My Thetis Blacker Travel Award

Firebird with Parang tongues of fire, batik on cotton by artist Marina Elphick.
Firebird with Parang tongues of fire and Ceplok design, batik on cotton by UK batik artist Marina Elphick.

In March 2013 I was lucky enough to win a travel award to study batik in Indonesia.

The Thetis Blacker Temenos scholarship is offered biannually by The Temeonos Academy, via The Batik Guild, to a someone wishing to study / research batik.

    I was absolutely stunned and amazed when I read the email saying I had won the third Thetis Blacker Temenos Batik Scholarship !  It took a while to sink in.
    February was a very bad time for me and my family, I lost my sister to cancer a week after hearing the news, so initially it only found a place in the back of my mind; admittedly it gave me occasional distraction and some comfort. It took time but eventually I felt more able to think about it as a wonderful opportunity and started making plans for my “once in a lifetime” trip.
   I planned and booked it last September on my iPad, travelling to Java and Bali in November to study traditional and contemporary batik. I wanted to explore the direction that Indonesian batik is now taking and look at how traditional designs and motifs have prevailed and influenced contemporary batik.
I visited Museums, workshops, studios and galleries, where I recorded and photograph traditional and current day batik. To make this possible I pre booked an English speaking guide and driver to take me to all the places I’d researched. I arranged to visit the renowned Contemporary Batik artist couple, Agus Ismoyo and Nia Fliam to see and discuss their work; to visit traditional crafts people at work in village workshops near Yogyakarta and visit ” Threads of Life “, a charity set up by the Englishman William Ingram in Bali, to support Indonesia’s weavers and batikers sustain their culture, restore pride in traditional skills and empower women.
I had a wonderful trip and such an adventure! It was an all consuming batik experience and turned out better and more rewarding than my expectations. I found out so much about batik and all it’s different styles and motifs, which fulfilled the traditional area of study I had planned. More importantly I met numerous contemporary batik artists and recorded them while working on different stages of their batiks. It was quite a unique opportunity to discuss techniques and methods as well as ideas and thoughts on the future of batik. This was all possible due to the generosity of a friend I made in Yogyakarta, Tatang Elmy Wibowo, a contemporary batik artist who took me to visit all the artists he represented in his Tembi Gallery, Leksa Ganesha in the village of Tembi.
I would like to encourage anyone thinking about applying for the next Award to have a go !
In truth, it didn’t occurr to me to apply for the award initially, because I thought it was aimed at academics or well travelled, knowledgeable people. It was only after my fantastic 50th Birthday trip to Bali last year, with the persuasion & support of my husband, children and friends, that I decided to try.
I don’t particularly think that an applicant needs to be any of the above necessarily, however I know from feedback that it is very important to have a clear and detailed proposal. You need to write a small paragraph about your background then an outline of the project and plan of work to be undertaken. It will involve a bit of time and research but be as specific as possible with the dates and itinerary. It is expected that you give a full, itemised list of expenses, covering everything from admin ( visas, local taxes, museum tickets ) to travel ( flights, drivers, guide/ translator ) also medical
( immunisations ) equipment ( dyes, wax etc.) and living allowance ( Bed & breakfast + food and water ). Be realistic with this, it will show that you have done your homework !
The application form welcomes photos of work, references or contacts. Don’t be put off by any of this, the internet opens up the possibility of making contacts and finding all sorts of references. I did most of my research on my iPad and booked the whole trip using modern technology !
The whole experience of applying for and planning this journey was very uplifting and empowering, it gave me confidence I never thought I had and was a very inspiring and enlightening expedition, giving me new ideas and a more solid appreciation of batik.
2015 applicants should apply by 31st January at

One thought on “My Thetis Blacker Travel Award

  1. Hi Marina! I’ve just explored this amazing site to find out about your travels. It is briliant that you’ve captured so much of what you’ve learned about different techniques, artworks and the way of life and work in Indonesia. I can’t wait to see how you reflect this in your own work. (You’re also a great photographer by the way – so maybe a photographic exhibition at some point?). Congratulations not only on winning the scholarship but disseminating your findings in such an accessible way.


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