Ock Pop Tok
While travelling in Laos, our designer visited the ethical textiles centre Ock Pop Tok, in Luang Prabang. There they specialise in natural dying and weaving. She took a natural dye course, crushing seeds and boiled wood to create the colour with which to dye their own silk yarn.
Ock Pop Tok was founded in 2000, by Joanna Smith from England and Laotian Veomanee, founded on principles of fair trade and sustainable business practices, social business and ethical fashion. The two women began the business because they both share a love of traditional textiles and creativity. They wanted to ensure hand-loomed textiles would survive and thrive. To do this, they had to change the perception that it was domestic work, pay competitive wages, offer growth and learning, as well as open up the venue to visitors to enjoy the craft, too.
Our designer completed the course, as well as some beautiful sketches of the weavers in action. “As a designer, I’d become far removed from the process of natural dyeing. I generally pick a colour and someone comes up with the formula to make it happen in production. So, this course at Ock Pop Tok was fascinating! Who’d have thought that boiling up sappa wood would make a vibrant red dye, and adding ash water would make it pink!? My top tip? Don’t pick the colour you like, instead choose the most interesting process. I was very jealous of people picking seeds and crushing them – it looked like lots of fun!”
Designer's tips for designers visiting Ock Pop Tok, but these can certainly be applied to travel with creativity in mind:
* Seek out traditional clothing: “In Laos, I loved the mixture of batik, patchwork, appliqué and hand stitching. Do also visit the night market for some lovely vintage pieces.”
* Colour: “My sketchbook is filled with photos, fabric, pressed flowers and bits of paper. It’s something I’ll always treasure when I’m back in the grey winter of England.”
* Do a cafe crawl: Meander around busier places before taking a break in a cafe, sampling the local produce and whiling away the minutes.
* Have a camera free day: Turn off the buttons and screens, spend time breathing in the sights and sounds. Often it is when you are quietly musing away, that you will meet people and engage.