The Elementals Dinner, April 5 2019

We will let our The Dinner Series curator and host of The Elementals Dinner, Maya Kerthyasa, summarize this magical night:

“When we started The Dinner Series one of the first things we wanted to do was take people back to the Bali we grew up in. So, last night Melati Gaymans and the Elami and Co girls brought Bukit Campuhan and the river Wos to the verandah of my little cottage, my grandmother and I prepared some of our favourite Balinese dishes, Rudi and Bawa from Akademi Bar at Katamama had infused araks and local-ingredient cocktails on the pour, and then we jumped in a time machine, rewound 20 years and watched a frog dance in the garden. My Papa, Tjok Ibah shared some anecdotes about his life growing up and Balinese culture going forward. And in true Bali style, it rained right up until the guests (who were an incredibly special bunch) started arriving at this mostly outdoor event. An especially big thank you to my Niang, Anak Agung Rai, who surprisingly doesn’t have Instagram.”

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Flavours and folklore from the power of the elements

This evening was about tapping in to the many bounties of traditional Bali - the flavours, the sounds and the natural environment. Dinner was prepared by Anak Agung Rai, the 90-year-old mother of Tjokorde Raka Kerthyasa and a former palace cook, with the help of her granddaughter, Maya Kerthyasa.

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The dinner was held at Maya’s private home on the banks of the Wos River in Campuhan.

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We worked with Melati Gaymans to create an incredible ‘edible landscape’ down the center of the table in the shape of the Campuhan Ridge, with the two (male and female) rivers running down each side. If you look closely you can see Pura Gunung Lebah (Campuhan Temple), the old Dutch bridge and the alang alang fields of the ridge. For the rivers we used agar agar, as well as taro leaves for the grasslands of the ridge, and pandanus leaves for the alang alang.

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For place cards, we wrote each guest’s name with rice grains.

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The menus were hand-lettered by Michellina Suminto on recycled paper to form candle holders for the table.

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The food

Anak Agung Rai, or Gung Niang as she’s known around Ubud, cut her teeth in the kitchens of the Puri in the 1940s. She was just a girl when she married Tjokorda Ngurah of Saren Kauh, who taught her much of what she knows about sacred Balinese foods and how to prepare them. Now in her 90s, she continues to cook the way she did in the palace, using wood-fire and completely natural ingredients. “Once you disconnect from nature,” she says, "you lose sense of what truly matters in life.”

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Gung Niang’s cooking is lauded across the island and has been studied by chefs, home-cooks and international television crews, alike. There’s something in the sincerity of her food that reconnects the diner to flavours of a bygone era – Balinese food in its truest form. You can taste the land in the leaves and roots she harvests from her garden, there’s a life-force from the animal she butchered with her own hands, and most importantly, in every knife-stroke, and mouthful – there’s a resounding sense of ritual and purpose.

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The performance

The house that hosted the dinner was once home to Cristina Formaggia, an Italian dancer who mastered Balinese topeng dance. We invited her former group from Pura Desa Batuan to come and perform in the garden by torchlight.

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Watch the video of the night below:

Behind the design: YSEALI Impact XL Bali workshop

We worked with the East West Center to create the visual identity for the March 2019 edition of the YSEALI (Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative) for eco entrepreneurs here in Bali.

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“Impact eXL is an innovative YSEALI Regional Workshop providing professional development to existing entrepreneurs to improve environmental performance and for environmentalists to incorporate entrepreneurship and modern business practices to their activities. This training will introduce attendees to startup incubators in Bali and incorporate sustainable development, innovation, leadership, strategic philanthropy, and other topics to emphasize how entrepreneurs and businesses can improve their environmental performance.”

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For this event, we created a set of icons closely related to Bali and also symbolic of the places and people the participants would be visiting. We created designs for digital flyers, backdrops, standing banners, tote bags, t-shirts, notebooks, folders, and name tags, keeping in mind a strong sense of place and also the age of the attendees (under 30).

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For the name tag design, we were very inspired by the focus on eco-entrepeneurship and environmental values held by the event. We decided to produce the name tag with Green School’s iHub, a green prototyping facility, and one of the host venues for the workshop. We chose bamboo for its sustainable and strong features as we needed to create a tag that would still look after 4 days of wear but was plastic-free.

We hung the tag on natural indigo-dyed organic cotton cloth sourced at Threads of Life. Threads of Life commits to full transparency for planting, harvesting and production, and their cloth was a perfect fit for the lanyards. The lanyards were produced by a local tailor in Ubud to support small local businesses.

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A few minutes of The Creative Refresh experience

The March 2019 itinerary included intimate studio visits, immersive discussions, hands-on workshops, unique culinary experiences and plenty of opportunities to soak in the best of Bali. In short, a behind-the-scenes look at Bali’s fascinating creative ecosystem that not many people get a chance to see.

Under the name The Creative Refresh, we design tailored programs for companies and individuals in the creative fields. We provide two different experiences:

1. Customized whole experiences curated just for you and your team (anything from 5 to 10 days) for employee appreciation programs, team retreats, corporate excursions or team building programs.

