Information and Accommodation Guide to the Sidemen Valley
Like so many traditions, the art of weaving in Bali had all but disappeared by the early 90’s. For the young, it was not a profitable business, nor was it consider a trendy or cool career to be in, the draw of the cities for the young was far more exciting! Without new blood to pass on this craft and with few buyers, weaving went into serious decline.
It has always been the custom that weaving be carried out by women. The traditional fabrics of Songket and Endek or Ikat have long been woven by them in the Sidemen Valley, often at home in the family compound.
There are three main weaving workshops in Sidemen, Swastika and Pelangi which are both in the main street and also Arta Nadi which is located a few hundred metres out of the village on the road to Klungkung.
In Sidemen, apart from these weavers, there are a few people with small shops that sell their own weaving products, which are located on the main road in Sidemen or in the area of Tabola Village where most of the hotels are situated. You know you are near to a weaver when you hear the consent ‘clacking’ of the loom and these weavers will gladly invite you to view a demonstration of their weaving.
There are a couple of independent Songket weavers in Sidemen and around the village of Tabola. Among them are Ayu – Klungkung who is located beside Samanvaya Resort and Nengah who lives at Rumah Tanun and who also uses only natural colours in her weaving.
All of the weavers have their products for sale if you wish to purchase them but with their relaxed attitude, you do not feel obliged to buy if you don’t want to.
Buyers from the markets of Klung Kung will often come to Sidemen to buy weaving products, tapping into the tours that bring visitors to the visit the Taman Kertha Gosa. Prices are often much higher in Klung Kung and it is probably better to buy direct from the weavers.
What is Endek/Ikat?
Endek (in Balinese) or Ikat (in Indonesian) is cloth where the pattern of the fabric is determined by the threads. It is an intricate process that can take weeks to initially set up a design.
The thread after being spun and measured, is put onto a wooden frame and then the design is marked out by the ‘Sketcher’. It is here that the pattern first becomes apparent, each part of a motif is bound by plastic rafia in the same colour to guide the worker, (the ‘Tukang Catri’ as he is known) during the dying process.
The reams of thread are then dipped in the main colour and once dried, each piece of raffia is removed colour by colour and individually hand painted in the colour of the raffia removed. All this just to get the thread that will form the motif!
This process from the plain cotton weft (thread) to the thread for the motif will take approximately 5 days to complete which is enough for 10 metres or 4 sarongs.
Once the dying is completed, the thread is spun and then ready to be used in the fly shuttle that threads the weft through the base fabric on the loom. At the edge of the fabric there is a line which guides the weaver to ensure the pattern is correct throughout the manufacture of the fabric.
‘Anyinan’ is a slightly different and quicker process as it is the base thread on which the motif is introduced and is normally one colour of thread.
What is a Songket?
A Songket is a sarong that is generally used for special ceremonial occasions by the Balinese. The base fabric is weaved and afterwards, a secondary elaborate weave is created, using metallic or cotton threads. Many people will own just one of these songkets as they are very expensive reflecting the extraordinary amount of time and workmanship that one takes to make.
Weaving - a Revival
The revival of the weaving industry in the Sidemen valley is with thanks in part to I Wayan Suartana. When he returned to the village from having worked in Denpasar in 1998, he founded Arta Nadi with his savings. At the time he had no idea what to do but as weaving used to be a common skill, it seemed a natural business to enter into. Wayan set up his workshop with 25 weavers and opened a shop in Klungkung to sell the fabric, mostly to Balinese for the ceremonial occasions and a few tourists.
For six years he operated his business but by 2005, his business was struggling, not only due to the lack of interest in the fabrics but also there was no new blood coming into the craft to learn the skill. It was then, with determination, he went to every home in the village offering fair pay to those who wanted to work and finally with 100 women most of which want to return to weaving, the workforce was reinstated. Children joined the Arta Nadi workforce although they had to finish their school day before going to work.
Although he had a marketing background, Wayan knew his weakness in the business was its marketing and he therefore took his product to many exhibitions around the region and in 2005 he met President Megawati who took an interest in his product. The president placed an order for his fabric. With fashion designer Samuel Wattimena to advise him, Wayan combined several national traditional motifs without losing the identity of the Balinese motif. It took him 6 months to make the presidents fabric and sales leaped, but after a year, Wayan stopped making it and created new designs.
In 2009, Arta Nadi received a 3 year sponsorship from Garuda Indonesia Airlines and Wayan was able to further his knowledge of weaving, design and marketing through their guidance and support. His continued partnership gave him access to international events allowing his business to go from strength to strength.
Today, his fabrics and those of other weaving workshops around Sidemen have become internationally recognized and together with a resurgence of interest by both designers and visitors to Bali, the art of weaving is assured for generations to come.
Only a Sarong will do for the Temple
As a sign of respect to the gods, Balinese people will always wear a sarong to go to the temple. For the lady, she would wear a sarong and a sabuk or salendang (a belt), together with a kabaya (a type of blouse, with ¾ or full length sleeves).
Men will wear a sarong together with a shirt/t-shirt and senteng (belt) when going to temple to serve offerings or for cleaning etc but if they go to temple to pray, they will wear full dress of an udeng (head dress), shirt, sarong and also a 2nd sarong instead of a belt. The 2nd sarong is shorter than the original one.
As a visitor, you should be respectful and always wear a sarong and sash when entering a temple. If you do not have one, they can often be rented outside the temple grounds from the street vendors.