My Bali friends, Jean Howe and William Ingram created THREADS OF LIFE in 1998.

Threads of Life is a fair trade business that uses culture and conservation to alleviate poverty in rural Indonesia. The heirloom-quality textiles and baskets they commission are made with local materials and natural dyes. The Threads of Life gallery in Ubud (Bali) has a constant display of textiles created with their support both for sale and for educational purposes. The proceeds from gallery sales enable the weavers to form independent cooperatives and to manage their resources sustainably.

Indonesia has a long and rich cultural tradition in which textiles play a key role. As marriage gifts and everyday wear, as offerings to the ancestors or trade goods for cash or barter, traditional textiles have played integral parts in the social, spiritual, and economic lives of the peoples of Indonesia for more than 2,000 years. Threads of Life helps to uphold those diverse and venerable traditions. All Threads of Life textiles are produced by traditional methods. Occasionally the women ask, “What motifs and techniques should we use?” The reply: “What did your mother and grandmother do?” Their textiles are not copies of classic antiques, but the latest evolutions of living traditions, re-felt and re-imagined by the women who weave them.

Threads of Life works directly with over 1,000 women in more than 35 cooperative groups on islands from Kalimantan to Timor. Threads of Life uses real markets to reward cultural integrity, promote conservation of the environment, and empower families in some of the world’s poorest places to lift themselves out of poverty, while at the same time preserving the textile traditions of Indonesia.

Threads of Life makes field visits throughout the dry season from April to October. Members of the Threads of Life staff make at least fifteen trips to the field, to visit weavers in their homes. During the rainy months, most villagers leave their looms to work in the fields the source of their basic livelihood and floods and landslides often make travel impossible.

Staff members stay in the field for up to three weeks at a time, buying textiles, discussing quality control issues, negotiating prices, placing orders, and paying advances. This facilitates the team getting to know the village partners, research their cultures, and help them to develop traditional handmade objects into marketable handicrafts.CLASSES and WORKSHOPS

In addition to the gallery and field work Threads of Life offers classes and workshops. Check here for current offerings.

Accommodations are also available at their beautiful Uma Jati Retreat and Rumah Roda Homestay. Uma Jati is located on the grounds of the Bebali Foundation which is the setting for most of their workshops and classes. Umajati offers daily, weekly or monthly rentals hosted by Balinese house-keepers and cooks who specialize in healthy and vegetarian food. Just 10 minutes north of Ubud, in the cultural heart of Bali, Umajati grants easy access to the village’s many restaurants, spas, and cultural opportunities.