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Threads of Bali

Updated: May 11

This post is not only for people fond of Bali and travel, but also for those fond of textiles and of supporting people with amazing talent and unique skills. Shops are not normally on my itinerary, however, in Ubud, artisans abound and Threads of Life was a textile shop that made my list.

I will quote their online website here: "Threads of Life is a fair trade business that uses culture and conservation to alleviate poverty in rural Indonesia. The heirloom-quality textiles and baskets we commission are made with local materials and natural dyes. With the proceeds from the Threads of Life gallery, we help weavers to form independent cooperatives and to manage their resources sustainably."

This company supports women in their native homes, revitalizes traditions by keeping long time weaving techniques alive, and provides an outlet for the artisans to sell their wares at reasonable prices. The weavers gain pride of ownership and supply the broader world with extraordinary craftsmanship. In Ubud, they have a beautiful gallery displaying their products/art. When you purchase some items, you know the name of the weaver, and more importantly to me, a majority of the proceeds go back to that individual.

My husband and son were content chilling at Amori Villas (and who could possibly fault that) when I took a taxi into town to check out Threads of Life. They have many offerings to choose from, however, I really wanted to bring my book group bookmarks from Threads of Life, but alas, they did not have bookmarks. They did have scarfs, rugs, beddings, home accessories, baskets, and some of the most gorgeous wall hangings ever.

I made a couple of purchases and my favorite was a pillow for my son. He is very fond of art forms including textiles. I saw a beautifully woven pillow depicting roosters that captivated me, and as I guessed, he loved it. The knowledgeable shop assistant told me that roosters are a common traditional depiction in Balinese textiles. We had marveled at the number of roosters we saw in Bali.

We did see the end of a cockfight while driving down the sleepy road to our hotel. These obviously generate a lot of excitement among the locals. No, I don't condone cockfighting, however, I do personally embrace a desire to understand the cultures of other people. Our guide/driver facilitated my understanding, and I was glad we had the opportunity to discuss this practice with a Balinese citizen.

In Balinese Hinduism, cock fighting or tajen is practiced as an ancient ritual of purification, to expel evil spirits. This ritual tabu rah or spilling of blood (animal sacrifice) is an obligation at Balinese temples prior to festivals or religious ceremonies. Women are not involved in the tabu rah process which works for me. I would rather not see the cockfight and have the evil spirits dispelled before entering.

Cockfights without religious purpose are considered gambling which is illegal. I feel confident the one we witnessed was of this later type as there was no Balinese temple in sight. This is wide spread in Bali and passed down from generation to generation. Owners have great pride in their cocks and I must say the numerous ones that we saw were exquisite. They will spend 6 months to one and a half years preparing their rooster for fights. If in a gambling scenario, the winner dines on the defeated rooster.

Yes, I digress, but let me say that on many levels, the handwoven pillow decorated with roosters seemed a terrific choice embracing multiple Balinese aspects. Now it adorns my son's dorm room at college.

Another popular textile art form in Indonesia is Batik. This art form has been used in many cultures and countries dating back to Egypt 4th century B.C. However, it is considered to be the most advanced in Indonesia. In October 2009, UNESCO designated Indonesian Batik as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Since that time, October 2 has become a national holiday, National Batik Day in Indonesia. I really like having a national holiday for the arts.

I wanted to see the production and particularly, to introduce my son to Batik. So we visited Sari Armerta. They have a vast showroom, two floors of items ranging from modestly priced accessories to very expensive wall hangings. They have artisans exhibiting the preparation of different textile arts production. The photos below were taken during our visit to Sari Armerta.

We are talking 100% handmade items, or as I term it, made from scratch. In these particular cases, they begin by making the thread, which is woven into cloths, dyed with local's natural dyes. I think you get the idea.

The different Batik designs have much symbolism and the cloths are regularly used in ceremonies and rituals. It is a wax resist dyeing technique. Normally starting with white or beige cloth, the design is penciled onto the cloth, then wax is applied over the stenciled-in outlines. The cloth is dyed with the first color, then wax is applied again, then another color of dye is added. This is continued until all the colors of dyes have been incorporated. The wax is sometimes removed between the dying of colors and at the end, all remaining wax is removed and a batik design has been created. The hot wax is applied either with a spouted tool called a canting or with a stamping technique.

Artisan applying the hot wax with a canting onto the stenciled white cloth during the making of batik textiles.

My son purchased this particular Batik for his room. It is small and vibrant. Based on my observation of what people were wearing in Bali, I do believe the Batik business is thriving. Unesco encourages the people of Indonesia to wear Batik on Friday; however, we were not there on a Friday and we saw many people wearing Batik.

I was going to purchase an item, then I wasn't, but my son picked out the above multi colored silk Batik scarf for me at Sari Armenta and I have so enjoyed wearing it and remembering our lovely time in Bali. It is lying against a completely handwoven scarf from Amori Villas. Their owner enjoys picking up items made in Bali for patrons to purchase in lieu of a gift shop per se, and I must say she has great taste. Comparing to our U.S. items, the purchases are really inexpensive and I adore supporting the arts and the artisans of Bali. There is much to love about Bali.

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