In one year the average Indonesian earns slightly less than $3000. So, I have decided to raise $3000 in order to purchase as many handmade textiles as I can, at a fair price directly from the makers in this region. I will then create a collection of garments in collaboration with these talented fiber artists and they will be further encouraged to continue making art using traditional techniques and motifs.
In planning for travel to Bali I naively and unconsciously assumed I would be visiting pristine beauty and unaltered culture. There are rural parts of this tiny island that remain unaffected by western influence, but the more populated areas are overrun with tourists and plastic trash.
The tourist industry is Bali's primary source of income and as a result traditional vocations are becoming less common. Farmers are selling their rice fields to developers and becoming taxi drivers. Craftspeople can no longer sell their work for what it is worth because the markets are packed with machine-made, mass produced knickknacks that can be sold for a fraction of the price. Fortunately there are individuals and organizations in place that are effectively counteracting this movement and during the short time I am here I am doing what I can.
Searching the markets for handmade textiles was a little like stalking Bigfoot. I did find a few pieces tucked in the very backs of booths, however overshadowed by cheap impostors. I had always planned on buying fabric during this trip, but I did not plan that I would be able to support the sustainable farming practices of cotton, the responsible harvesting of dye plants, and indigenous weavers and their endangered art forms in the process and I'm excited to do so.
The two most commonly reproduced traditional fabrics in this region are
Ikat and Batik.
Batik fabric is traditionally made from hand spun cotton that is then woven into fabric. The fabric is then hand painted or stamped with wax in a pattern in order to resist coloring during the dye process. The wax process is then repeated multiple times in order to include multiple colors in the pattern. The result is an impressive textile with a clearly handmade feel.
Ikat fabrics are made by tightly wrapping hand spun cotton threads with straw in order to resist dye in a specific pattern. They are then painstakingly dyed multiple times, each time unwrapping and re-wrapping the threads to have different parts of the pattern retain separate colors. Once the dye process is complete, the threads are then intricately woven into incredible works of art. Depending on the size of the piece, and whether the weaver is also a farmer, a finished textile can take anywhere from two weeks to one year to complete.
Thank you for your support!
*Thank you to Threads of Life for the use of a few pics, and to Seth Brown for helping me make this video with limited technology! Also, Justin, I literally could not have posted this project without you.
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