2. Three-day workshops for individuals (four times a year)

Learn more at thecreativerefresh.com

Get to know: Janur Yasa on sustainability, food and personal experiences

We talked with Janur Yasa, one of the founders of Moksa, a plant-based restaurant in Ubud, and a Bali native. Janur has worked with Elami and Co. and TEDxUbud from the very early days - the second edition of TEDxUbud! He’s been an inspiration and calming source of support for our team over the years. In the last few years, Janur has been bringing Moksa, his amazing garden to table venue into being.

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What inspired you to build Moksa?

I built Moksa with my business partner, Chef Made Runatha. We were working together at one of the healing centers in Ubud and we often talked about building a restaurant together. I was so interested because I always see Chef Made as a creative and qualified individual. He sees food as a medicine- what we eat is beneficial to our body. This bring us to the 4 principles that we apply in Moksa: learning, earning, sharing, and fun.

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What are the values that form the foundation of the brand?

We have a tagline, “to create a place of awakening the senses” and we want all the guests who eat here to feel this in every way. They see the food presentation, hear the sound of the tempe cracking, touch the crafted cutlery and the texture of the food, smell the cool atmosphere mixed with the kitchen, garden, and food smells, and, lastly, be surprised by the taste. We really want that to lead to a personal experience every time they come here, whether it is the first time, or the second.

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How you get the team to live your values?

My team and I are so close. I often spend my time here at Moksa, working and making new friends. There is trust between us so we respect each other. We share what we learn. We all have to taste our own food so we know what it is and we all can explain it really well. We have the garden and we bring the garden to the table, from table scraps we give back to the garden. The sense of belonging is built in and everyone in the end has each other’s backs because they are disciplined. Disciplines means respecting each other. Fun doesn’t mean ‘airy fairy’, fun is when you are ready to be present, working hand-in-hand, with good communication, that makes it fun.

What kind of events does Moksa support and why?

Always comes back to, ‘does the event support our 4 principles?’. We support Ubud Food Festival, TEDxUbud, and Slow Food events because we are aligned with their values. Especially, what make us sure is the sustainability and waste management policies of the event. We have this huge problem in Bali. Moksa really want to be part of the people who work to protect the environment. So, we want to support events who is in the same vision and mission. TEDxUbud has taught us how a well-organized big event can handle this issue.

Where do you think Moksa is at right now and what is your next project?

I don’t think that our 4 pillars is the destination. It is a process. I would say maybe the 4 pillars is also the parameter, it is day by day journey. Always learning, sharing, earning, and do fun. Like today, I learn from your questions. I never looked at our work in that way before.

We are now in the middle of building a special facility for cooking classes. Also, I started a regular talk and brunch -- which I would like to also make yoga and brunch or other dojo class and brunch. The first one was 8 people but this week it’s already 16 people. So I am really excited. Basically we talked about the history of Balinese temples, the geography, daily culture, the food, and everything related. The other project we have is more learning, more earning, more sharing, and more fun!

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Get to know: Chloe Rose Quinn on traditional Balinese decorations and creativity

We spent an afternoon last week in conversation with Chloe Rose Quinn, the co-founder of Make a Scene!. We talked about her team of super weavers, her thoughts on creative events, and her recently joining the Elami and Co family.

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What is the meaning of Make a Scene! and what led you to join the team?

Make A Scene! is a play on words. I come from a theatrical background where I was trained to make scenes from plays come alive. Here in Bali I want to make scenarios that bring Balinese craft to life.

The most important thing to me about Make A Scene! is that it is a celebration of two very different cultures joining together through creativity.

At Make A Scene!, it’s all about the shared intention of elevating craft. We transform spaces with Art. We don’t want to take anything away from the space, instead we want to engage with it. When we create new designs we want to bring a sense of theatre to a place. When you are around our ‘woven scenes’ you are inescapably in Bali- It’s a celebration of nature, skill and culture.

The team just happened organically. It really was because of the friendliness and openness of Gus Ari and his partner Ciknang. 3 years ago these two friends were the first two craftsmen who re-introduced coconut leaf weaving into Balinese Wedding decorations. They were the pioneers {of the re-green movement} in decoration. Their first experiment was for their friend’s wedding and I recall Gus telling me that they sat and wove for 4 days and nights straight! Everything was made from coconut leaves and it blew the minds of everyone who saw it. The installation received so much attention and luckily for me,I saw a photo on Facebook and that is how I discovered them!

It’s a total partnership between Gus Ari and myself. We have trusted each other from the beginning. I have an initial concept and share it with Gus. If he’s excited by it, then it goes to the rest of the team. Our team is up for any challenge. They are amazing. They never turn away from something unless the restrictions of the leaf deem it truly impossible. I am just so lucky to be a part of such an ambitious group of artists.

