DYING AND WEAVING CLASS
Visiting Laos was a last minute addition to my itinerary, and I only had time for a week in the lovely town of Luang Prabang. If you get a chance, definitely go there. I was completely charmed by the sweet people and small town living. At the top of my list of things to do while there was to take part in a weaving class. On the first day arriving in the country, I walked into a textile shop named Ock Pop Tok (a popular textile store with a peculiar name on a main street in Luang Prabang) and I was captivated by all of the fabrics. To stop me from buying everything in sight, I quickly signed up for a dying and weaving class for the next day.
Ock Pop Tok is an organization that is working to keep alive the beautiful tradition of Laotian textiles, while creating employment and empowering local women. They have two wonderfully curated shops in Luang Prabang, along with an Arts Centre along the Mekong River. That’s exactly where I was headed for my day of weaving.
I spent the morning learning about the natural dying process. Cutting, smashing, and cooking plants, leaves, and roots to create my desired colors. Everything we needed was grown right on the property, and the hardest part was selecting our colors. It was incredible to see the subtle differences in the final colors due to each persons dying technique. When mixing the materials with your hands the color can change drastically depending on your body temperature. So cool, at least to me.
Next came the weaving which was as intricate, complicated, and time consuming as it looks and I was doing a simple pattern. The women that work on the looms everyday, all day are truly master craftsmen. Much respect. After sitting at the loom for what felt like 12 hours, I had a somewhat presentable placemat. Weaving is a tiresome and monotonous process that ends in a beautiful detailed piece of art. Their hard work and dedication is reflected in their final product.
It was a day well spent in one of the most peaceful of locations with people passionate about their craft, and I even made a friend. A smart and fun little Texan. (Who I happened to run into again during my travels.)