Our Story

Cambodian silk Ikat has been regarded throughout history as some of the most beautiful in the world; however, in 1995 this art form was all but dead. Between 1967-1975 Cambodia was ravaged by civil war, much of the land was destroyed and villagers were forced to leave their local artisan skills behind.

 

Inspired by the beauty and skill of the craft, Kikuo Morimoto brought knowledge, nature, creativity, and hard work together to revive the craft. Moved by a research trip he took in 1995, Morimoto learnt that there were only a few old grandmothers left with the knowledge and skill to produce fine silk. He realised that if he did not act quickly the next generation would pass away and their expertise with them.

 

In 1995 the situation for silk production was bad. Although weaving continued in the rural villages, the quality had become extremely poor with the influx of synthetic fibers and chemical dyes after the Second World War. Where weaving continued middlemen where exploiting the weaver's skill with poor pay, to the point where it was no longer beneficial for the family to pass down these skills and many weavers had stopped their craft.

 

In 1995 Morimoto brought the villagers of Takeo, Kampot province their first batch of traditional golden silk to start the revival process, without even a silkworm for the thread. Once the breeding of silkworms commenced, it was then possible to give opportunities to skilled weavers by setting up workshops for the young weavers of the village. The IKTT was born.

 

In 2000 the centre of IKTT activity was moved to Siem Reap. The training in Kampot province meant weavers could begin to establish their own businesses and the area is now thriving with textile activity. Morimoto found a house in the town and the new centre began. Initially, just five people and two looms, the centre went from strength to strength, and they were able to invest in more staff and equipment.

 

The centre was progressing well; however, Morimoto knew that if the quality of the silk were to return to its former splendor, it could not be without the natural environment enjoyed by their ancestors. In the past the forest provided everything they needed to create traditional silks; without this forest, the new silks would never compete.

 

The next step for IKTT was to start Project Wisdom from the Forest: PWF. In 2002 Morimoto bought up a 5-hectare plot 15 kilometers north of Bayon at the centre of Angkor Thom. The land was barren and riddled with land mines. It is here that the recreation of their ancestral forest started, with all the plants required to breed silk and dye a beautiful natural colour.

 

Creating a new forest has taken many years of research and establishment; however, we are now proud to say that it has grown to 23 hectares. A self-sustaining textiles village is now home to 160 people, living and working within the natural environment. PWF is now the centre of the IKTT’s textile production, with the main office, and shop based at Siem Reap.

 

The IKTT now employs around 250 people; we are excited about the future and growing every day in knowledge, wisdom, and family. More than 100 have been here for over ten years, gaining the accolade of a master artisan. We hope that with continued hard work and effort we can nurture future generations to achieve the same, each day getting closer to our goal of achieving the best silks in the world.

Copyright © Institute for Khmer Traditional Textiles. All rights reserved

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September 2009