Ethical Fashion doesn't have to be boring

Monday, February 23, 2015

Bali and the magic of Ikat

I think many people fell in love with Bali after watching the infamous Eat Pray Love movie. What's not to love, a woman finding herself in beautiful scenery, peaceful villas and love of course.

Balinese culture was strongly influenced by Indian and Chinese, and particularly Hindu culture beginning around the 1st century AD. 93.18% of Bali's population practices Balinese Hinduism. This makes for gorgeous architecture all around the island. The Hindu spirit is one of religious sharing, actively looking for common ground between the philosophy and customs of different people. 
Bali is renowned for its diverse culture and sophisticated art forms, such as painting, sculpture, woodcarving, handcrafts, performing arts and of course its textiles. 
Textiles in Bali are powerful symbols, indicating the status and well being of the wearer. It is believed that some textiles are permeated with magical powers, which can protect the wearer against malicious people wishing harm. Certain patterns, such as the black and white, checkered, double Ikat are considered to have protective powers against the evil spirits. They are often used to cover or to dress statues that guard the entrance to a temple or sacred masks like Barong.

The Ikat textiles are frequently a part of elaborate gift exchanges for weddings and special ceremonies. They often use designs and color combinations that are considered traditional in that location. . Every island, weaving village or family has its own patterns and colors that tells them their history. This makes every Ikat special and unique. 

Some traditional designs are no longer made. Only a few women now practice the art.  This is what makes it Bali’s rarest textile.

Ikat is a complex artistic weaving technique used to create images on textiles.  The term Ikat comes from the Malay work mengikat, meaning "to tie".  Its distinctive feature is that the images are dyed onto the threads before they are placed on the loom and woven into the finished fabric,  The threads are first secured to the dying frame and then sections of the design that are to remain undyed are wrapped with a dye-resistant fiber according to the requirements of the pattern.  Once the portion of the design to be protected from the first color are tied off, the threads are removed from the frame and immersed in the dye.  With the exception of white (the natural color of the thread), a separate dye bath is required for each color. Before each dye bath, the threads are reattached to the frame and strips are cut away or added as necessary to ensure that the individual elements have only the appropriate color in the final design.  Even the most complex Ikat patterns are created solely through the tying and dyeing process.

The weavers produce three types of Ikat:
 Warp Ikat - the designs are dyed onto the warp threads that run longitudinally on the loom. In warp ikat the patterns are clearly visible in the warp threads on the loom even before the plain colored weft is introduced to produce the fabric.
 Weft Ikat- the patterns are created on the weft threads that are woven across the warp threads. In weft ikat it is the weaving or weft thread that carries the dyed patterns which only appear as the weaving proceeds. The weaving proceeds much slower than in warp ikat as the passes of the weft must be carefully adjusted to maintain the clarity of the patterns. 
 Double Ikat - the patterns are created on both the warp and the the weft.These are the most impressive textiles to be produced in Indonesia. Called the geringsings and produced exclusively in the small village of Tenganan in east Bali. The only other places in the world where similar textiles are woven are Japan and India.

The people of Tenganan are original Bali Aga people, who believe that the god Indra created humans and taught them the art of double ikat. Their rituals have to be carried out by people who are pure in body and spirit, and that purity is protected by the magical power of the textiles. The textiles also protect the village and they are only worn during major religious events.

It can take between five and eight years to weave a sacred cloth. Only a small number of Tenganan residents are still capable of making geringsing textiles and the technique is passed down from generation to generation.

Amy is off on another textile hunt in Bali. Expect to see some beautiful Ikat upon her return. 

If you get the chance to go enjoy the sea and sand and make sure to experience some of their unique culture and of course keep your eye out for the wonderful textiles.


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