Lake Atitlan Women’s Weaving Cooperative
Nestled in the Western Highlands of Guatemala is Lake Atitlan, a beautiful community located on a volcanic lake. There are 17 Mayan communities that surround this beautiful volcanic lake, and each community has a unique and distinct culture, language and tradition. It is in one of the unique Mayan villages we found the amazing women that we work with.
The fabric weavers of the Lake Atitlan Women’s Weaving Cooperative spin cotton by hand, dye the thread using natural dyes and weave fabric using a traditional backstrap loom. The natural beauty that surrounds the women inspires the motifs used in the fabric and scarves. The motifs and patterns represent the waves of the lake, the mountains, the volcanoes and the change in seasons
Tanglad Village is home to some of Bali’s most talented traditional weavers. In this village, cepuk and rang rang is woven in a traditional fashion – it’s a technique that has been passed down for generations, and women of all ages participate in the craft.
The cotton and silk is hand dyed, and as you walk through the village you can hear the rhythmic ‘clack’ of the wooden handlooms they use to weave the cloth. Different women specialize in different techniques and styles but they all have one thing in common, they all weave their cloth with pride and love.
I primarily work with three talented women from Tanglad Village:
Gede Tantri, Nyoman Sutiati and Wayan Alit.
Gede Tantri is an elder in the village and has been weaving for over 50 years. She primarily weaves chepuk fabric, and when we met her she was creating the most beautiful orange coloured cloth.
Wayan is an amazing weaver of both cepuk and rang rang fabric, and uses both cotton and silk.
Nyoman Sutiati is an expert weaver of rang rang fabric, and shares her skill with other women at different textile schools. You can easily become hypnotized by her use of colour and shape.
Kolompok Karya Sari Warna Ulam, in the north eastern hills of Bali, is a cooperative (Kolompok means cooperative in Bahasan, Bali’s national language) specializing in plant-dyed rang rang and poleng fabric. The cooperative was established in 2003 by Wayan Karya. At the time, only three women in the village were still weaving traditional rang rang and poleng cloth.
Wayan Karya, who had grown up watching his grandmother, mother, and community weave, had a vision of revitalizing the tradition and introducing the work of his community to the world. The Kolompok he established now supports over 200 women in the area who weave traditional sarongs.
At the Kolompok, traditional weaving techniques are still used. The women spin the organic cotton into thread and the thread is then dyed by master dyers using plant dyes, such as indigofera (for blue) and morinda (brown).
To help the women work more comfortably, Karya has asked for donations of reading glasses. With every purchase of a poleng envelope purse we donate a pair of reading glasses to the Kolompok. If you have a pair of old reading glasses you’d like to donate, let us know and we’ll send them to the cooperative for you.
In Klung Kung we found a group of female weavers who have continued the Ekat weaving technique the regency was once known for. This intricate design requires steady concentration and dedication to the craft. The weavers carefully hand-dye the Ekat patterns into the cotton threads and then color the patterns with detail and love.
The women work from their homes (this allows them to be stable contributors to their households) under the supervision of a master weaver who has been weaving for over 60 years. She guides the women, providing them with the resources and materials they need.
SMK Block Printers
This fantastic organization has been around since 1950 and was the first to support
individuals affected by leprosy in India. By providing individuals of all ages with
developed housing, health initiatives, education, and vocational training, SMK has been of paramount importance for those who’ve been ostracized by their own communities.
Currently operating in 3 different cities in India, SMK supports everyone from infants to
seniors with leprosy with amazing initiatives like a farm where they grow their own food, and senior care for those who need support as they age.
We work with the individuals who’ve been vocationally trained in the complex art of block printing. In this technique, the blocks are carved by hand from wood, rubber, or other materials, and then pressed carefully onto the fabric. At SMK they use vegetable dyes for this process. It’s a difficult technique to learn, and it takes a tremendous amount of patience to master. Their work is beautiful. We purchase the cloth directly from them and use it in my home décor.