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In this issue of our newsletter we again focus on dye workshops, both those we have held with indigenous dyers and those we are holding soon for overseas guests.  Before getting into these though, I want to make clear that this doesn't represent a departure from our longterm work with weavers and the marketing of their work. 

The gallery in Ubud continues to thrive, but in the field we are seeing that in some regions, climate change and landscape-level changes are affecting weavers' abilities to maintain the economic viability of their dye traditions. 

As in all our work, intangible culture and natural dyes are interlinked with economics and conservation, as can be seen through the short articles that follow.

Indigo Inspiration

In September the Bebali Foundation held a very geeky workshop at the studio and dye garden in Ubud. Bringing together 24 indigo dyers from across our network of weavers, we spent a week looking specifically at the process of chemically reducing an indigo vat prior to dyeing. That is, turning a vat of blue insoluble indigo into a vat of yellow-green soluble indigo which can be used as a dye. In most commercial dye houses this is usually done with a synthetic chemical called sodium dithionite. But for the indigenous makers of ritual textiles that we work with, this is not an acceptable option: ideally, they want all their materials to have come from the land. Hence participants were sharing and practicing their sugar-and wood-based fermentation processes for reduction.

Several of the communities in eastern Indonesia have been experiencing a lack of indigo. As they have increased their production over time, their tradition of using fresh indigo means they cannot dye after the plant dyes back during the dry season. Learning to use indigo paste (made from indigo leaves and then stored) is a way of extending this dyeing season, though this innovation is only accepted when it can be aligned with the traditional animistic practices associated with the dye work. Two of the workshop participants-from Sumba and Timor-were master dyers whose traditions already employed indigo paste, and so their insights from their practices helped other participants see how this variation could be integrated. The depth of their knowledge and the quality of their dye work was also inspiring to all!

It is also the start of the planting season for indigo again in Timor. And whereas our attempts to facilitate cultivation last year were thwarted by the El Nino-induced drought, we have better hopes for this year and currently have a team working in four villages to initiate some hectare-scale growing. This work-sponsored by the Australian government through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research-aims to create a reliable supply of indigo paste, first for local weavers and then for off-island dyers in Bali and Java.

An initial market for any surplus will be our own studio in Bali. Both for the workshops we are offering next year (see below) and for our own production we are very interested in integrating the fermentation processes we have been studying so that we can offer natural dyes with 100% natural processes.

Batik & Natural Dyes in Bali
with Agus Ismoyo and Nia Fliam

30 January to 10 February 2017
Space limited to 12 participants

We have known Nia and Ismoyo since the 1990s and have always been fans of both their work and the cultural integrity of their practice. Through Ismoyo's family heritage, their creative process draws directly from traditional practices of Javanese batik. Through Nia's educational background they have developed a process for sharing the foundations of this creative practice. 

As Ismoyo says, "Creativity is the source of knowledge." Of all the weavers, dyers and artists we work with, Ismoyo and Nia are the best able to articulate the embodied knowledge they have obtained from their immersion in their tradition and practice.  What is so exciting about having them teach with us in Bali is that their workshop will offer so much to so many: the batik beginner will get patient teaching from master artists in their own language; advanced batik artists will get peer-to-peer technical insights; all will benefit from the Java's traditional insights on the creative process; and all will learn about Indonesia's natural dye processes from our own master dyers, Komang and Wayan, at the Threads of Life dye studio and botanical garden. 

And rather than rushing the whole experience, we have scheduled two weeks for the workshop: five days in the studio, two days off over the weekend (with other options), and five more studio days. 

Participation promises to be truly transformative!

Aboubakar Fofana Indigo Workshops

12-day indigo workshop
27 February to 10 March 2017
Space limited to 8 participants . . . SOLD OUT

4-day indigo workshop
13 to 16 March 2017
Space limited to 10 participants . . . FEW PLACES LEFT

While Aboubakar 's long workshop on the establishing of a traditional Mali indigo fermentation vat sold out within hours of publication, there are still places available for the follow-up 4-day workshop

This second workshop will offer three experiences: first, will be use of the Malian fermentation vat Aboubakar will have spent the previous two weeks tending (the 12-day participants only get this on their last day); second, will be experience of Indonesia's indigo traditions with Komang and Wayan at the Threads of Life dye studio; and third, Aboubakar will teach the use of powdered indigo as a take-home skill. 

For textile artists and fibre arts enthusiasts-be they beginners or advanced in their practice-this short course with a world famous master offers a wonderful upgrade of any participant's natural dye skills.

Best wishes,

W illiam, Jean and everyone 
at Threads of Life and the Bebali Foundation

From our social feeds to yours:

Colors of West Sulawesi 
Ready for another color palette inspiration?  This time we explored the colors of West Sulawesi. Enjoy!

Batik Inspiration from 
Brahma Tirta Sari Studio
Menggapai Langit / Touch the Sky, 2001
165 x 50 cm
batik on silk
collaboration Agus Ismoyo and Nia Fliam
with Youth of Lawu

Bunga II/ Flower II, 1999, 300 x 100 cm
batik on silk
collaboration Agus Ismoyo and Nia Fliam with Utopia Urapuntja

Symbols of Significance II, 2008
235 x 115 cm, batik on silk
collaboration Agus Ismoyo and Nia Fliam
with Ernabella Arts

Umajati Retreat 
"Quiet paradise near Ubud."
--TripAdvisor, 2016

Winner of TripAdvisor's Certificate of Excellence 2016

Surrounded by tranquil rice fields, Umajati is a lush garden property hosting two elegantly converted 100-year-old Javanese teak wooden homes that provide 21st century living in 19th century houses. 

Umajati is just 10 minutes north of Ubud and offers daily, weekly or monthly rentals.
1-bedroom house: USD 190 p/night
2-bedroom house: USD 245 p/night


>> 10% discount for direct bookings: visit