One of our textile activities in Ubud was participating in a batik and natural dye workshop where we created our very own piece of batik artwork. First we were given a brief introduction to the natural dye plants traditionally used throughout the Indonesian archipelago - the mordants, the various oils used to coat cotton thread, and the plants used to provide blue, black, red and yellow. We were also shown the tools used in batik - the tjanting tool that allows you to 'draw' on the fabric with melted wax, the beeswax and paraffin wax, and the decorative stamps available.
Then it was time to try for ourselves. First we applied the wax using either one of the supplied stencils or coming up with our own design. It's harder than it looks and we all became quite adept at embracing our mistakes and incorporating them into our designs. Some more successfully than others (cough).
When we were happy with the first stage the cloths were dipped in an indigo bath of Strobilanthes leaves (assam indigo) that had been soaked for 24 hours. There was much aerating and splashing and dipping, much to the confusion of those of us experienced in indigo dyeing and who know the importance of reducing the indigo vat to remove as much oxygen as possible and keep it as oxygen-free throughout the process as is humanly possible. When we asked about this, master dyers Tutut and Frog explained this was a direct dye method, and that the second dip later on would be in a reduced indigo vat much more similar to what we are used to (except that the reduction agent used here was palm sugar, as is appropriate in Bali!).
While our little artworks dried in the breeze Tutut took us on a tour of the dye garden. The Threads of Life business and its sister organisation, the Bebali Foundation, undertake research here in collaboration with dyers from all over the Indonesian archipelago and botanists from Kew Gardens, London. The aim is to reclaim and preserve the knowledge of natural dyes, mordants and processes that is in danger of being lost as communities turn to synthetic dyes for a faster turnaround and cheaper materials. By paying the dyers and weavers an appropriate amount for products made with traditional, natural materials, and supplying them where necessary with the dye materials while they establish their own sustainable supply, the communities not only make a living wage but maintain the traditions and precious knowledge.
After touring the dye garden (laid out in colour order and marked with their latin names), it was time for the second layer of wax to be applied to our pieces. Professional batik workers do multiple wax layers and colour dips to produce complex patterned and coloured cloth but we only had time for two layers, giving us a total of three colours (white, pale blue, darker blue).
A dip in the second indigo bath (Indigofera tinctoria this time) and another stint on the clothesline followed while we enjoyed a magnificent lunch brought in from the village nearby, wrapped in banana leaves to keep it hot. Takeaway fast food, Indonesian style. Even the wee selection of optional spices came in its own tiny banana leaf vessel!
Finally, our cloths were rinsed in boiling water and soda ash to remove all the wax and our masterpieces were revealed. Much oohing and aahing ensued.
It was a fabulous day - we returned to the resort that afternoon bubbling with excitement and pride, full of plans of what we would each do with our batik panels. You can see some of the finished pieces above. I didn't have a wide-angled lens to fit all twelve! If you travel to Bali I can highly recommend booking in for one of these classes.
I'll pop in again soon with photos of the lecture on Indonesian textiles and traditions that we attended. That was another brilliant experience.
This dye and batik class, together with the textiles lecture, will be repeated in the 2016 retreat together with some new excursions and experiences, so if these photos are tempting you, consider coming along next October. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for further details.
Wednesday, 18 November 2015
Monday, 16 November 2015
A 13 day adventure exploring the textiles and
cultural traditions of northern Vietnam
7-19 May 2016
Textiles, travel, craft, exploration! Does this sound like your cup of tea?
If so, you're invited to join a small group of like-minded textile-enthused women for the experience of a lifetime, visiting specialist handicraft villages, undertaking hands-on weaving, dyeing and embroidery workshops, exploring some of South East Asia's most jaw-dropping scenery and meeting and staying with the colourful hilltribe people who live there. Plus much, much more.
This tour, accompanied by a local (English speaking) Vietnamese guide, starts and ends in the beautiful city of Hanoi where we will spend several days based in the vibrant Old Quarter, exploring the town and its foremost sightseeing attractions in addition to nearby silk weaving and basketry craft villages.
An overnight train journey takes us to Sapa where we will spend three nights, one of those in a rural village homestay while we participate in weaving, batik, dyeing and embroidery workshops. We will also have the opportunity to cook (and eat) Vietnamese/Hmong food with our homestay hosts!
From Sapa we travel to Ha Giang province, a magnificent highland region near the Chinese border, comprising lush forests and terraced rice paddies, with the dramatic mountains of Heaven's Gate soaring in the background. This remote and spectacular area only opened to tourists in very recent years and is known as Vietnam's final frontier. We will spend several days visiting local hilltribe villages, visiting a specialist textile village providing skills and livelihood to victims of human trafficking, shopping at the local textile and general markets and trekking through spectacular landscapes.
Our final couple of days before returning to Hanoi will be spent at a guesthouse on the shores of beautiful Ba Be Lake, exploring the area by boat, visiting waterfalls and relaxing.
Included in price
- local English speaking guide throughout the tour
- all transport, sightseeing attractions (museums, galleries, etc), workshops and excursions as per the itinerary
- accommodation as per the itinerary
- meals as per the itinerary (11 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 3 dinners)
- one group airport transfer each way
Not included in price
- international airfares
- travel insurance (compulsory)
- early check in or late check out
- meals and drinks not included in the itinerary
- expenditure of a personal nature
- tips and gratuities
- extra activities
Price: AUD $2,345.00 per person.
A non-refundable deposit of AUD $300.00 is required to secure your place*.
The balance will be due by close of business on 26 February 2016.
Things to note
- the tour comprises 12 nights/13 days and operates from Saturday 7th – Thursday 19th May 2016. The opportunity exists to extend your trip by an extra night or two at our hotel in Hanoi before or after the tour, at the special group discount price of AUD $60.00 per room per night;
- accommodation is in single rooms in 3 star hotels, except for the homestay and overnight train trip where accommodation is shared and more basic;
- we are striving to offer a culturally, environmentally and economically sustainable tour. To this end: we have engaged local guides and hosts; we visit several workshops and business enterprises that are either village co-ops (ie. all profits returned directly to the villagers), fair trade organisations and/or projects aimed at providing vocational training and experience to local youth or disadvantaged communities; the tour price also includes a carbon offset;
- this trip includes several two to four hour treks so a moderate level of fitness and mobility are required;
- this trip is offered in partnership with a licensed travel agent and tour operator for your (and our) peace of mind;
- the itinerary is a full one, however several free periods (some afternoons and several evenings) are built into the schedule;
- a detailed daily itinerary is available;
- one group airport transfer each way is included so where possible we will encourage guests to coordinate arrival/departure times as close as possible. Guests who choose to fly at different times should note that a taxi to/from Hanoi and the airport costs approximately AUD $50.00. Pre-arranged airport transfers can also be arranged at an additional cost of AUD $50.00 per transfer.
To secure your place on this exciting textile adventure or for more information, please email email@example.com to request a booking form and detailed itinerary.
We hope you will join us!
Susan Keeble and Susan Rees-Osborne
* Should the minimum number of guests not be achieved and the tour does not go ahead, your $300.00 deposit will be returned.
+ All photos used by permission of Peregrine Adventures Pty Ltd.