Make A Scene! specialises in weaving with one specific leaf- Slepan. We try not to get sidetracked by ‘glossier additions’, westernised luxuries. We recognize that our weaving is beautiful as it is and that we do not need to go in search of ways to elevate what we already have. As long as we stay innovative with our material and keep our very high standards we can continue to be so proud of the Art we offer.

Why do you think collaboration is important?

Collaboration allows you to learn, to be introduced to new ideas and share knowledge. I think sharing makes everybody stronger. In the western world people are very protective and scared of being copied and that is a shame. I prefer to be more open, welcoming a dialogue and feedback. There is a strong sense of being an artist and representing Bali, so why not help each other to bring out the best of Bali together.

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However, sharing and openness can sometimes be a bit tricky and teams can unashamedly copy. At the end of the day we must be happy that people look up to our team as the leaders in this green movement. It pushes us to be at the top of our game. Other teams across Bali are becoming really skilled weavers now and so we cannot ever become complacent, we’ve got to keep moving forward and excite -Innovate.

According to you, what is a creative event?

An event that inspires people, opens their eyes to different areas of creativity, and makes them want to tell others about their experiences. For example TEDx - it’s people sharing a space, that gives them new information, there is art, different foods – they leave needing to process what they have experienced. The effect might not be obvious straight away but I think the right creative event can inspire the soul.

Why do you think joining Elami will bring good things to Make a Scene?

Elami are all about ‘The Best of Bali’. Everything is so carefully sourced, hand-selected and really carefully curated-. Their events are delivered sensitively and in a conscious way. Elami will enable us to continue proudly representing Bali to a wider audience . Elami is ‘from Bali’ and ‘for Bali’. They are fully engaged in the Balinese culture, landscape and sense of place- as non-western as possible! We at MAS! want to be part of that.

Tell us 3 words that spark creativity

Joy : You have to have joy in what you’re doing.

Commitment: You have to commit because sometimes you have to fight for something you create, and argue for it, and push it. Good things don’t come easily.

And possibility! ‘A child would say. ‘I want to be a princess in the day time and hairdresser in the night time and a vet on Sundays. ‘Anything is possible!’

I guess I haven’t let go of my inner child as I wanted to be a creative and to live in Bali one day and look where I am now- actually living my dream!

The most important word for me is the commitment. I think you can have possibilities and be joyful but if you don’t have the drive or the correct tools to get the job done, your ideas will just remain in your head.

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The Indigo Dinner, December 15 2018

There’s a seat with your name on it.

The Dinner Series is about connection and immersion. We’re inviting our most creative friends on a string of dining journeys which shine the spotlight on Bali’s innovative flair.

Each meal, setting and decoration has a story of its own. Every evening takes a surprise turn. We want you to talk, learn and share—but most of all, we just want you to have a good time.

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The Indigo Dinner: Honouring and preserving an ancient art form

Our second Dinner Series event took us into Threads of Life’s natural plant-dye studio for a sensory exploration of all things indigo. Chef Fernando de Souza from Mana Uluwatu designed a vibrant menu with a nod to the various cultures that work with this wonder-plant.

There were big flavours, great conversation and, yes, lots and lots of indigo.

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Our collaborators

Threads of Life

For over 17 years, Threads of Life has worked to conserve the precious basket and textile arts of Indonesia by commissioning local weavers. Founders William Ingram, I Made Pung and Jean Howe work with over 1,000 women on 11 islands across the archipelago. They help them to manage their resources, form local coops, recover and preserve the skills of their ancestors and work in fair environments. Their Ubud Gallery offers a deeply educational insight into Indonesia’s myriad textile traditions. At their studio in Petulu, they take the learning experience even further, through immersive workshops spanning batik, dyeing and weaving using all-natural fibres and dyes.

Mana Uluwatu

The latest venture from Drifter’s Tim and Seewah Russo, Mana is just the kind of sharp, thoughtful restaurant the Bukit has been waiting for. The kitchen, headed by Fernando De Souza, draws from the various cuisines of Asia and South America. The result was a menu that’s equal parts fresh, soulful, and sophisticated, with a healthy dose of laid-backness thrown in for good measure. De Souza has a stellar repertoire, having cooked aside the likes of Jean-Georges at New York’s Perry Street and Bali’s own Agung Nugroho At Chandi, Fat Gajah and Arang Sate Bar. For The Indigo Dinner, he touched on the flavours of India, Japan, Indonesia and Peru.

We created table settings featuring indigo dyed threads, handspun cotton from Java, indigo placemats created by Threads of Life, hand-painted place settings, and traditional clay dye pots, all under a canopy of indgo-dyed cloth. The menus were hand-lettered and then screen-printed onto cloth.

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Jasmine Okubo performed and held the audience spellbound as she danced a specially created piece inspired by the human-nature connection.

The Dinner Series is co-curated with Maya Kerthyasa.

