Profile of: Golden Silk Pheach, Cambodia
Words by Emily Lush, Photo by Magali An Berthon, Video by Tuk Tuk TV
Founded in 2002 by Cambodian entrepreneur Oum Sophea Pheach, Golden Silk Pheach aims to revive Angkorian-era sericulture and silk weaving practices. The NGO researches, documents and trains artisans in skills popular in the 9th-14th centuries, but lost during times of conflict. These include golden silk sericulture, hôl (Cambodian ikat) and royal brocatelle jacquard weaving. By replicating motifs found in the stonework of the Angkor temple complex, Golden Silk Pheach recreates some of Cambodia’s most ancient motifs in silk. Oum Sophea Pheach was first exposed to weaving and sericulture when she spent time living in a Thai refugee camp during the Khmer Rouge era. After she was repatriated to Siem Reap in 1992, she opened an orphanage, which in turn evolved into Golden Silk Pheach, an NGO that offers vocational training in the fields of sericulture and textiles.
Artisans work exclusively with Cambodian golden silk, raised by endemic silkworms in the remote village of Phnom Srok, Siem Reap province. Once produced exclusively for Cambodia’s royal family and dignitaries, golden silk production is thought to have originated in this part of the country because of its close proximity to Angkor. Silk grown in Phnom Srok is woven at Golden Silk Pheach’s studio in Siem Reap city. The decorative patterns used are all of Khmer origin, with most coming from the bas-relief sculpture and temple iconography found throughout the Angkor complex. A team of five to six people are dedicated to the study of these patterns, reproducing designs on graduated paper. Their detailed drawings are used as the ground plans for textiles. Working millimetre by millimetre, threads are counted out to reconstitute the drawing on silk. A team of 36 artisans specialise in the hôl ikat dyeing technique, which uses regular knotting according to basic geometrical designs to set a colour base for each textile. Royal brocatelle is then used to layer three-dimensional silk patterns onto the base. Each textile takes an average of five to eight months to complete, with up to two years set aside for larger pieces. Visit the Golden Silk Pheach website.