Bali: Weavers’ Market

We began the day with a trip to the northeast part of Bali first to visit the Weavers’ market, then to stop at a weaving cooperative where the young women were weaving ikat fabrics (more about the ikat fabrics later).

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The weavers’ market is an assemblage of indoor fabric stalls each displaying piles of handwoven fabrics, many from the local region.

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What makes these weft ikat fabrics unusual is the process the weavers use – they set up their looms with solid colour warp threads then weave a design with weft threads that have been dyed using a tie-dye technique.

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The photo shows the weft threads set up (tied in groupings which represent the design) just before they are placed in the dye. Once dyed, ties are systematically removed and the “blank” areas of the thread are hand dyed in the desired colours.

The weavers pass the shuttle loaded with the dyed thread back and forth making sure the colour alignment is accurate – this requires close attention to the colour placement at the selvedge edge. The fibers can be dyed with either natural or synthetic dyes. Needless to say, the fabrics using natural dyes are worth more.

I bought one sarong length of weft ikat fabric at the market; I bought a second length at the weavers cooperative. We were able to watch some of the women work at the looms – they can each weave about 2 m of fabric a day which earns them 40,000 Indonesian rupiah (approximately $4 CAD)! That same 2 m of fabric sells for between 150,000 – 200,000 rupiah depending on the delicacy of the threads and the complexity of the design.

After lunch we visited with an Indonesian woman who is an expert on natural dyes and who has been instrumental in helping revive the hand weaving industry in Bali. She showed us a number of textiles – all of which had ceremonial importance (textiles play a very large role on Balinese religious life). Each textile was connected to a particular ceremony. All of the fabrics she shared with us were stunning examples of hand weaving.

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Our final visit of the day was to a sea salt maker – talk about labour intensive – the salt maker carries large buckets of sea water from the beach (2 at a time) to pour on the sand flats. Once dry, he skims off the crusted sand and washes it in a vat using more sea water. The sand is washed 4 times, then the salt concentrate is taken to evaporation trays so the sun can dry off the water leaving behind salt crystals. The process can take a day in the sun, several days if it’s cloudy and the whole operation is shut down during the rainy season. On a good day he harvests 10 kg of salt – not a lot for all his labour! Some of the gals bought a kilogram of salt for 40,000 rupiah which gives you an idea of what he makes for his 10 kg of salt.

Tomorrow we visit a temple – that should be very interesting.

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