A compendium of creativity

We are forever intrigued by the questions surrounding creativity: where does creativity come from? Can we grow our creativity? Can creativity be measured? Is everyone born creative? What happens when you run out of creativity? What role does creativity play in the workplace? (What are other words we can use instead of creativity? 😝)

Below are some great articles, resources or sometimes just thoughts and quotes we’ve come across over our years of creativity chasing. We will be adding to this list as we come across new musings and analysis.

From a George Monbiot essay:

“In her famous essay the Ecology of Imagination in Childhood, Edith Cobb proposed that contact with nature stimulates creativity. Reviewing the biographies of 300 "geniuses", she exposed a common theme: intense experiences of the natural world in the middle age of childhood (between five and 12). Animals and plants, she contended, are among "the figures of speech in the rhetoric of play … which the genius in particular of later life seems to recall".

Studies in several nations show that children's games are more creative in green places than in concrete playgrounds. Natural spaces encourage fantasy and roleplay, reasoning and observation. The social standing of children there depends less on physical dominance, more on inventiveness and language skills. Perhaps forcing children to study so much, rather than running wild in the woods and fields, is counter-productive.”

Social media has colonized what was once a sacred space occupied by emptiness: the space reserved for thought and creativity. — Mahershala Ali

Hurry Slowly Podcast

An incredible set of topics that all link back to creativity and creation.

For example, “Philosopher Renata Salecl on how choice anxiety damages our creativity and why we need to embrace the idea of chance.”

Your brain on crafting

“Crafting is also unique, Levisay says, in its ability to involve many different areas of your brain. It can work your memory and attention span while involving your visuospatial processing, creative side and problem-solving abilities.

Scientists are beginning to study leisure activities' impact on the brain. Playing games, reading books and crafting could reduce your chances of developing mild cognitive impairment by 30% to 50%, according to a 2011 study published in The Journal of Neuropsychiatry.”

Creativity is a wild mind and a disciplined eye  — Dorothy Parker

The most in demand skill of 2019: creativity

This is the first year that creativity made it onto LinkedIn’s list and Paul Petrone, editor of LinkedIn Learning, says that this year’s list reflects a change in employers’ priorities.

“Interestingly, the newcomers to our list were uniquely human traits,” Petrone told CNBC Make It via email. “Employers recognize the importance of embracing modern technologies as well as recognizing those things technology can’t do: connect with other people, engage in out-of-the-box thinking and quickly adapt to new priorities or problems.”

A gathering in honor of the Creative Economy

Bali recently hosted the first World Conference on Creative Economy, where policy makers, industry leaders and creatives came together to share experiences and ideas from around the globe. At Elami we tend to be immersed in the world of practitioners, so it was an eye-opener to listen to discussions of our industry by high level government and private sector superstars like Grab and Bukalapak.

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The theme was one of the best we’ve seen in ages- Inclusively Creative. A perfect description of the event in terms of bringing together different sectors and an inspiring call to action. Standout speakers included architect turned West Java Governor Ridwan Kamil (who left us wishing we could clone him to develop Bali’s creative scene), filmmaker Lisa Russell, and Mileva Stupar of the Audiovisual Institute of France.

The conference also created an exhibition area where we spotted Make a Scene!’s gorgeous hand-woven life sized tree draped in beautiful indigo creations by local fashion designers.

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The Danish Embassy came armed with the power of Lego and we spent time creating some (interpretative) Lego ducks before heading off to see the Grab installation of painted helmets, a collaboration between the transport company and local artists.

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Looking forward to attending more events like this and watching Indonesia’s creative economy grow and develop in the years to come.

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An excursion to ART BALI 2018

Congratulations to ART BALI on their first art exhibition at AB • BC building, Nusa Dua. The event was held with the support of the Indonesian Agency for Creative Economy (BEKRAF) from 9 October to 9 November 2018. We closed the office one Friday and headed all the way to the end of Bali to explore the exhibition with a few of our friends.

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During the exhibition period, ART BALI offered a regular tour, with curators Rifky Effendy and Ignatia Nilu. We took the opportunity to join their final curatorial tour. The curators told us they picked the “Beyond The Myth” theme to explore phenomena and perspectives behind the socio-cultural framework of the artists’ empirical experiences and discourse in Bali and Java.

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The political is never far behind when we shine the light on the socio-cultural values of Indonesia so it was not surprising to see so many intense and relevant pieces. For example, Wayan Upadana created a poignant piece on the fantasies surrounding tourism and harmony here in Bali through miniature figures half- drowning under the waves of Bali’s sea. This was a firm favorite of everyone in our group.

The work from Syagini Ratna Wulan, featuring Bandu Darmawan, focused on the rise of hashtags in the public agenda. Jompet Kuswidananto’s installation took the form of a tent filled with chandeliers, in a reference to the stealing of curtains from the houses of colonial officers so that the villagers in Madiun in late 19th century could peek and see what the residents did, especially at night. According to work’s description, the chandeliers represented a looting of knowledge and culture, thus setting this foreign knowledge free.

