November 25, 2011

Interview with Assistant curator of Museum Nusantara Louise Rahardjo

by Sabine Bolk
translated & re-written by Yvonne Bolk (thanks a million!)

Louise Rahardjo holding Batik signed by Eliza van Zuylen 
(more about this Batik on the end of this blogpost)

Sabine: Tell me something about yourself, who are you, how old are you?

Louise: My name is Louise Rahardjo. I was born in Leiden in 1986. My mother is Dutch and my father is Indonesian of Chinese origin. In Indonesia he is considered Chinese. I grew up in Delft and the Hague. My parents had an Indonesian restaurant, we were always surrounded by a lot of people from Indonesia there. So I have been in contact with the culture, but we, me and my two brothers and sister, had a Dutch upbringing. That is the atmosphere I grew up in.

Sabine: From which part of Indonesia is your father?

Louise: Central Java, Salatiga, north of the Merapi.

Sabine: Do you speak Indonesian?

Louise: I have become more fluent because I study Indonesian now, but before I could only speak “Pasar Malaysian”: “yes” and “no” and “I would like”.

Sabine: “The food is delicious”.

Louise: Yes, always about the food and everything to do with food.

Sabine: Next question: how do you become a curator? Are you a student?

Louise: Yes, the study was officially called Languages and Cultures of South East Asia and Oceania. It is broader than just Indonesia. They have shortened the name to Languages and Cultures of Indonesia.
I am doing my Master’s now, it is called Indonesian Studies. In it I follow the ASEP track: ASEAN Society, Economics and Politics. ASEAN stand for Associations for Southeast Asian Nations, like a European Union in Asia, but in it’s infancy.

Sabine: Is it in English?

Louise: Yes, the master is in English and if all students speak Indonesian it is in Indonesian, when History and students from Vietnam join us, the classes are in English.

Sabine: What are the subjects?

Louise: During Bachelor you have regular subjects as language and culture, Indonesian and Javanese. In History you learn about re-colonial, colonial and post-colonial history. There is also religion: Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam. Culture and Media shows how it is all woven together in Indonesia, what is censured and what is not. Other subjects are Politics, Law and Government.

Sabine: Are you free to choose a subject, a part of history you are interested in?

Louise: No, not during Bachelor, more so during Masters. A few years ago there were four directions to choose from, due to cutbacks it is linguistic, art-history or economics now. I have chosen economics.

Sabine: Ecomomics? But you are here?

Louise: Yes, but that happened by accident. When we were living in the Hague my parents became friends with our neighbours across the street. The wife was curator of Nusantara. Her daughter (Amy Wassing), who is 10 years my senior, is curator now. She followed the same studies I am doing now. We met by chance in the railway station about a year ago. We were both in a hurry, but had a short conversation. She wanted to cut her hours after having her twins and needed someone to cover for her for one year. After our brief encounter she thought: well, Louise would make a good assistant”. And that is how I got into this.
I am very interested in the cultural historical background of Indonesia, I just think my future lies more in a social economical future. It is more alive, and broader. Especially because I might like to work with Foreign Affairs or United Nations and international relations. So, for my future career my choice of study is better and as you can see this job satisfies my art historical side.

Sabine: In future, would you like to work in the Netherlands or in Indonesia or in a job that would have you travel back and forth?

Louise: It could be both. I would like to work abroad for a few years and here for a few years. It all depends on how my future evolves. I really do like it here in the museum. Before I thought it would be a bit lame and dull, but it is definitely not so. It is a very positive experience, so who knows, I might stay on a bit longer before going abroad (laughing).

Sabine: What does your work as assistant curator encompasses?
Louise: Assisting the curator. In general I just select all emails addressed to the curator. Which ones can I answer which ones not? In general it concerns questions about the collection. “Can we see this or that?” “Can you give more information about this”. There are some objects I can not tell much about, so those questions I forward to the curator. If people request to see objects in our depot, I make an appointment. During the appointment I am always there when objects are looked at, described and photographed. That is one of my jobs. Another job concerns the collection here in the museum itself. At the moment I am working on a textile change. It is cooperation with the curator, but she works from home, so she is far away from the actual collection.
The textile collection will be changed in December, so now I am working with Batiks. Batik Balanda and Chinese Batiks will be next.

Sabine: So they will be replacing the Ikats? Interesting!

