While I was in Ubud I revisited Threads of life to see the beautiful Ikat weavings and batik that they exhibit and sell in their Gallery. I had been there last year with Sandy Infield as part of an “art hideaways ” holiday. We were fortunate to listen to a fascinating talk by William Ingram about some of his extraordinary textiles and were treated to a detailed explanation of the meaning behind the designs, where they came from and their history.
The Charity “Threads of life “was founded by English man William Ingram, and Jean Howe, starting with a single Weavers’ group in 1998. It now works with over 1,000 weavers in more than 40 cooperatives on 11 Indonesian Islands.
Threads of Life commissions textile weavers, batik makers, basket makers and other traditional artists across Indonesia to recover the skills of their ancestors. It sponsors the weaving of traditional, handmade, natural-dyed textiles and crafts, encouraging communities to revive techniques of weaving and natural dyeing that are in danger of disappearing.
They provide economic and technical support for cooperatives to research and rediscover local practices, a process that can take years to complete. The result is a sustainable, natural, traditional method of textile production, with complete cultural integrity. The process and the results give the weavers great pride of ownership, and inspire the exquisite quality of their work.
Threads of life works directly with the artists, helping them establish independent cooperatives that build financial security. This also facilitates the transfer of skills between generations, which is so necessary to keep these art forms alive.
I had wanted to meet up again with William but unfortunately he was away on one of Indonesia’s many small Islands visiting local communities.
I talked to the Gallery manager Ni Wayan Weti about thoughts I have regarding the status of women in the batik workshops and art studios I had visited in Yogyakarta. Ni Wayan told me that the women were generally satisfied by their work and the collaborative process of making batik and working in a workshop is an old tradition reaching back hundreds of years. I wonder if this view is held by many of the women I have seen working for some of the artists ? They work relentlessly on batiks signed by the artist, without proper recognition for their skills. This is something I will continue to research and clarify if possible.