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In the past 2 years, there has been a mushrooming of creative platforms (such as studios, collectives, and galleries) and events (exhibitions, discussions, artist talks, workshops) in Bali. ART BALI contributes to this movement and has been met with great excitement by all in the creative community. ART BALI will be held annually and we’re looking forward to seeing how the artists continue to explore the cultural-social-political situation, and reflect it through their own visual language.

As Nina Simone said, “An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.”

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The Origins Dinner, October 14 2018

There’s a seat with your name on it.

The Dinner Series is about connection and immersion. We’re inviting our most creative friends on a string of dining journeys which shine the spotlight on Bali’s innovative flair.

Each meal, setting and decoration has a story of its own. Every evening takes a surprise turn. We want you to talk, learn and share—but most of all, we just want you to have a good time.

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Our very first Dinner: The Origins Dinner

We wanted to celebrate thoughtful ingenuity. The people and businesses who are taking sustainable practices seriously and transforming them into something beautiful.

The stars of this evening were Wayan Kresna Yasa, executive chef of Kaum and Ijen, Potato Head Family and Elora Hardy, founder and director of IBUKU.

Both Potato Head Family and IBUKU are strongly committed to working with, not against, the precious environments from which their businesses have blossomed. Elora has been instrumental in the growth of Bali’s ever-popular bamboo architecture. Her otherworldly designs have taken the architectural world by storm, proving to the skeptics that eco-friendly building doesn’t have to compromise on style.

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Potato Head Family incorporates sustainability into many facets of its operations – from the materials of its buildings, to the stages and art installations at its events and, now, the food at its restaurants. At Chef Wayan’s latest venture, Ijen, not a single piece of waste goes to landfill. His flagship restaurant Kaum, too, draws on traditional Indonesian cooking techniques that leave a minimal footprint on the planet.

Our inaugural Dinner Series event brought these two pioneers together under one roof – the spectacular leaf-shaped roof of IBUKU’s new Eclipse House, to be specific, where Wayan serving a host of his planet-friendly dishes, hand-picked from the menus of Kaum and Ijen.

In honor of the theme of sustainability and returning to our roots, we created table settings using traditional Balinese dulang trays sitting on hand-woven mats, naturally dyed napkins (with turmeric and onion skins), local centerpiece arrangements (starfruit, marigolds, banana stems, and torch ginger flowers) and served Isola wines produced here in Bali.

Krisna Floop serenaded us as the sun went down with his beautiful guitar playing. We enjoyed an evening of amazing conversation and hopefully generated lasting connections between the 15 guests! And there’s much more in the pipeline, but we won’t spoil all the fun – see you at the dinner table.

The Dinner Series is co-curated with Maya Kerthyasa.

Introducing: The Creative Refresh

After four years of planning and dreaming, we are ready to launch our newest creation: The Creative Refresh!

What is it? 

Bespoke experiences for creatives, inspired by Bali.

We design tailored programs for companies and individuals in the creative fields. We focus on two different experiences:

1. Customized whole experiences curated just for you and your team (anything from 5 to 10 days).
Request a group proposal here.

OR

2. Three-day workshops for individuals (four times a year).

The whole experience is curated for you — all you need to do is turn up.

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We're calling all creators – from the writers to the designers, makers, entrepreneurs and everyone in between. If you make a living from your creativity, or the creativity of your team, it’s time to press pause, hit refresh and replenish your innovative drive. 

The Creative Refresh program offers your team an opportunity to relax, connect and grow. We house you in boutique accommodation, introduce you to local creative stars, feed you well (and often), and curate off-the-beaten-track activities based on your wants and needs.

Your itinerary might include anything from intimate studio visits to immersive discussions, hands-on workshops, unique culinary experiences and plenty of opportunities to put your feet up. In short, you’ll get a behind-the-scenes look at Bali’s fascinating creative ecosystem, with the goal of bringing your team some fresh inspirational juice.

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Why Bali? 

Bali is like a magnet for creativity. The local culture is known around the world for its rich artistry, striking performances and craftsmanship.

You’ll notice subtle beauty almost everywhere — from the way an offering sits in a doorway to the gentle hum of giant kites in the windy season — which is why free-thinkers from all corners of the globe flock here for inspiration.

The expatriate community also contributes to the island’s creative bravado. Together with local inventors, they’ve helped spread Bali’s ingenuity all over the world, through products and businesses such as Green School, Gaya Ceramics, and Threads of Life. We’ll take you into the workspaces of these companies, and many more, to show you how the creative process flows, island-style.

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Behind the Design: DUMBO Launch Invitations

When we started to work on DUMBO's branding we were spoiled for choice. Jono had a huge range of influences and many sources of inspiration for us to explore, including our personal favorite- his hand-illustrated notebooks chronicling every thought he had during the creation of the space, menu and feel of DUMBO.  It was an incredible period of growth and experimentation as we crafted DUMBO's visual identity. 

When it came time to create the invitation for the grand launch event, we wanted to create something special for each invitee, something physical they could keep if they wanted, hand delivered to their home or place of business. 

