Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Siem Reap hyacinth weaver succeeds in fashion world

Siem Reap hyacinth weaver succeeds in fashion world

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Different items made from hyacinth in Siem Reap province. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Siem Reap hyacinth weaver succeeds in fashion world

The humble water hyacinth was once considered a plant with no practical uses, but now it is the raw material for an exciting line of fashionable women’s hats, bags and baskets.

Modern consumer goods made from this plant reflect the unique natural values associated with the life of the people of Phnom Krom village, Siem Reap commune, town and province.

So Sambath owns a hyacinth processing business, where she weaves the unique plants into many different designs.

She explained that in 2008, a Japanese NGO visited the area and observed that Phnom Krom was a remote area, but rich in lakes with many aquatic hyacinths. They hit upon the idea of training local children, orphans and widows how to weave the plants into consumer goods.

She said that she herself never received formal training, but watched those who had. After she had seen a little of how they went about it, she began to experiment with her own designs and techniques.

One day, a representative from the organisation came to ask her where she had learned to make such beautiful objects. She explained that he had received no formal training but had taken a little knowledge from the people who had been trained, and then devised her own methods.

Due to her talent, the organisation invited her to join them. She was astonished to realise they wanted to employ her as a teacher, rather than offer her additional training.

She taught them the secrets behind her designs, including patterns of parallel lines and many different flowers. When linked with elaborate braiding, she had become a fashion designer that others sought to emulate.

“I don’t copy anyone’s patterns or designs, although I take inspiration from many places,” she said.

“Working with this material requires a great deal of patience, but when done well, can produce extraordinary beauty. When it is rushed, or the weaver is not paying close attention to their work, it will not be as attractive,” she added.

She explained that the ponds near her home used to be an excellent source of hyacinths, but she now finds she has to travel to remote bodies of water to harvest them.

In order to use them for her craft, they must be dried in the sun for 15 days, although it can take longer during the rainy season. After it has dried, it is washed with soap and then boiled to kill any germs that might be present. At this stage, dye is added to create different colours.

She has up to 100 designs available, with each item selling for between $10 and $45.

In 2018, her business, Siem Reap Phnom Krom hyacinth handicraft, claimed an award in the Road to Homeland Awards, which aimed at identifying small and medium business success stories. Held at Koh Pich Convention and Exhibition Centre in the capital, the awards came with recognition by the state.

Her work is popular in each province of the Kingdom, and is also exported to markets as diverse as South Korea and Japan, the US and Australia, and Indonesia and Malaysia.


  • 12th Cambodia int’l film festival to see return of Hollywood star

    Phnom Penh is set to come alive with the magic of cinema as the highly anticipated 12th Cambodia International Film Festival (CIFF) takes centre stage. Boasting an impressive line-up of 188 films from 23 countries, including captivating shorts, feature films, documentaries and animation, the festival promises an

  • Bareknuckle champion wants Kun Khmer fighter

    Dave Leduc, who is the current openweight Lethwei boxing champion in Myanmar, has announced that he will travel to Cambodia this year to challenge SEA Games gold medallist Prum Samnang any time that is convenient, after their planned match later this month in Slovakia was

  • Struggling Battambang artist dreams of staging full-scale gallery exhibition

    Leav Kimchhoth, a 55-year-old artist from Battambang province, is a familiar face to locals and tourists alike on the streets of the riverside in Phnom Penh. The one-armed painter and illustrator often hawks his work near the night market on weekends and public holidays. He

  • Five-year-old Hanuman dances his way into hearts of Cambodia

    A young talent from a new-established settlement has emerged, captivating the online world with his mesmerising performances of the traditional Cambodian monkey dance. Roeun Kakada is a five-year-old prodigy who has taken the social media sphere by storm with his exceptional dance skills and dedication

  • Fresh Covid warnings as Thai hospital fills

    A senior health official reminds the public to remain vigilant, as neighbouring countries experience an increase in Covid-19 cases, with the latest surge appearing to be a result of the Omicron XBB.1.5 sub-variant. Or Vandine, secretary of state and spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health,

  • New Law on Taxation comes into effect

    Cambodia has enacted the eagerly-awaited new Law on Taxation, which aims to improve the national tax regime’s compliance with present and future international standards and economic conditions; encourage accountability, effectiveness and transparency in the collection process; and promote investment in the Kingdom. King Norodom