Sunday, August 1, 2010

Learning more about ikat and how it is done

Today we went touring around Bali and looked at increasingly more complex weaving as we went. Only by the end of the day did I appreciate how much we had learned along the way.

We started at something that we might call a sweatshop in Australia. Rows of looms were made out of wood and held together, Heath Robinson style, with bits of string. Only a handful were being used and young women were weaving away mostly making plain cloth or simple weaves. But we learned out they are set up, how the thread gets loaded and what the basic process is. Later in the shop, we realised most of their woven textiles were actually produced in Java now, with just a few things made in Bali.

We got caught up in yet another cremation and dropped in for a short time to see the goings on. Didn’t have much choice here as the road was blocked and the cars in gridlock. This one was much more elaborate than the one we went to a few days ago. But we knew we weren’t going to see the actual cremation as they were hours away from that bit as far as we could tell anyway.

Next we visited another “factory” high in the mountains. This was really just inside a family compound but with a large room containing ikat looms and all the paraphenalia for dyeing ikat. It’s incredibly complex. When I saw the looms I couldn’t figure out how the patterns actually happened, it wasn’t until we saw the dyeing process that I realised how brilliantly clever it is. How do people work out this stuff?

I also realised why so many ikat designs look like pac men! It’s because of the pixellation that is caused by working on a square grid. This mob use synthetic dyes and all the colours are brilliant, maybe even a bit garish for my taste. however, the textiles looked nice when they were finished.

We had lunch at this place – a picnic from Ruma Rohda that came with a mix of foods wrapped up in a banana leaf, with separate special compartment for the rice. Beautiful and tasty.

Our last stop was the best – but only because we had been working up to it. A woman who has been working with Threads of Life on researching traditional designs and dyeing practices told us about that. We also met some of her weavers who demonstrated supplementary weft ikat. This is the most complex type of ikat and the weaver sits in a backstrap loom and does the most extraordinarily complex weave. I bought one piece, a bintang design (yes, that’s the name of the beer – it means star. I could end the day satisfied in the knowledge that I actually managed to buy something.

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