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The striped element was taken from the main menu design with foil accents and metallic strips to seal each envelope. 

Inside each envelope was a simple invitation with Jono's signature playful copy and a customized name badge for each invitee and another slightly smaller badge for their plus ones. The badge design incorporated 80s design elements with neon accents and a custom bubble font. The idea of the name badges were a nod to the name badges worn by wait staff at DUMBO. 

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The inside of the envelope and the back of the invitation featured the visage of the timeless Sophia Loren. At the very beginning of the design process, Jono mentioned he wanted to see this Italian icon make an appearance. Originally we created a series of physical collages using the gelatin printing process and classic black and white Sophia photos. These collages were then digitalized, enlarged and became part of the bathroom design at DUMBO. 

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When it came time for the invitation design, we couldn't resist incorporating some of this artwork. 

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Get to know: Jean Howe discusses material culture, sustainable design and workshops

Threads of Life has been our client for nearly 5 years. We've had the privilege of working with them to tell their story and the stories of the communities they work with, online and offline. We sat down with co-founder Jean Howe for a short interview about their work in sustaining the textile arts of Indonesia, impact and sharing knowledge. 

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What inspires you and your work?

The team. They’re passionate, committed, lots of fun, so it’s a great place to come into every morning. I love the puzzle of working with traditional communities. So many factors continue to change for them; there are environmental, institutional and other impacts—some positive and some not. But the passion of our partner communities to continue their culture and create textiles that represent their culture is strong. I feel excited about trying to figure out how to keep all of that working.

What was your vision when you first co-founded Threads of Life?

These cultural objects represent far more than just material things. In the 90s, when we saw these amazing artifacts, it was evidence of a material culture.  They are just so beautiful. We kept asking ourselves, “How can these textiles remain important to the community and how can they generate income?”

That’s where Threads of Life came in- we thought there had to be a high-end market for these textiles. It was about wanting to re-inspire community to keep making these important cultural artifacts, at a standard of the highest quality rather than dropping down to the lowest quality, and having a market that would continually support that. Over time, that absolutely happened. The sense of pride about these incredibly beautiful textiles was really reinvigorated, and today there is a good market for these products.  People value them and they value the story; without telling the story to the market about these communities, they are only still simply material goods. With the story, the textiles begin to have value to the buyers.

Why do you think gathering people and community together is important for Threads of Life? Not only in terms of events for the weaving communities, but also weavers and textile artists from around the world.

There was a time when the weaving communities were so remote. There was nobody that was representing them or paying any attention to them. In that time period, bringing local communities together was super important. And it made them feel not alone- that the same values and concerns they had in their community, other communities in totally different areas shared as well. Now there is a lot of infrastructure, a lot of push by the government to support intangible and tangible culture as they call it.  Central government even has a creative economy department which is bringing these weavers and materials to Jakarta and creating a bigger marketplace. This type of marketplace definitely separates the goods from culture though. It's become a kind of fashion statement. But the interest in culture is there as well, which is great.  

We've been doing workshops and bringing other people here to our dye studio who want to learn about these kinds of techniques- the dye process, weaving, batik, etc.  I think the most important part is that participants are taught by the local people. They aren't being taught by ‘the western expert’ but are instead with the local, very humble people, who know deeply what they are doing. These workshops are a lot of fun. Teaching styles are quite different from westerners, who teach from A to Z,  but by developing other media we are trying to fill that side in for participants, so they can experience being taught more organically, rather than in an intellectual way. But for us, we believe it’s really important to let the teachers from these cultures lead the process.

What does sustainable design mean to you?

Sustainable design means having the awareness that things are constantly changing.  If you think sustainable is getting from A to B, you’ll find that by the time you get to B, factors have changed and nothing is sustainable anymore. You have to be able to shift again. It’s about having personal and business values about societies, culture, environment, livelihood, and continually re-examining these values. Be willing to keep shifting with the impacts that are coming at you and the community—whether that is a drought, climate change, government change etc. It’s about how do you respond to those changes, but still hold your values, allowing the values to be ‘massaged’ into something else while being realistic.

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What does sustainability in event design mean to us?

One day we were caught up by the thought of what do events mean to us? Why are we creating events and focused on doing it sustainably? If you read through the ‘our story’ section on Elami website, you will know that we never set out to start a business. We simply started collaborating while producing TEDx events for our mutual love of “ideas worth spreading”. Basically, we love to make things happen and to welcome attendees as part of an extended family coming from backgrounds; these aspects of events allow us to see the world and learn in different ways.

Photo by Krisna Dewa Putra at TEDxUbud

Photo by Krisna Dewa Putra at TEDxUbud

Every year, we build experiences for people who love to connect through TEDxUbud; we create smaller events like a fundraiser for Begawan Foundation and their work saving the almost extinct Bali Starlings; working with Threads of Life to help Indonesia’s traditional weavers and their cultural wisdom be preserved and promoted; and supporting IBUKU Architecture to elevate their profile and talking about the issues around bamboo, sustainability and environmental impact in Bali.

