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Monday, May 6, 2013

Weaving Destiny Part 2 : Truly Inspiring

"The artist sat on the floor, working on her weaving on her traditional cagcag/Balinese weaver. Her eyes were intense, and she cared nothing except on a troublesome part that she was working on. Pictures of her design sketches were plastered in one of her walls, and on her work desk a pile of folders were arranged neatly: purchases for threads and raw ingredients for her dyes, gallery appointments and dinner presentation schedules, details of the press acclamation she received, photos and details of each of her work. Her Macbook plays a soft, soothing music, but she was oblivious to it. In her state-of-art kitchen a couple of pans are boiling with her dyes, piles of threads were on her dinner table, ready to be dyed. And on and on she worked, creating magic with her hands. Motifs were designed, threads were patterned and then dyed, and woven into a finish cloth: alive with pride and beauty, brimming with elegance and wonder." - An imagination

What can you get for USD 500? A dinner for two (or four), an exclusive Disneyland trip for one (plus expenses), a spa package for one, a pair of shoes, a cellphone (probably not a smart one). In Bali it can provide you with a slice of life. No, I am not talking about a VVIP trip to Ketut Liyer's house or other heavily-marketed Balinese healer or prominent figures. It is Balinese cloth: an object of art, made with complete dedication and has life weaved into it.

In this modern era "Art" is such a concept. Celebrated as an honest expression of the artist, art can take many forms and can be either utterly beautiful or even uncomfortably unique. A miniature set of clay animals is art, and so does a gigantic giraffe which doesn't look like a giraffe at all but instead looking like a pointed cactus shaped like something with a long neck (or to put it delicately: a symbol of true meaning of life represented by the giraffe who albeit can see far but can never evade the grip of life and that further should leaves human to ponder on what is their true meaning of life and their place in this universe). Then what is the meaning of a hand woven cloth? Made from the innocent cotton fruit, spun into threads, patterned and dyed and weave into life by careful hands and diligent dedication. In art, there is no "double", an object of art is specifically made just for that expression and there is no copy. In Balinese cloth the hand woven technique differs from one weaver to others as well as the design, and it is impossible to copy the exact same color from the natural dye as it differs by many factors, including the condition of the nature when the raw ingredients for the dyes are collected. In short, Balinese cloth is a work of art made from collaboration of a group of people with the greatest artist of all time: Mother Nature.

The best part of Balinese cloth is that it is a wearable form of art. Be it used for clothing or merely for decorating, it is a beautiful object which truly inspires. Each threads, each color tells a story, and what you saw in the final result is that story told in full. The lustrous gold thread that you see in the picture was in fact dyed from Balinese local fruit. Each color was made from different type of plants, and due to it's chemical component the more you use it/have skin contact the more it will shine. Imagine the cloth above to be tastefully fold into an asymetrically wrap-around skirt and matched it with an elegant black pumps, or have it in white with golden yellow thread and minimum barely-there motifs as a tube-dress style wedding gown. Cut and tailor made it into elegant blouses or smart exotic shirts, and use the remaining fabric to accentuate the oh-so-boring work clothes that everyone seems to have. Put it as tapestry to adorn your wall. Use it or place it where you can see or feel it daily, and be reminded of the hard work poured to make it and the uniqueness of your cloth.

There are people who can only see this art as "decadent", a mere fragment of the past that is best left behind because modernization rules. Why spend so much money on a piece of cloth weaved so traditionally when you can spend the same money (or better, more!) on modern-made (or printed) artificial fabric that screamed "Trend du jour!"? It is the same difference between a dress made exclusively by the designer and one that has the designer label but made in bulk. A unique designer items is prized for the time and thought they poured into it and the artistry used to made it. I can only imagine the price of such cloth if being made by a prominent artist in metropolitan cities such as New York or London, and sold with titles and complete details: the artist/weaver, the hours to made it, the plants used to make the dyes, the date of completion, basically the regular information you can find in paintings or other art objects. If such item can be valued highly and considered as "art", can the cloth made by the traditional weaver considered as "art" as well? The answer undoubtedly should be "Yes". But instead of telling story of the artist's struggles for creativity and his/her expressions of life, the cloth weaved by traditional weavers will tell the story of their daily life: the smile and laughter, the praying times and ceremonies, all the grace of a humble traditional life which is a rarity in this fast-paced world.

The Balinese cloth tells the story of ancient wisdom and present way of life, and it is an embodiment of graceful elegance and traditional beauty unsurpassed by other machine-made materials; a work of art that will not only please your eyes but also be a part of your life. Maybe one day my vision will come true, that it will be made by dedicated artists in their studios, marketed properly and presented in art galleries and museums. But then again, there is nothing wrong with the work of traditional Balinese cloth makers, the true artists that weave art in their everyday life. As with any art project, the proper appreciation for these traditional cloth maker will further enhance their love for their own work and a better result of their work. And why shouldn't it be? The cloth is life itself, made to be beautiful and inspiring, to be donned with pride and grace. It is something that was made with collective efforts and a symbol of life: how each things and events and decisions (i.e. threads) weaved together by mighty hands and become a completed life (i.e. clothes). Look and enjoy it, feel it, and experience it; because each cloth is unique and is truly inspiring. Be a part of the experience, be truly inspired.

Read the prelude of this story here.

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