Life in Bangkok can often be described as fast and furious, but if you're stuck in the usual rush-hour traffic jam, painstakingly slow would also jump to mind. Kanchalee "Ann" Ngamdamronk and Sergey Tishkin first met in Japan, where they both completed a special art course in hand dying textiles. They returned to Thailand and founded Slowstitch Studio, where they work with traditional (albeit time-consuming) methods and botanical materials to create individually hand-dyed textiles. Guru chats with Ann to find out what it's like to work with your other half and why dying your own fabrics at home isn't as complicated as you'd think.
How did you get into textiles?
I was introduced to textile design during my foundation year at university. I wanted to study fashion design at first, but realised during the course that I'd like to focus on creating textures, colours and surface details more than designing garments. I went on to complete my bachelor degree's in Textile Design and chose to specialise in weaving because the mechanism of a loom and the intricate process of creating cloth from scratch by structuring and manipulating yarns really fascinated me.
What was the best part about studying in Japan?
Japan has an incredible richness of history and culture and as my workshop took place in the rural countryside, I had a learning experience that was vastly different from the usual fast-paced and technologically driven kind of design practice. In Japanese crafts there is a sense of striving to achieve perfection, a progressive improvement in technique and an attention to even the tiniest of details. To have witnessed the lives of the craftsmen who work within this cultural legacy was incredible.
How long does it take you to complete a product?
It really depends on the design. One metre of a specific pattern might require a day of work while a metre of another pattern would need a week. Over-dyeing in different colours to add poly-chromatic effects adds several days to the process. The most time-consuming part of the process is not the actual dyeing but the preparation of the fabric which usually includes a lot of pattern plotting and stitching by hand with a needle and thread.
What is it like to run your own studio?
It's nice because I have the freedom to manage my own schedule and to focus on the direction that I want to take to develop my designs. It takes a lot of self-motivation but I think it has been a great learning experience so far. Right now there is just us two running the studio. We have to make decisions and tackle different problems by ourselves, which I think helps us develop our practice and grow as artists and designers. On the downside, sometimes we have so much work on our hands that we do not have the time to experiment with new designs and ideas as much as we would like to.
We heard that you relocated to Chiang Mai. Did the move help your creative process?
Yes, definitely. After coming back from the tranquil countryside of rural Japan I took on various design projects in Bangkok and it really struck me how stressful life can be there. Bangkok can be such a hectic city that even if you go out to run some simple errands you easily end up spending half a day in your car stuck in traffic. Since moving to Chiang Mai, I have found the necessary time and breathing space to focus on developing my work as well as myself as an artist and designer.
Where do you look for inspiration?
My inspiration comes from all over the place. It could be from contemporary textiles, old masters' works, nature, graphic images, architecture, etc. Natural dyeing itself is also a great source of inspiration as each time the result is not exactly the same. One experiment can lead to another idea and that sense of unpredictability is very exciting.
Working with your boyfriend, do you have any difficulties balancing your work and personal life?
From the beginning both of us knew that we wanted to work on our creative business full-time and we are still very passionate about what we do. So even in our personal life we end up talking a lot about textiles, patterns and current projects. Work life and personal life flow into each other quite seamlessly for us.
What advice do you have for someone who wants to try dying their own fabric?
My advice would be to just go ahead and do it. Most plants will yield some sort of colour and simmering the plant material together with cloth in an aluminum pot is one of the easiest ways of dyeing fabric. Sources of colour can come from the most unexpected of places, like the pomegranate juice vendor on the street. The pomegranate skins that are usually discarded can be a good source of yellow and teal-greens. They can even come from our cooking staples, such as onions; onion skins can give off beautiful golden and orange shades. Experimentation is key. Most people already have things in their kitchen that they can dye with such as turmeric, coffee, red cabbage or black beans. The internet has a wealth of knowledge on the subject and in Chiang Mai natural dyeing workshops are offered by many studios such as Fai Soi Kham and Studio Naenna. G
Life in Bangkok can often be described as fast and furious, but if you're stuck in the usual rush-hour traffic jam, painstakingly slow would also jump to mind.
Kanchalee "Ann" Ngamdamronk and Sergey Tishkin first met in Japan, where they both completed a special art course in hand dying textiles. They returned to Thailand and founded Slowstitch Studio, where they work with traditional (albeit time-consuming) methods and botanical materials to create individually hand-dyed textiles. Guru chats with Ann to find out what it's like to work with your other half and why dying your own fabrics at home isn't as complicated as you'd think.