Extra-Ordinary Lace Makers Of Bali

As a starry eyed girl, she watched her mother create amazing laces for the kebayas (the traditional women’s tunics of indonesia) in the afternoons. She stood at the edge of the machine, while the needle criss-crossed the thread over the spotless white fabric. She was impatient to see how they turned out at the end. That was good 30 years ago. She always knew she would love doing this. She knew even before she realized its meaning, that her life would be spent in the pursuit of creating these beautiful wearable art.

I watched (Ibu) Nengah attentively focussing on her work to the constant whirring of the machine. She smiled and slowly looked up and said, ‘You are making me nervous’. Am I? ‘Yes, I get nervous when someone is looking at me’. So, I asked her if she would stop her work and talk to me. She agreed.

We talked slowly as she flipped through the pages of her life. One seeming ordinary page after another. It was amazing for me to see how magical were these ordinary pages.

It always started from the mundane, Ibu Nengah told how she was born in Tabanan, a province in the center of Bali. Her village was famous for fine craftsmanship in needlework, tapestry and embroidery. Expeditiously executed for the temples and filtered down the daily lives. All creativity was subconsciously inherited in a non-formal handed-down skills through daily engagement. Seldom was it taught formally. She loved what she learned. One afternoon, perhaps when she was 16 or 18 years old, in one of the trips to Denpaser she saw a beautiful billboard and the model in an inspiring lace outfit. That was her first introduction to Uluwatulace. It was beautiful. How did she feel about her work? 'Its amazing. I love what I do', was a simple answer. She slowed down and then said, 'This work gives great satisfaction. I go home happy. Its bad today, we are not able to make a good business, but we are content. We have work. We are able to put put food on the table'. There was sparkle of hope in acknowledging a fairly difficult time. Since 2020, the pandemic has increased the struggles.

Would she want her childrens to follow her footstep. I am not sure. I would rather like them to have a less hard life. But if they want, she would surely show them a few tricks she had learned. She smiled.

That’s something amazing.