The Hmong are an important ethnicity in Laos, specifically in Luang Prabang. Originally coming from the plains of Tibet and Mongolia, they introduced their specific dyeing technic in Laos: the Hmong batik.
Patterns are drawn by hand with tainted bee wax from the forest, mainly on hemp fabrics thanks to a bamboo pen with a metal end. Then, the hemp is dipped in the chosen dye, often indigo blue, tainting the parts of the fabric that are not covered in wax, before it is fired in the sun. Care has to be taken to not melt the wax dooms so. This process is repeated dozens of times. Then, the wax is removed by boiling the cloth in water revealing the motifs.
If this dyeing technique is a century-old tradition that must be preserved, it also highlights the usefulness of hemp in our society: with its low environmental impact, hemp may very well be the plant of the future.
Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen (text & photographs)
- If you are inspired and want to learn weaving techniques, get in touch with Ock Pop Tok: different classes are offered in a beautiful setting along the Mekong (where it is also really nice to have a drink): bamboo weaving, natural dyeing, weaving silk products…
- If you do not have time to experience this yourself, the Ock Pop Tok flagship store in the city centre of Luang Prabang is worth a visit to check out the fine contemporary handmade creations woven by Laotian women. Probably the finest we have seen in Laos.
- Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area!