FROM GREEN TO BLUE
Craftspeople begin the process of turning green plants into dark blue paste, and white fabric into a constellation of intricate blue motifs. The first phase in the whole process involves extracting the blue dye from the leaves of the tall tropical shrub, Indigofera tinctoria, which grows abundantly throughout Southeast Asia.
“BUT I NEVER GAVE UP. IN THE END KRAAM STAYED”
"Kraam or indigo dyeing is a mixture of art, science and the strength to overcome the fear of failure. Even though there is a fixed formula for dyeing, if you fail to put your heart and soul into the task, you may not always get the result you want. In the initial years when I first began kraam-dyeing, countless experimentations resulted in failures. Kraam ran away from me, time and time again. But I never gave up. In the end Kraam stayed. And it has stayed with me till this day. Now I know its secrets. I understand its nature and the exact formula needed for dyeing to get the result I desire.”
Loong Phon (Phon Kaewma), Kraam-dye Master
TIME – EFFORT – SKILL – ARTISTRY
It is notable that, in Southeast Asia, the Hmong are the only ethnic group that practices the age-old “resist” technique of batik, whereby women dip liquid wax from fine copper tools onto cloth to prevent the indigo dye from penetrating the areas where they have delineated their wax designs. As the batik process requires extensive time, effort, skill, and artistry, every garment that a woman carefully fashions is greatly cherished.
MEANINGS OF LINES DASHES DOTS AND SWIRLS
The patterns of the Hmong Batik are often inspired by nature or personal experiences of the craftswomen. With the application of molten wax along the length of the hemp or cotton cloth, section by section, a grid of parallel lines filled in with geometric patterns - lines, dashes, dots, and swirls - and ancestral figurative motifs is created. The result is a fantastic cluster of diverse patterns and symbols finely drawn in white or blue tones, all set in a spectacular, ordered matrix. The unique textiles signify the weavers’ integrity, each revealing a singular beauty and serving many purposes, identifying one group from another and, perhaps most importantly, adorning the wearer.