Time-honoured techniques and rich visual storytelling form the core of new Batik (traditional painting and dyeing) classes at Avana Retreat, a Vietnamese resort set amid the homelands of the Hmong community. Led by a local Hmong artist, the complimentary and deeper-dive paid options are held at the property’s Stilt House, an on-site museum, to help guests connect with the local customs and traditions.
The same visual designer whose work graces the resort’s suites will lead sessions that introduce a beeswax art and indigo dyeing technique that has been used for generations in the surrounding highlands. Complimentary 60-minute sessions are held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday with guests learning about the beeswax painting process. Each participant, under the guidance of the teacher, will use beeswax to create their own unique patterns or they can use traditional Hmong designs on a 30 x 30cm cotton cloth.
The paid 2-2.5 hour class is a deeper and more hands-on experience that is available by reservation-only. It’s a more comprehensive introduction to the history, the patterns, the tools, and the technique. In addition, guests usher their work through each step of the process, from melting the beeswax to creating the patterns on the cloth, to learning how to use the indigo dye and dyeing the fabric themselves. Each participant keeps the 45 x 45cm cloth that is created.
The location of the classes also inspires cultural exploration. The 50-year-old Stilt House, which was standing on the land now occupied by the retreat, was dismantled and rebuilt in a new location on the resort’s grounds. It was then transformed into a museum to introduce the lives, culture and traditions of the local Thai, Muong, and Hmong ethnic groups. Walls and glass cases filled with tools, clothing, art and jewellery, tell the story of the people who live in the region. The Batik session takes place in the airy space beneath the museum.