In Conversation with: Mountain Mamas
It was a fine morning back in early January. While rain was pouring down in Bali a day earlier, that morning the weather seemed promising. We took an hour and half drive from Youthopia HQ at Cemagi to the slope of Batukaru Mountain in Tabanan to meet the mamas of Mountain Mamas.
It’s a social enterprise initiated back in 2017 by Melati Wijsen in conjugation of her other activisms all around Bali. The specialized in repurposing the leftover fabrics to be something more valuable and practical.
Once we arrived, it was all green and serene. The workshop isn’t big but efficient. There were around 7 sewing machines. All ready for these mothers. When we arrived, we met with five of them; Ibu Duadi, Ibu Esa, Ibu Farida, Ibu Lestari, and Ibu Dewi. Their age ranges between 28 and 50 years old.
Aside from their work at Mountain Mamas, most of them are farmers and housewives. They have been involved in this initiative since 2018. “There was a socialization from the Village,” said Ibu Esa about how they begin their journey with Mountain Mamas.
Before that, some of them were already making crochets to sell at cities as far as Denpasar. There were buyers from the cities that collect their crochets. They were crop tops, shorts, and bikini tops we often see being sold in the street vendors along Kuta and other tourist areas.
Joining Mountain Mamas has developed their crafts even further. They used to do everything by hand, now they are skilled at doing more complicated sewing with machines. “First, we learn to make sewing patterns and try to sew straight lines. After that, we start to sew the real sewing patterns to make bags or masks,” said Ibu Dewi.
“It’s great, plus we can get additional income to keep the house running,” continues Ibu Dewi. These mothers also added that they are now using their sewing skills to fix the clothes at home. “So we don’t always have to keep buying more, hahaha.”
As the conversation goes, the mothers become more open. Their work in Mountain Mamas is flexible work. It comes by orders, so they can balance out their other work, such as working in the field, as well as taking care of their kids. They too can bring their kids to the workshop and let the kids play in the spacious terrace at the front. Like Ibu Esa who brought along her son. The kid seemed curious about his mother’s work.
Although it is flexible, they still take the work in Mountain Mamas seriously. “If there are orders, we put the other work on hold for a few days,” said Ibu Lestari. “The field is ours, so we can do it anytime,” she continues. In a way, their work in Mountain Mamas has given these mothers flexibility to choose the work that allows them to provide more for their family.
Mountain Mamas used to have around 30 mothers working to repurpose the leftover fabric that were donated to make various kinds of tote bags. Now with the pandemic, the orders came in slower, and as they tried to split the job equally a lot of them are now back to focus on their field.
The biggest job they did was to make 1.000 masks in the early days of pandemic. It took them seven to eight people and seven days to get the job done and deliver the orders.
Now, their latest work is for our collaboration. In extension of our collaboration with Melati Wijsen, we reached out to Mountain Mamas to repurpose our leftover fabric from the production of our latest capsule collection. What is exciting about this collection was the collaborative efforts.
Consisting of bucket hats and multi-purpose bags, our work with them is yet again a challenge for them to elevate their sewing skills. It was the first time they’re making bucket hats. We showed them the sample they sent us weeks before side by side with the samples that we made. They were curious to perfect their craftsmanship in making these merchandise. They studied the stitching from our sample meticulously. We too ask them what are their main challenges in putting up this collection.
After a long dialogue on how to work on it more efficiently. We believe that distance shouldn’t be the reason to hold up our collaborative spirit. To make their work easier we sent our sewing pattern to make their work more consistent, as well as sending them the tutorial video they badly needed as it was their first-time making bucket hats.
After an intense back and forth, even weeks after we went back to Jakarta, we finally saw the collection come to life. The first 20 pieces were sent to us on February 14th and it was the best Valentine’s gift we ever received. Looking back at our collaborative process to make this collection, we are so proud of the result and we cannot wait for you to have them too.
#everydayxMountainMamas is now available online in limited quantities as it was made from limited leftover fabrics. Discover the collection here.