click on image to go to enlargement - all text & images © Chris Buckley
In August 2010 Chris Buckley made a visit to eastern Flores and Lembata. On his return he sent in the textile travel notes below and shared some of his stunning photos. He also posted on the forum photos and comments on a couple of textiles not included here.
Chris says: "These notes should be read in conjunction with Donna Lum's notes from 2005. The good news is that despite Flores' development as a tourist destination there is still a great deal of traditional weaving and it is still well worth a visit. We flew to Maumere and worked our way east, missing out the western half of the island (which apparently has much interesting weaving also).
There are a great deal of rapid changes taking place, but weaving seems to have a future as well as a past on Flores. One thing that stands out is that locally made textiles are still being worn on a daily basis, in the market place as well as on the way to church on a Sunday (Flores is predominantly Christian, in contrast to most of the rest of Indonesia). Most of the ikat being made for local use is made with commercial cotton and synthetic dyes, but as Roy Hamilton pointed out in his book "Gift of the Cotton Maiden" these modern materials have facilitated the continuation of handwoven textiles: it is doubtful whether weaving for local use would have continued to thrive if they had not made the work easier and less time-consuming.
Good ikat made with natural dyes and handspun cotton is also available in a few places. This is being sustained in a limited basis by two factors: traditional requirements for bridewealth textiles in Lembata, and by the production of textiles for collectors. In the case of collector's textiles the sponsorship of Threads of Life in Bali is particularly important. Both dyeing with natural dyes and handspinning cotton are extraordinarily time consuming, much more so than the ikat tying and weaving parts of the process, so weavers will only use these classical methods if there is a clear demand and appropriate financial reward. Which is a complicated way of saying expect to pay more ... a sarong made of handspun cotton and natural dyes should be ten times the price of a sarong made with commercial cotton and synthetic dyes. This is a matter of time and effort, the cost of raw materials being negligible in comparison.
click on image to go to enlargement - all text & images © Chris Buckley - see below for photo captions
Since we had a relatively short time (about 10 days in Flores) we found a guide and used a driver to help us get around quickly. You could also travel by public bus without a guide more cheaply, but you would need a lot more time and patience this way. We found Hiro at the Hotel Gardena and would recommend him to anyone who is looking for a guide (his mobile phone # is +62-81-339355664). Hiro also has a colleague at the hotel who specializes in the western half of the island.
Maumere - Sikka
Maumere is the main town around the center of the island, and is a base for exploring Sikka, Nggela and Watublapi, which are all weaving centers worth a visit. My top pick for seeing good textiles in this area is Daniel David's weaving group in Watublapi (The Bliran Sina Cultural Arts Cooperative, ask for info at the Gardena Hotel or other hotels in town or call 81-339463561), also mentioned by Donna Lum in her account. Daniel is a natural dye enthusiast who can show you Morinda, turmeric, indigo and other dye materials and the ikat process in some detail. Depending on the time of year he usually has some textiles to sell to visitors too. He has genuine natural dyed textiles made with both handspun and commercial cotton. Not cheap, but worth it.
click on the thumbnail photo to go to an enlargement
01 - tying ikat with palm frond in Sikka village
02 - tying ikat with palm frond in Sikka village
03 - ikat on the loom at Sikka village
03X-Sarong from the weaving group at Sikka and the design is typical from that area. Commercial thread and synthetic dyes. The large motif is a flower basket (so I was told), like the flower offering baskets you see outside homes in Bali.
04 - weaving with a backstrap loom at Nggela
05 - handspinning cotton at Watublapi
06 - indigo dye at Watublapi: this small pot is for demonstration purposes; large pots are used for the real thing
07 - setting up the warp on the loom: ikat dyed threads are set up with plain threads that will become warp patterned bands in the finished textile. Watublapi
08 - chopping and pounding Morinda root, Watublapi
09 - Morinda root: the color is an unpromising yellowish shade in the fresh root. Watublapi
10 - a skein of cotton after a few dips in Morinda, still a very pale shade, Watublapi
11 - pot containing yarn mixed with mordant ingredients for Morinda (papaya leaf, candlenut, loba leaf), to be heated up on the fire, Watublapi
12 - ikat, partly dyed, at Watublapi. The brown color becomes deeper if the yarn is left slightly damp after dyeing. Which might partly account for the unique smell of naturally dyed Morinda textiles.
13 - Theorara Gelu with a young relative and the sarong she dyed and wove herself, with a manta ray motif. Handspun cotton and natural dyes. Lamalera
14 - detail of manta ray motif from Theorara's sarong. This motif is unique to the Lamalera area
15 - sarong by Anastasia Bataona with Patola motif. Handspun cotton and natural dyes. Lamalera
16 - sarong by Anastasia Bataona with manta ray motif. Handspun cotton and natural dyes. Lamalera
17 - Margareta Lolon (right) and Juliana Boy from Ili Api, with sarongs that they wove themselves. The red sarong on the left is used for wrapping elephant tusks given in bridewealth exchanges, while the dark blue sarong at right is worn by the bride's family members at weddings.
18 - Wate-mea (Red sarong), from Ili Api, woven by Juliana Boy. The ikat was dyed by another lady in the village.
click on thumbnail image to go to enlargement - all text & images © Chris Buckley
Also see Chris' forum post re his Flores visit
see Donna Lum's travel notes on Flores from June 2005
Chris Buckley is a collector of ethnic textiles - see his Torana tribal website selling ethnic minority textiles and Asian art - but he is better known to Beijing residents as the "Tibetan carpet guy". Chris is originally from England and came to China in 1995, having previously lived in Japan, where he acquired a taste for things handmade and an appreciation for texture. He used to work for a multinational company but that is a long time in the past now: these days he spends most of his time on his Tibetan carpet business. He has a workshop near Lhasa making Tibetan carpets the traditional way, with designs that are mostly by him, and that are sold in his stores in Beijing and Shanghai as well as to individual clients and interior designers overseas. More about his Tibetan carpet business can be found on his Toranahouse website. He is also interested in Tibetan crafts generally and in painted furniture in particular, a subject he wrote a book about.
Aside from running the carpet business he has also been a collector for many years, and he has been lucky enough to travel widely in China and Asia (and still does). One of his earliest and most memorable trips in China was a cycling trip in Guizhou province through Dong and Miao minority areas. Apart from the rain and the mud the villages were entrancing, and he has been hooked on minority arts ever since. Chris can be contacted via his websites.
Copyright © 2012 Pamela A Cross. The contents of this site, including all images and text, are for personal, educational, non-commercial use only and may not be reproduced in any form without the express permission of Pamela A Cross.
this page last updated 5 April, 2012