I've had a wonderful day at the Ock Pop Tok workshop, having the place all to myself and completely individual attention. What more could I ask?
A warm welcome this morning from Mr Morn, the interpreter and guide who greeted me with a mug of bael tea (delicious - hadn't had it before) and who introduced me to the programme for the day. After a bit of background information about sericulture he explained about the natural dyes used in Laos - illustrated by a walk around the garden where most were growing. The view from the workshop was breathtaking and the cool breeze from the river most welcome.
After an introduction to Mr Khum, master dyer, it was straight to work.
First task, chopping tumeric for the yellow colour. That had to be pounded to a pulp before boiling with sappan leaves to achieve the colour I wanted.
Whilst that was cooking, I chopped some fresh indigo leaves and soaked them in cold water for the green dye.
That was a new one for me - I've only ever done the hot fermented indigo dyeing before, so thought this would be something different.
I'd never heard of sappan wood before but clearly it's a useful one, for it can give pink, red or purple depending on the mordant used.
The sappan wood liquor had been fermenting for several days and was at a steady boil at my side ready to accept the skein of silk which I'd soaked with a huge alum crystal in the water to give the gorgeous rich purple colour.
Having squeezed and rinsed and totally admitted defeat in untangling those wet skeins, I handed them to Mr Khum who laughed as he shook them out into perfectly straight hanks to hang in the sun to dry. I guess he's had a fair bit of practice.