We have been in Sapa for a week now and have learned so much about this little town and the people that live in it as well as the surrounding villages. We have met some wonderful crafters and have found out more about the intricacies of their craft. We have learned how the local H’mong people make their beautiful hemp cloth and how they dye it in indigo dye to make the rich blue’s and blacks that all of the jackets and cloth are dyed with. We also had the
rare opportunity to meet Gia, one of the few men who make H’mong jewellery.
Hemp is grown all around the Lao Chai village, it is used to make cloth and H’mong clothing. Our first stop in the Loa Chai village was to visit a wonderful woman called Dee. She doesn’t speak much English but I could tell that she is passionate about her craft.
Dee uses the hemp stems to create straw like strings which she then uses to weave into hemp cloth. This is a long process and it can take months to create a full length piece of hemp cloth.
Dee uses the Indigo plants that are scattered around her home to then dye her cloth. The rich blue colour comes from the leaves of the Indigo plant.
The hemp cloth is then put into buckets of the indigo dye for at least half an hour and then taken out to dry. This has to be done a number of times to get the rich dark blue colour.
Dee also showed us some her Batik painting which is a traditional wax resist method. Dee uses wax to create patterns on hemp. She heats the wax in a pot on the fire and mixes a bit of blue indigo paste so that it is easier to see on the off white hemp cloth. Dee shows us some of her beautiful creations, some of these took her over 5 months to create, she explains.
Some of Dee’s Batik cloth paintings.
It was so wonderful to spend time with Dee. It was amazing to learn more about how she dyes her cloth with Indigo, how she weaves with hemp and to see her batik paintings come to life.
We then walked through the beautiful village of Loa Chai to go and meet Gia one of the only H’mong men left making the beautiful traditional jewellery. Gia is a quiet man and when you look into his eyes it feels as if he looks into your soul.
Gia does not speak any english but he showed us how he melts down his metal using his hand blown torch. He gestured to the fire and our translator explained that when he first started making jewellery he used fire to melt down the metals. Gia cannot remember how long he has made jewellery for. Our translator explains that he is a single man which is different for the H’mong. She tells us he chose a ‘free’ life, he liked it better that way and moved around a lot as a younger man making and trading jewellery where ever he stayed.
Gia uses a hammer and a sharp piece of metal to create the intricate patterns you can find on the H’mong jewellery. We loved spending time with Gia and are so excited to be giving him a space to sell his Jewellery on travelling trader.
We loved learning more about these age old crafting techniques. We also loved meeting Dee and Gia who are such experts in their craft.
We will be putting up more blog posts soon about some of the the other crafters who make the wonderful finds we sell on travelling trader.
Hope you have a wonderful day.