Traditionally used to create the robes of high-ranking Buddhist monks, among its many other uses, the lotus plant is - truly divine…
I had the pleasure of visiting the Samatoa Lotus Farm in Siem Reap yesterday thanks to an invitation by my dear friend Naret…an amazing woman, designer, artist and seamstress who seems to know all the right people and places in this beautiful city and its surrounding areas.
We arrived late afternoon, double-riding on Naret’s scooter, to Samatoa’s Lotus Farm facility about 8km from central Siem Reap..at just the right moment...as the golden sun was about recede into the horizon…
The facility, or “farm”, rests peacefully on tall wooden stilts to accommodate for the water level fluctuations of the rainy and dry seasons here in Cambodia. On this day, the water of the lake, home to the divine lotus, was at its lowest I was told. I followed Naret along a wooden bridge about four meters above the ground as I was led to an open and airy space where about six women remained, sitting cross-legged on handwoven mats while exchanging stories, giggling and spinning lotus fibre on polished planks of wood from the plant’s long and sturdy stems.
Mesmerized as I watched the process unfold, I observed as the women reached for the lengthy stems, sliced them into sections of about four inches and smudged the ends of a handful of pieces along wooden planks to release a thin and delicate fibre that they would then be spun into a sturdy-looking thread. 12 layers of fibre are needed to create a high quality thread I’m told.
“One spinner produces 250 meters of thread per day. To produce one jacket, it needs 4 meters of fabric or 12000 meters of fibre, which means 2 months of work for a spinner. Because of its complexity, this process must be realized exclusively by hand.” - Samatoa
A breeze dispersed a soft floral anise-fragranced aroma throughout the space void of noise, machinery or chemicals…this facility is as organic and peaceful as a fabric production facility can get (or so I imagine).
This aquatic plant, as I quickly learned thanks to Naret, the ladies who work there, and the English information boards made available for non-Khmer speaking visitors, is the world’s most ecological fabric providing for the most soft, breathable and bright fibre.
The women twist, spin, and stretch the yarn into a thread, which is then wound around a skein in preparation for the weaving, or fabric-making, process. The preparation of the loom takes about 15 days, and another two months to weave a 50 meter roll of lotus fabric.
“One weaver produces one meter of lotus fabric a day.” - Samatoa
Nothing is wasted…
Once the fibre is extracted, all that remains from the stem, and the plant, offers unique properties with various uses I’m told. Petals, placentas, stamens, and seeds are used to make teas, ground into flour and oils, and transformed into beautiful decorative pieces that embrace the plant’s natural and inherent beauty.
The lotus flower is the symbol of divine purity in many Asian cultures. Having paid a short visit to witness our human interaction with this exquisite beauty, I can certainly say that being in its presence, observing the process of its transformation into a fabric that embraces the human body, Samatoa is a indeed a space that exudes utmost respect, quality and tranquility.
(100% Lotus Fibre Bracelet - officially added to my Wishlist!)