Threads of Life withdraws from the WFTO

Threads of Life has been a part of the fair trade movement since we began working with Indonesia’s traditional weavers in 1997. In 2004 we became a member of the World Fair Trade Organization, which in its own words, “represents Fair Traders from grassroots through to the G8 and is the authentic voice of Fair Trade, having driven the movement for 20 years. It is the only global network whose members represent the Fair Trade chain from production to sale.” As of 2013, Threads of Life has withdrawn its membership of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO). Nothing has changed in terms of Threads of Life’s practices and values. We are still the same fair trade organization, but we feel that the WFTO has changed and no longer properly represents our participation in the full fair trade chain.

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Challenging Times in Kalumpang, Sulawesi

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Mapping dye plant resources in Sulawesi

In December 2012 we received a shipment of three bales containing 84 textiles from the most remote communities we work with in the Kalumpang region of West Sulawesi. (See the May 2011 Field Notes). The shipment included 57 of the large 150 x 200 cm (60 x 80 inch) Sekomandi and Marilotong textiles, and 27 smaller Selendangs. This seemed like yet another triumph for our work with a group of weavers that has grown from two to 54 women over the course of ten years. The weavers’ isolation means our field staff get to visit them at most once a year. So to help the weavers gain access to Threads of Life and other potential buyers, we have been facilitating the development of seven weavers’ cooperatives. In this way, weavers work together, combining their efforts and pooling resources so that they can ship textiles to us when we are unable to visit them. This process had been going well since 2009, but suddenly with the most recent shipment, something appeared to be wrong.

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Behind Being

I met filmmaker Quincy Davis in March, when he asked to interview me for a documentary he was planning to make about the importance of culture and community. I said yes and we spent a couple of hours talking in front of his camera. He just sent me the trailer for his film, and it is amazingly beautiful, both visually and in the way the images expand the narrative.

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Lou Zeldis, In Memoriam

Upon entering the Threads of Life gallery, and looking to the left, a strikingly modern batik is usually hanging full-length on the far wall. Made in the traditional natural-dye colors of central Java by the artisans at a batik studio in the city of Solo, the designs being employed have taken tradition and spun it on its head! The force behind all this creativity, intended to keep a traditional batik studio going in between orders from the Surakarta palace’s royal family, was Lou Zeldis, an American artist of exceptional talent and a human of unusual kindness.

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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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Connected and Aligned

ImageAgustina Soly lives 2 days travel from the nearest surfaced road. Her community in the remote highlands of West Sulawesi is beyond the reach of most Indonesian government services. People are very self-reliant here. Agustina is the school teacher and the coordinator for 7 weavers’ cooperatives with a total membership of 56 women. Weaving is an important source of income, and making traditional textiles is a huge source of cultural pride.

 

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