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Ms Mae Mai
Cotton artisan and indigo dye expert, Savannakhet Province
Forty-eight year old Mae Mai is an expert on all aspects of cotton processing – from ginning to spinning, indigo dyeing, and “mutmee” – a tie-dye weaving technique that is so special to her people of the Phu-Tai ethnic group.
Mae Mai has learned how to make indigo and use it as a dye since the age of 15; and now this 48 year-old mother of four is a valuable resource to her community, and loves passing her skills on to the younger generations.
Making indigo dye is an ancient art and steeped in myths. Menstruating women are kept away from the indigo jars for fear of upsetting the “indigo spirit” and rendering the dye useless.
Indigo dye is made from the leaves and shoots of the “kharm” plant, which grows in many areas in Laos. Getting the raw materials for indigo may be easy, but making it is an art. It involves fermentation of the “kharm” and keeping the mixture in air-tight jars at the required temperature.
Natural indigo contains no chemicals or toxic metals and wearing fabrics dyed with indigo is believed to be good for the skin.
A social enterpriseSaoban is a member of PADETC, a Lao NGO that integrates socially sustainable programs in education, agriculture, micro-finance, handcrafts and community leadership.
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Chao Anou Road, 97/1 Ban Watchan, Chantabouly, Vientiane, Lao PDR
Open hours 9am-8pm Monday to Saturday. 1pm-8pm Sunday.