The core of what we do is sustainable event management. We always work with reusable or recyclable materials to reduce our event waste and the impact of single-use plastic. That is why it has been always an honor for Elami and Co. to work with people who care about sustainability as well. The more we work on it, the more we learn and can help spread the message to our wider audience.

When one of our friends asks why Elami and Co values environmental sustainability, the answer is simple- there is no need for more waste on this island if it can be avoided.  For us, living in Ubud is helpful as so many people and organizations based here support this mission and collaborate on building better lives through ‘acts of going green’.

Photo by Krisna Dewa Putra at TEDxUbud

Photo by Krisna Dewa Putra at TEDxUbud

Speaking about sustainable event management is also to speak about economic and social issues. From site selection, source of supplies and services, to working with the people who live around the venue, thinking of the community and natural impact, these are parts of the whole cycle of sustainable event design.

In the end, we want to make sure these extraordinary experiences continue to be felt and shared during and after every one of our events.

Words by Ajeng Anggrahita. 

Behind the Design: Attendee gift bags for TEDxUbud

Our attendee gift bags are one of our favorite things to put together for our guests. When we start the process of thinking about what we want to give our attendees we want to make it as practical, beautiful and durable as possible. The last thing we want is for the attendee to get home after the event and throw everything into the trash.  

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Starting with the bag itself, we ensure it's something people will want to use again and again. Some of our 'frequent flyer' attendees still use all their editions on a weekly basis. This year we created a backpack style, perfect for both men and women and for people on motorbikes every day. We also design the bag itself to have minimal branding; no one wants to be a walking billboard. 

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Then we turn our attention to curating the contents of the bag. Everything is chosen to be useful at the event itself or to be something the attendees can use at home to remember the day by. We are very lucky to be in Bali- home to some of the world's most talented artisans and creators. 

This year we had a mixed nut and dried fruit snack by Bali Buda, a health food institution in Bali; Utama Spice's all natural and highly effective bug spray for dusk; Krakakoa's amazing Indonesian sustainably grown and fair trade chocolate; a beautiful bangle by Aum Rudraksha; a traditional Indonesian ikat sachet of cloves and screen printed bookmark with a prayer of creation by Threads of Life; and a set of wooden reusable cutlery to use at the event and then during ongoing travels. 

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We chose to create a set of cutlery because while we could buy bamboo disposable cutlery for the event, we thought it would be a good way to also remind attendees of their impact on the environment and the role 'single use' anything plays in that. 

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Why our team takes time off for 'Creative Day'

As a team, we take a day off each month to go on a creativity refresh adventure we call Creative Day. We've been to local museums, learned how to throw a bowl in a local ceramics studio, explored the process of printing with gelatin and more. Each time we've explored something none of us is particularly good at. The benefits of getting off our computers and up close with real materials is priceless. 

Sometimes our Creative Days have led to us adopting some of the skills learned into our work. 

Our limited edition Elami and Co mugs created with Sari Api Ceramics. 

Our limited edition Elami and Co mugs created with Sari Api Ceramics. 

Tests for a collage requested by a client featuring Sophia Loren and gelli prints. 

Tests for a collage requested by a client featuring Sophia Loren and gelli prints. 

Our most recent Creative Day had us diving into the world of skills surrounding Balinese offering making with the team from Make a Scene Bali, also behind the TEDxUbud stage design this year. 

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Instead of making offerings we created some wild and wonderful flower crowns. 

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For an interview with Chloe, the creative force behind Make a Scene, head over to  Make A Place

Get to know: Jono Russell discusses vinyl love and earth friendly food

We've had the pleasure of working with Jono to launch his brand new baby- a bouncing two-level modern Italian restaurant called DUMBO in Ubud, Bali. We'd love to introduce you to this DJ turned restauranteur. 

Photo by Arley Mardo for TEDxubud

Photo by Arley Mardo for TEDxubud

What was your vision in building these 3 restaurants in Bali?

The underlying brands or concept between all three of them (The Elephant, Green Ginger Noodle House and DUMBO) is called 'earth-friendly food'. And the meaning of that is that we try and create good food for people that is good for the body and spirit, but also good for the environment. As good as we can be. So we try to reduce our environmental impact through the production- whether making sure that the restaurant uses the right ingredients (local, organic), to recycling and composting, and not using disposable packaging. People come for holidays in Bali, they look at the garbage problem and think it's terrible, but they don't actually take responsibility for their own garbage. They are on holiday and creating garbage, but out of sight, out of mind. We want to make sure at least we are trying to take care of that and be responsible when serving people.

These 3 restaurants, do they share special characteristics?

The main characteristic of these 3 restaurants is that they are all vegetarian because that's my professional preference and my professional philosophy, but also because it’s more environmentally and ecologically sustainable. Vegetarian food is more efficient and less carbon intense, so in the future the planet is going to need more people who eat vegetarian food. There are more vegetarian and vegan people already and we want to make it easier to change by making delicious vegetarian food easily available. Some people in the past had the perception that vegetarian is boring- too healthy, not crunchy, not salty, not delicious. We try to change that perception and also targeted this niche in the market, for people who want to eat responsibly.

