hued silks... listening to mother haggle over prices... and then waiting impatiently for her to transform them into pretty dresses or cushion covers on her old Singer sewing machine Magic to a little girl.
And with the mysterious disappearance of Jim Thompson ("Thai Silk King") in Malaysia's Cameron Highlands in the late 1960s, further allure was added to this fabled fabric.
Decades later, Chinese and Indian silks as well as the exotic ikat weaves of Borneo - together with stories of their rich traditions and history - hold me captive still.
Then I heard about "The Japanese Silk Man" of Cambodia... and found another silk tradition, another captivating story...
The origins and beauty of Cambodian silk
Under the weaver's skillful hands rows of graceful Apsaras ("celestial nymphs" in classical Cambodian ballet) make their slow stately dance across a swathe of red and gold silk The weaving is so fine that you can discern each dancer's intricate headdress and jewelry.
Savior of the ancient Khmer silk arts
Kikuo Morimoto trained in the Japanese art of yuzen (silk dyeing for kimonos), and ran a successful textile studio. But he began to question what that success meant to his life.
In the early 1980s, Morimoto volunteered at the Thai-Cambodian border refugee camps. It was there he discovered the beauty of Cambodian silk. In the 1990s, when a UN mission brought Morimoto to Cambodia, he met a few of the weavers. Many of the women were in their 70s and 80s, living in remote villages The only ones left who knew the secrets of the craft.
Morimoto sought out a handful of these "Silk Grandmothers" - as the elderly expert weavers came to be known - to help teach the craft to Cambodian village women.
Behind every piece of Cambodian silk is a human being... weaving a future...
Choose exotic Cambodian silks as gifts this Christmas
You'll be supporting IKTT's efforts to restore an almost-lost ancient art and help Cambodian artisans build a brighter future for themselves and for their community.
Each piece of textile bears the name of the weaver and the plants the colours are derived from...
A simple reminder that behind every piece of fabric is a human being weaving a future.
Cambodian silk products are sold at the IKTT in Siem Reap, Cambodia. You can also buy them at the Smithsonian's Freer and Sackler Galleries in Washington D.C. or from their online museum shop.
About It's My Life! content: All content on It's My Life! belongs exclusively to eMasters and may not be reproduced or reprinted in any manner without permission from eMasters. If you wish to use any of our content, please contact us.
Free Lifestyle Ezine