Samorn Saxinay Dyes with Compost!

“Many great inventions were created either out of necessity or accident. One day while wearing a white shirt my daughter came over to give me a cuddle. Or so I thought… Instead she wiped her grotty face all over my beautiful white cotton shirt. I was furious for a second but then turned the situation around and it gave me an idea…”

While most of us suffer the consequences of being grubby eaters or having to look after messy children, it seems Samorn Saxinay isn’t the kind of lady who is going to let a stain get in her way. No, she hasn’t revolutionised doing the laundry or created some marvelous wonder bleach. Rather, she embraces the dirt.

Inspired by her already stained clothing and using all natural food scraps and plant-based materials, Samorn and her daughter decided to pull out an all white, pure silk scarf and cover it in compost. Leaving it to soak, “what was left were really interesting stains and colours… and the ‘Compost Scarf’ was born.”

Born in Laos, this natural dying process is nothing new to Samorn. Using vegetable scraps from her kitchen and plants from her neighbourhood, the all-organic materials are left to soak into the fabric over night. Following this, the dyed fabric is soaked in rice water, the traditional Laotian method of fixing dyes. What is produced is undoubtedly unique and certainly never planned, “everything is randomly done because I don’t want to create something that looks regular. Organised chaos is what it is.”

But Samorn doesn’t only create chaotically-colourful compost scarves.

In 2002, while working for the charity organisations ‘Save The Children’, followed by UNICEF, Samorn returned to Laos where she spent time in many small remote villages. So remote, these communities had little to no access to local markets to buy fabric. Instead, the Laotian women were forced to weave their own material to clothe and keep their families warm.

I met some really incredible young ladies through my work with UNICEF,” she explains, “I felt so sad that they were born in a generation where they had few choices or opportunities.

When her post with UNICEF ended, Samorn put her small savings to use. Alongside her weaving instructor Kaisy, she built a small weaving house with boarding facilities and invited girls from various projects around the country to join her. Despite only four girls having the courage to partake, in five months they had created 60 pieces of weaving to take back to Australia under the brand ‘Eastern Weft’. Within a month they had sold out! Now, 10 years later,  Eastern Weft has 30 weavers at the boarding house and 50 people in their production process, from dyers to silk growers.

Not unlike her food-stained, white cotton shirt, Sarmon Saxinay was able to recognise a problem and find a way to manifest it into something original and rewarding. From sustainable scarves to creating fair job opportunities for women of Laos, she’s doing it one weave at a time.

If you want to learn more about Samorn’s unique approach to natural dyeing, she is teaching a workshop at the Sydney Community College in Rozelle, Sydney, on Thursday 28th May and Saturday 20th June. Find out more and enroll here!