You have a background as DJ. Does that affect the mood of the restaurants?

Yes, for 20 years. I DJ'd in Sydney, and then Byron Bay and then Bali. But I used to travel a little bit, I wasn’t an international DJ going around the world, but I played in Tokyo, in Italy or in London. I just had records and traveled. Then I moved to Bali and I was DJing at Kudeta, Potato Head, anywhere that was cool.

We have a pretty good reputation for good music in the restaurant.  If we didn’t then I would be embarrassed. It bothers me at the moment.  I don't like using streaming services because I really like to curate music- every song that gets played on the playlist at The Elephant and Green Ginger and DUMBO, I have picked personally. So in a month, there are 31 playlists that never sound the same. There are maybe some songs repeated, but the playlist is different every day and it changes from morning to middle of the day, through to the night, when it takes on a different energy, different vibe.

In DUMBO at the moment,  we are going for more a mixture of funk and hiphop and electronic music. At The Elephant and Green Ginger, it is a very eclectic mix. We have 80s music, we have some classical music, we have dub and reggae, and pop and folk. It is really eclectic but all carefully chosen to suit the mood in terms of time of day. 

Are you still actively DJing?

Only here at DUMBO. I appear as my alter ego DJ Rocco Stromboli. At DUMBO, we also do Aperitivo hour every Friday afternoon. I'm looking forward to curating a vinyl listening night once a month with some other vinyl junkies.


What's your sound system like at DUMBO?

There are 3 components of our sound system—a really old 45 year old amplifier and tuner and the turntable, which is actually from 2017. It’s new but nothing changes in the technology really. It’s still just playing records. Behind the bar, we have two speakers from the 80s. It’s not the greatest sound you’re going to get. They are not high quality, but it’s definitely enough for this space. I don’t think you’re going have audiophiles coming and going “wow”.  We’re going to make a queuing system, where people will come and put the record aside—like a jukebox playlist sort of thing.

Photo by arley mardo for TEDxUBud

Photo by arley mardo for TEDxUBud

Inspiration: Pop up dance performances in Ubud market

In late April, we caught a glimpse of an upcoming Ubud dance event across our Instagram feed, not necessarily an unusual occurrence for Ubud. But in this case, how the organizers described the event caught our eye and we headed to the market on a Sunday to see what was happening. With seven 'stages' in total, in various parts of the market that would never be considered as suitable for a dance performance, the dances were progressive.

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As one finished, the next began without any warning or fanfare, dancers often just appearing from within the crowd and melting back into it when they finished. Some dances were performed entirely in silence.  Eight dance groups participated in the event, organized by Karang Taruna Sadha Jaya of Ubud. 

The market sellers and tourists paused their activities, often looking slightly perplexed. Motorbikes navigated to avoid collecting dancers. 

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Jasmine Okubo brought her beautiful contemporary dance to the stairs of the market, followed by her little noodle bowl attendees and the bakso seller. To see more of Jasmine, watch her gorgeous 2017 TEDxUbud performance

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We all moved into Puri Saren, led by the dancers. After a few minutes wait and wondering if the event had ended as suddenly and quietly as it began, all the groups came together to perform the last piece, dancing on every surface of the Puri. 

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On the main stage, a completely conventional legong performance with a full gamelan took place, holding every tourist's eye.

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But as you looked around, you realized the legong dance was being performed in three other places, by dancers dressed in old-fashioned costumes.  Often the dancers were dancing without an audience as only the performers on center stage captured the tourists' attention. 

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Behind the Design: Lighting the way

In our quest to reduce waste in our events, we no longer print our speaker biographies to give to TEDxUbud attendees as we found too often that people were just throwing printed material away.

This year we designed and built our own blocks wrapped in printed cloth which doubled as lanterns after dark, helping attendees to navigate the space. 

We also included some of the optical illusions that originally inspired us and the logos of the sponsors who helped make this event possible. 

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A waste report for TEDxUbud 2018

We've always worked with Eco Bali Recycling to manage our waste from TEDxUbud and make a strong commitment to reducing use of plastic and single-use items. However, this year was special as Eco Bali co-founder Paola Cannucciari helped us to plan a more assertive waste sorting system for attendees.

For the first time, we had an organic and food waste bin and a goal to divert as much trash as possible into recycling and compost instead of adding to Bali's horrible landfill problem. 

Paola and her team took all our waste away after the event and promised to send us a full report after they sorted and weighed the waste. True to her word, we received some great data back from the team and a renewed commitment to beating the benchmarks set this year in the future. 

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Over a period of 7 hours, 650 people produced over 400 kilograms of waste! Over 85% of that was recycled or composted by the Eco Bali team.  It was also very encouraging to see plastic only made up 2.6% of the total waste generated. 

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