Threads of Life in Bali

Rare Textiles Treasures in Ubud

Threads of Life is a small gallery just halfway up the narrow Jalan Kajeng, which offers eye-opening views into the wealth of exquisite textiles from Bali’s rural areas, and Indonesia’s lesser known eastern region in particular. The shop is just a short stroll north from the Ubud’s central attractions such as the Art Market and Royal Palace. Threads of Life houses an extensive collection of rare woven and traditional dyed cloths in a wide variety of intricate patterns. All are high value, handmade pieces.

Once inside, Threads of Life has the appearance of a mini museum, with ladies onsite serving as curators who are more than happy to share with you the painstaking process of hand-producing a particular length of cloth, be it an elaborate Balinese ikat with its natural dyed motifs or silken songket that is often worn in regalia. Interestingly, many Balinese textiles are part of a revitalization effort – most are considered ‘almost forgotten’

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In producing these textiles, Threads of Life works with weavers in Bali’s rural eastern regions of Sidemen, Seraya and Nusa Penida off the Bali mainland. There are also Javanese, Sumba and Timorese textiles. Each length of cloth is testament to the weavers’ skills from basic weaving, through supplementary warp and weft patterning, as well as the exceptional double-ikat techniques and the more common batik process, which is also commonly known as wax-resist dyeing.

Also, you’ll be amazed by some of the bright and vivid prints, which are all made with natural dyes, from contrasting colours of indigo blue and red derived from the noni or Morinda citrifolia fruit (the main ingredient used for the famous Geringsing heritage cloth of the Tenganan village in East Bali). Threads of Life’s sister organization, the Bebali Foundation, has successfully documented well over 300 dye plant species used for varying shades in traditional textiles.

After viewing the collection, you’ll be amazed by the wealth of local wisdom that goes into each piece, and gain a clearer view of the driving passion behind the preservation and revival efforts. Threads of Life gallery also serves as a great gift source, with items ranging from USD 10 to USD 500. The textiles fall into the collectible category and are quite pricey, at USD 500 (IDR 6,700,000) and more for a rare and exotic item.

After all, with fair trade in mind, you are helping remote village weavers prosper and foster their pride and ownership in local traditions. All items are labelled in detail, showing unique information about its makers and the importance of the piece to their culture. Knowing the process behind a single piece, however – sometimes taking up to a year or more to produce – you’re not taking home a mere ‘souvenir’.

If you want a hands-on experience to further learn about the techniques involved, you can join in on a class that walks you through the botanical insights, intricate dyeing techniques and an overview of Indonesia’s diverse and rich tradition in textiles. Textile introductory classes at the gallery are USD 6 (IDR 75,000) per person for a minimum group of four, while the natural dye batik classes held by the foundation at the Umajati Retreat in north Ubud is available at USD 26 (IDR 350,000) per person for a minimum group of three.

Threads of Life

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