Tag Archives: handicraft

Weaving Life on Bali

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Bali is built on tradition and community, two aspects that permeate everything on the island from artisan’s work to religious practices and ceremonies. There is a rich heritage on the island of artisans, from jewelry making to weaving, and it is easy to see how these skills appear not only in the beautiful work made but also in the offerings presented at their temples.

Chain weaving, for example, has been going on for thousands of years in Bali. Women will work together, taking on different parts of the creation process to ultimately create a beautiful and intricate piece. This is mirrored in woven offerings, created with young coconut leaves by a number of women to make a detailed and gorgeous gift for the gods.

We had the most amazing peaceful experience on morning with our friends at John Hardy who wanted us to see the importance of tradition and community Bali is built around and how that influences the John Hardy designs, in this particular instance with Classic Chain. We rose before the sun to be dressed in traditional temple outfits and arrived at Pura Tirtha Empul, meaning The Holy Water Temple. People say it was built by Indra, a god of protection, and boasts pools of natural spring water for rituals. Water is the source of life and the Balinese use lots of holy water for blessing, drinking, and purifying – and you can even take it home with you! The temple is the biggest in Bali and people will come if something bad is happening to purify oneself or home.

Hinduism states that there are five elements of the body: water, fire, earth, wind and earth. Everything comes back to these elements in customs and rituals. In the ceremonies these elements are represented through the use of items such as incense and fire, which you see above in our offering the ladies created for us and below for the blessing ceremony.

The artisans at work in the ancient chain weaving manor:

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Just like women come together to weave the leaves into baskets for ceremonies, the community does the same with John Hardy’s approach to jewelry making and the classic chain weaving process. Like I mentioned before, John Hardy has a program where single mothers can work from home in their own communities in order to both make a living at their craft and raise their children.

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Below, the chains are later passed to another set of hands, continuing the creation process from one person to another, all working toward the finished product together.

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Community, ancient chain-weaving and ceremonies.

Below we witnessed the community of women working together on making the traditional offerings. These same type of techniques are passed down from generation to generation , showing up in spiritual practices, craft and trade and even as art pieces like some of the textile weaves we learned about from Threads of Life.

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Threads of Life

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One of the great arts of Indonesia is traditional weaving, which has been passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. Each tribe or region in this cluster of islands has their own style and patterns with specific meanings, as well as unique techniques for making their dyes.

Threads of Life is a Bali-based initiative that is centered around fair trade and conservation of this cultural history, especially in rural Indonesia. They help these communities, some of which takes two days journey to reach, sell these naturally dyed and locally made artifacts. Many designers have visited the store in Ubud for inspiration including one of my personal heroes, Donna Karan. Everything from growing the cotton to tending the plants used to make the dyes is done by these craftsmen and it takes months or even up to a year to finish one piece. We met the co-founder Jean Howe, an ex-San Francisco native who has lived in Bali for a couple decades, whose passion for preserving this craft was infectious. She took us to visit Threads of Life in Seraya where we could see in person the traditional textile weaving taking place from start to finish~

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Above- picking a piece of mature cotton right off the plant and showing how the threading process begins.

Below- using traditional tools to spin and make the tread.

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