It is impossible to fully understand the beauty and rareness of a songket without witnessing the complex and time-consuming process behind the final product. In order to explore and follow the production of songkets we went to Sidemen.
Sidemen is a small town in central Bali which is surrounded by rice paddies and where a multitude of skilled women have been dedicated to the production of songkets since the 17th century, when the Balinese royal family of Klungklung moved to this new area with all their servants and artisans. Today, Siddhaman is one of the few places in the world where the tradition of the songket production still flourishes, along with Sumatra and some areas of Thailand, Malaysia and Laos.
The term "songket" is used to describe the technique of weaving additional patterns into a material, usually silk or cotton. With their shimmering gold and silver thread contrasting multicolor subtle geometric patterns, songkets are traditionally used for theatrical performances and important ceremonies. They are considered as very luxurious materials which reflect the elegance and delicacy of the fascinating Balinese culture.
Contrarily to the expectations of many visitors, the production of songkets is carried within the domestic context. Songket weaving is a skill that has been and continues to pass down through the generations of Balinese women who work exclusively by hand. However, the process includes the involvement of each member of the family and the assistance of specialists for certain processes such as the preparation of the warps.
Nowadays the production of songkets struggles to survive due to the fragile economy supporting it. The production of a songket is extremely expensive for small Balinese artisans and very time-consuming. In order to produce a songket, a woman with the help of assistants takes at least one month. As the arts are no longer supported by the royal families and thus the demand for songkets has decreased, it is very difficult for the artisans to live from the production of these crafts.
Each songket carries with it a rich cultural and visual profile which makes it inimitable and rare. Songkets are ideal for a luxurious home decor or clothing. They can be used to enrich the design of your house as covers for cushions, beds and sofas, or simply as a splendid and unique piece of art.
written by Gaia Rosenberg Colorni