Marketing for Traditional Weavers: A Question of Values

The following is the text of a presentation for the First Asian Ikat Weavers Conference held by the Lake Sebu Indigenous Women Weavers’ Association (LASIWWAI) in the Philippines between April 17-19, 2012. I could not make the conference in person, but the presentation was made on my behalf by the organizers.

Threads of Life is a fairtrade-certified business that works with over 600 women weavers and their families on 11 Indonesian islands. These women are organized into 55 cooperatives and make high-quality natural-dyed traditional textiles that we sell through our gallery in Bali. We have been operating since 1998, and can sell everything these women make that meets our high quality control standards. We do not sell anywhere else. We have tried selling in the US and the UK, but have found that Bali is the best market. This is where we get the most customers.

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The Work of Reviving Batak Textiles

Slide 1

To grow enough plants to make the natural dyes requires time and patience.

When Threads of Life and the Bebali Foundation began to work in Sumatra last year with the support of Sandra Niessen and funds from the Dutch Embassy, we initially focused on the area of Muara on the south end of Lake Toba with the aim of helping traditional weavers recover their natural dye processes. After a year, the colors are beginning to emerge but we still have a ways to go. Growing enough dye plants to make the colors will take time and patience.

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