The High Cost of Balinese Gringsing Cloth

Talking about archipelago literature will never end. We are obviously familiar with the woven cloth from Lombok, Flores, or Sumbawa. There is still something more unique from Indonesian woven ‘ikat’, namely the Gringsing cloth.

Different from other ‘ikat’ weaves, Gringsing is made by double ‘ikat’ with natural coloring. Corresponding with the long manufacturing process and requires accuracy, this fabric from Tenganan Bali Village is very expensive and beautiful. Getting curious? Come on and let’s get to know more about this fabric!

Gringsing comes from the word ‘Gring’ which means sick and ‘Sing’ which means no. So Gringsing means free from disease because, in the past the cloth was used in religious ceremonies in Bali. Which was believed to be a repellent for bad influences. Tenganan Village is the only place in the country that knows how to make double ‘ikat’ weaving. This technique is only available in three countries around the world, apart from India and Japan.

Double ‘ikat’ weaving is made by collaborating colored threads on the length and width of the fabric to form a specific motif. This technique produces a firmer color than single ‘ikat’ weaving, which only uses long threads of cloth to produce motifs and colors, while the width of the fabric uses plain threads. The Gringsing motif is very distinctive, usually box, ‘lubeng’ which is characterized by a scorpion, and lastly the most difficult one is the puppet motif.

According to Kadek Suryati, a double ‘ikat’ craftsman, currently only one or two craftsmen can weave wayang motifs. “Weavers must really understand and master pictures. One strand of thread was matched with precision, so it will not get messed up. It took up to three months to complete the larger puppet motifs and the coloring time was almost up to 5 years.”

The coloring process takes the longest. “The gringsing cloth was colored using three colors, namely red, yellow and black. These three colors are symbols of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The yellow color comes from the hazelnut oil, while the red color comes from the roots of the wood mixed with water. Two of them cannot be combined, so it takes a long time, the threads are dyed and stored again to produce a good color”,Suryati explained.

It was not uncommon for craftsmen to fail to produce good quality fabrics. “Most of them were failures, hahaha …”,said Suryati. “Sometimes when you want to add a red color, it doesn’t turn out nice. Instead the black color disappears because the water fades. Usually, the craftsmen only understand dyeing techniques after leaving school, so many of them only start weaving when they want to graduate from high school.”

Weaving also requires practice. “Craftsmen who are still new to thread often shifting.” This is what makes each piece of Gringsing cloth have a different price. “Each fabric will speak for itself in terms of its age and quality. Some are good in terms of color but the weaving is not good. There are also times when weaving is neat, but the color is not clear enough. Fabrics made using original Balinese handmade threads cost up to three times the price of fabrics that use factory threads,”explained Suryati.

Fortunately, there are many Tenganan women who still want to weave for their livelihoods. “Nowadays craftsmen prefer to make small size cloth because it doesn’t require a lot of time and get money faster. Usually starting from 2 million IDR. One week is enough to produce a piece of cloth. The revenues from the sale can be used to acquire the necessities of life for one week”,explained Suryati. The beauty of Kain Grisngsing is now highly recognized. Many brides-to-be use this fabric for pre-wedding photos. The wider it is used, the more likely it is that the cultural heritage of this land will preserved.