Threads of Life is a gorgeous fair trade gallery-cum-shop in Ubud that sells exquisite handmade textiles from Bali and the rest of the Indonesia that are ethically produced. Forget the tourist markets. This is my pick for a one-stop shop for your Bali take-homes.
Most visitors to Bali buy their souvenirs – masks, carvings, sarongs, and textiles mainly – from the tourists markets. There’s a colossal choice and while everything is already cheap, stallholders will also bargain, meaning you can walk away with bag loads of stuff for next to nothing.
The problem with tourist markets, however, is how do you know where the goods have come from? Were children used to produce them? How do you know where your money is going? And are you getting what you think you’ve paid for? For instance, so much of what is touted as silk at Ubud and Kuta markets simply is not. Which is why we like fair trade businesses, such as Threads of Life in Ubud.
Bali Take-Homes: Textiles, Fair Trade and Threads of Life
For my series on take-homes, I normally suggest a number of local souvenirs you can buy, sometimes themed, and where you can buy them from. But for Bali, I wanted to encourage a way to shop, one that is ethical and sustainable, and highlight a particular store and its wonderful products.
What is Fair Trade?
Fair Trade products must be made and traded in accordance with specific verifiable principles set out by the World Fair Trade Organisation (WFTO), so when you know a business is a member of the organisation, you know that they’re creating opportunities for economically disadvantaged producers; paying producers fairly, including paying deposits up front, cash in full on receipt of goods, and paying advances in times of need; operating in a transparent and accountable way; helping producers become independent through education and training; ensuring gender equity, safe working conditions, and that child labour isn’t used; ensuring production is environmentally sustainable; trading with concern for the social, economic, and environmental well-being of the producers, including being sensitive to their culture, customs, language, rituals etc; as well as promoting these very fair trade principles among their producers and clients.
Why is Fair Trade So Important to Bali?
Small producers, such as the traditional weavers that Threads of Life works with, often live in villages that are too remote to benefit from mainstream economic development, including tourism. Many of these people are earning less than 50¢ a day, and government assistance often isn’t getting to them. Many end up moving to cities to look for work, such as that woman with the baby who held out her hand for a few coins as you sipped a Bintang in a Kuta bar. Businesses such as Threads of Life can turn poverty on its head because as incomes rise above the $2-a-day poverty line, rather than leave to look for work, women remain in the village to weave. They can then afford to feed their family, educate their kids, maintain their traditions, and the family and community prosper and grow.
Why Threads of Life?
Textiles are a terrific memento of Bali because they’ve always played an important role in the spiritual, social and economic lives of the Balinese, worn as clothing (especially for ceremonies), traded and bartered, given as wedding gifts, and passed down through generations. Threads of Life, a gorgeous gallery-cum-shop in Ubud, sells exquisite handmade textiles from Bali and the rest of the Indonesia, including the red ikat cepuk, the black-and-white checked poleng, and the silk songket, the production of which were in decline until recently.
Threads of Life not only sells these, along with other hand-woven textiles, baskets, crafts, books and DVDs about weaving and traditional culture and crafts, but they also work with weavers to help revitalise fading traditions by commissioning products made from local materials and natural dyes. A non-profit organisation, proceeds from sales of the beautiful products go toward helping weavers establish cooperatives, manage their resources sustainably, train younger generations, and therefore keep their traditions alive while alleviating poverty. Now who wouldn’t want to contribute to that?
Threads of Life Shop & Gallery
Jalan Kajeng 24, Ubud
+62 361 972187