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Alumna’s Fulbright Now Clothes Cambodians

Also: Catching Up With Other Fulbright Alumni

Posted 07.15.10 by Juxtapositions Editors

Rachel Faller

When Rachel Faller graduated from MICA in 2008 she knew she wanted to use her degree to make a difference. Inspired by a trip to Cambodia between her junior and senior years at the College, she decided to return there and use her fiber degree to launch a clothing line that would employ women living with HIV and AIDS. Realizing she needed to learn more about the culture and market, Faller applied for a Fulbright Fellowship to study traditional textiles of Cambodia as well as fair trade organizations and their economic impact on the region.

"I found that in order to be successful, a business should create long-term sustainability," Faller, who lives in Phnom Penh, wrote in an e-mail. "We needed to make products that are attractive to both local and international markets to do so."

Faller has succeeded at this. The company she created, KeoK'jay (www.keokjay.org), which means bright green or fresh in Khmer, has been operating out of Phnom Penh for two years. Though exports account for half the company's sales, there are two stores in Cambodia currently staffed by nine HIV-positive women who Faller helped train.

Rachel Faller hand-dyes  fabric in Cambodia."Our clothes are inspired by Cambodia and various aspects of Cambodian life today, though not in the traditional style. For example, our current collection is inspired by the market, which is the nexus of life in Phnom Penh," she said.

In addition to owning a successful clothing line at the young age of 23, Faller also had work on display this summer at the American Textile Museum in Lowell, Massachusetts. Two silk panels that were part of her senior thesis at MICA were in the exhibition, More Than a Number, which reflected upon the Cambodian genocide that began 35 years ago.

Photo caption: Rachel Faller '08 working on KeoK'Jay, a clothing line stemmed from her Fulbright to Cambodia.

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Other Fulbright Alumni

Marcus Ahlers '02 (Rinehart School of Sculpture)
To Germany in Sculpture, 2002/03

Continuing his Fulbright work in Berlin, Ahlers uses electrolysis, where low-level electricity runs through a fluid, to explore issues related to energy consumption. In 2009, he took part in a collaborative project with fellow Rinehart graduate Donna Conlon '02, building a solar still in Honduras to purify water from the polluted Choluteca River. Click here for images of his work.

Andrea Chung '08 (Mount Royal School of Art)
To Mauritius in Sculpture, 2008/09

While in Mauritius doing her Fulbright research, Chung was inspired to create Securicorp, a performance piece addressing the problem of street harassment. Through the project and subsequent photos, Chung highlights the inability of women to lead normal lives because of frequent and unwanted harassment. This project broadly ties in with her other work, which examines the ways in which the Caribbean has been manufactured into a picturesque vacation destination, in turn losing the definition of "native." Click here to see her portfolio.

Eric Dyer '04 (Mount Royal School of Art)
To Denmark in Film, 2004/05

Eric DyerDyer's most recent project, The Bellows March, makes 3-D printed, hand-painted, spinning "cinetropes" into sculptures that come to vibrant life when seen through a video camera shutter. Based on a concept he started working on in Denmark, Bellows has won international acclaim including the Director's Choice Award at the 2010 Black Maria Film Festival and the AnimazingSpotlight. His work has been exhibited at the Exploratorium, San Francisco; Hirshhorn, Washington, D.C.; and the Cairo and Venice biennales. Click here to see some of his work.

Iris Litwin '04 (printmaking)
To India in Textile Design, 2004/05

Litwin is using her gained knowledge of vibrant Indian pattern and cloth as a fabric dyer for Parsons-Meares in New York, where she has worked on costuming for the Broadway productions of The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, Shrek, and Wicked as well as for Bette Midler, New York City Ballet, and The Rockettes. Click here to see her portfolio.