Small Steps Back Towards Helping Weavers

Photographs sent by weavers in the field make it difficult to judge the quality of a textile.

— Transcribed by Ni Made Desa Purwani (Tutut)

With good sales from the Threads of Life’s online shop over recent months, we have been able to put small amounts aside to begin buying again from the weavers.

In 2020, as the pandemic began and we could no longer travel to Timor from Bali, we asked our on-island Timorese field staff, Willy Daos Kadati, to visit weavers and buy textiles. From Bali, we had identified pieces to buy from photos sent by weavers via text message, and asked Willy to pick up and pay for each piece. The results were not as satisfying as we would have liked as the photographs sent by weavers made it difficult to judge a textile’s quality. But at least it put income into the weavers’ hands.

Willy selected the best twenty textiles to purchase from our Timor weaving groups.

In the beginning of March 2021, we asked Willy to visit a few of the communities we work with and purchase no more than the twenty pieces our budget allowed. (Prior to COVID we were collecting two hundred pieces per field trip.) Willy chose what he thought were outstanding pieces from the master weavers and this time we received some stunning textiles that we are happy to showcase in this newsletter.

Weavers were happy and amazed that Threads of Life came to visit them during this pandemic.

“Weavers were surprised, happy and amazed that Threads of Life would make the effort to visit the communities during this pandemic,” reported Willy. “It is important that the weavers feel our relationship is still strong and that we care about them. I was really moved by the women’s responses during my visits and I feel we must find a way to keep visiting them so that they continue to feel supported and motivated.”

Weavers are working in their fields so that the families at least have food.

Women are working in their fields to provide food for their families as there is little or no work other than weaving that can generate cash.

The success of Threads of Life has been based on buying directly from weavers in their homes.

Willy told us that the biggest problem he sees is that if nobody is purchasing high quality, natural dyed textiles for a reasonable price then weavers will turn to synthetic dyes as the process is so much faster. We’ve always known this, which is why Threads of Life’s principle is to purchase directly from the weaver, in her home.

During the corn planting season, indigo dye pots also undergo a ceremony.

This coming week, as the head of his clan, Willy will be overseeing the ceremony that initiates the season for planting corn. During this ceremony, indigo vats are also revived in the Tatok na’i n smanaf ceremony, which is intended to give the spirit of the indigo a place to live. We will tell you more about this ceremony and the importance of its continuation for the future of dyeing indigo in an upcoming Field Note.