Society Atelier Sarawak is a registered voluntary organization founded in 1985 in Sarawak, Malaysia with three main objectives, which are; to uphold, impart and attain knowledge of Sarawak arts and crafts; to promote cultural exchange of arts and crafts with other countries; and to support research and study into the history and evolution of the culture, arts and crafts of Sarawak.
The activities of the society include periodic discussions, talks by local and visiting artists and experts, exhibitions, arts and crafts workshops and classes, demonstration of arts and crafts techniques and publications on subject falling within its sphere of interest.
Since its formation, Atelier has organized, or assisted in the organization of many exhibitions. These exhibitions have covered works by local artists, ‘pua-kumbu’ weaving, local artifacts, wood carving, beads and beadwork, songket selayah, sculpture, basketry, eco-fiber and natural dye textiles, Sarawak arts and crafts and many more.
A large number of talks and workshops have been organized covering a wide variety of topics including batik painting, jewellery-making, conservation of Chinese paintings, patchwork, puppet making and handmade fiber paper making. Courses have included silk-screen and batik printing, water-colour painting and figure sketching. The Atelier premises, Rumah Masra, has been an ideal venue for such events.
Atelier is very interested in forging links and cooperation other countries in the promotion of arts and crafts and cultural exchanges. Exhibitions by foreign artists, and workshops by these artists have been encouraged, while exhibitions of Malaysian and Sarawakian arts and crafts such as Sarawak Pua weaving in particular have been promoted outside of Sarawak.
The Society has so far published five books: “Pua Kumbu – Iban Textiles of Sarawak”, “Sarawak – A Cultural Legacy”, “Sarawak Style”, and “Tusau Padan – a Retrospective”. It also publishes a quarterly newsletter known as “Atelier News”.
Atelier also administers the World Eco-Fiber and Textile (WEFT) Network and organizes a Bienniel Forum.
The World Ikat textiles Symposium held in December 2017 was the 8th series of the W.E.F.T. FORUM that has been hosted at Kuching, Sarawak by Society Atelier Sarawak since the first Forum was started in September 1999.
Since then, the WEFT Forum has been a biennial event:
2001 (20-22 Sep): Basketry and Natural Dye Workshop.
2003 (19-21 Sep): Hand Painted, Printed and Decorated Textiles
2006 (5-7 May): Textile Traditions Today
2008 (12-14 Sep): Textiles and Fibers – The Untold Stories
2010 (24-26 Sep): Nature’s Color Code
2012 (27 Sep – 1 Oct): ISEND/WEFT- Waste to Wealth
2014 (Event held in Taiwan)
2017 (1-3 Dec): World Ikat Textiles – Ties that Bind
Over 300 delegates from over 20 countries attend these Forums held in Kuching, Sarawak.
WEFT Forum Objectives:
- To promote, share and acquire knowledge on the use of natural fibers and dyes.
- To conserve and encourage the use of natural, sustainable material in the creation of arts and crafts.
- To network amongst natural-material producers and the craftspeople through the establishment of an information database.
- To develop a marketing network e.g. trade in raw materials, dye stuff etc.
- To encourage and coordinate research and study into the traditional use of natural fiber and dyes in all forms of textile weaving, basketry, mat-weaving, plaiting etc.
- To promote the development of World-Eco Fiber and Textile Art.
- To foster cultural exchange through exhibitions, conferences, international visits by the craftspeople for the purpose of study, lectures and workshops.
Society Atelier Sarawak is a member of the Crafts Council of Malaysia, ASEAN Handicraft Promotion and Development Association (AHPADA), World Crafts Council Asia-Pacific, World Crafts Council and has a wide network internationally with UNESCO, Aid to Artisans, ASEAN-JAPAN CENTER, EAST-WEST CENTER, craft organizations, artists, museums and galleries world-wide. It maintains close cross-cultural links with foreign diplomatic embassies and high commissions.
The Patron of the Society was the late Hon. YABhg Datuk Amar Puan Sri Laila Taib, wife of the Chief Minister of Sarawak. A Board of Advisors and Executive Committee elected biennially oversee the smooth running of the Society.
In recognition of its work, Society Atelier Sarawak received the PENYOKONG KRAF NEGARA (Non Governmental Organisation) or NATIONAL CRAFT ORGANISATION award from the Government of Malaysia in 2006.