Louise: The Ikats have been on display since March and because of the light the fabrics become more fragile. We have made it darker, but they cannot be exposed to light for too long.

Sabine: That is what they told me in the Tropen Museum (Royal Tropical Institute/KIT). They only have 1 or 2 Batiks on display. I was told that you have to replace them every 6 months and then you have to have the manpower to do that.

Louise: That is why I am here. For example the Wayang Willem display case. Before there was one line and I adjusted that and added a second line. Little things like that. The curator doesn’t have the time right now, so it is up to me. I have to say it is very nice and that display case is really part of me.

Sabine: Are you selecting the Batiks as well? Or do you consult with the curator?

Louise: She explained the concept and I am now pre-selecting the Batiks. This one seems good for display, this one we can tell a story about, but with a theme running through the selection. The next step is deciding together how we are going to display them, which ones we really select. I have some influence, but in the end the curator makes the final decision.

Sabine: So she is curator as well as custodian in this museum? She also handles exhibitions and the themes of displays?

Louise: Yes indeed. We do not have room for so many functions.

Sabine: Interesting. So it is an all in one job?

Louise: It is all in one. We are now dependent on the city council. There are plans to become more independent as Heritage Delft. To bring a different structure involving curators and custodians. So it will change, but not for a few years.

"Wayang Willem", on display at Museum Nusantara

Sabine: What is your favourite piece in the collection and would you like to specialise in it? Or are you already specialising?

Louise: At the moment the Wayang Willem case is my favourite, because I have been working on it quite al lot lately. I think it is a nice mix between East and West. They look like traditional dolls, but they are absolutely western. If you look carefully you find Indonesian traits in the dolls. I like that because I have become attached to Delft and its history and William of Orange. Wayang Willem tells his life story. We are right across the Prinsenhof where William of Orange lived and was murdered. The Prinsenhof is also part of Heritage Delft.

I also like the ancestral statuettes and the Krisses and the mysticism behind them. Looking at a Kriss really closely is very exiting.

Sabine: Do you believe they have a soul?

Louise: I do believe there is something. Not from personal experience, but things have happened in my family. For example: in 1991 my father was in hospital the day before my birthday. We visited and stayed for a long time. Coming home we found the house broken into and although the burglar had all the time in the world and it was a very quiet neighbourhood. He didn’t even took the portable phone from the hallway. He never went past the hall cabinet and my father believes it is because he kept a Kriss there. Even the police were puzzled. Usually my father put the Kriss on his side of the bed when he went abroad. It scared my mother, but he did it for her protection. So I do believe in the power, but can’t feel it or prove it.

Chinese cabinet filled with Batiks collected by Louise's mother

Sabine: Do you have Chinese Indonesian Batiks in your collection and are they easier to read or do you prefer them? I have that with Batik Belanda, they pop out, I get them at once.

Louise: I grew up with many regular Javanese Batiks. Yesterday I visited my mother to look at some Batiks. She has a large Chinese cabinet filled with Batiks and it is stuffed with Javanese, Chinese and Indo-European Batiks. When I saw the Javanese I thought regular Batik. But when I saw the Chinese ones from Lasem, the one with the red or the one with a lot of blue, yellow and pink, or the one with a lot of decoration, flowers and motives, I thought, that is my special Batik.

Chinese Batiks from the collection from Louise's mother

Sabine: Will there be new objects added, or is the collection complete?

Louise: Many people contact us with a request to donate. It might sound strange, a request to donate, but our depot is pretty much full and there are strict rules. If you accept something for a museum, you cannot just dispose of it later. We are not allowed to take thing from the depot for auction or to throw out. So before you accept something for the museum, we have to make sure what value it has for the collection and whether it is indeed something special.
We also have to check how many of certain items we already have. If someone offers us spears from a certain island and we already have 20 or 30 of them, we decline. Even when it is an interesting object we have to consider that we have no room in our depot and expanding is costly. Therefore we have to disappoint the donators. That is difficult, they have nice things, but you can’t accept them. Sometimes people offer us mass produced things from after WOII, these can be nice, but aren’t interesting enough for a museum. The fial decision to accept something I leave to the curator. Sometimes I think: interesting and I’m right, but often enough I am wrong.

Sabine: Is this addressed during your studies?

Louise: We do have the classes art and material culture. It gets some mention, but not much. In A different Master study you can learn how to determine whether a Chinese wedding chest is really old or not. How you can tell, for instance by looking at the wood structure, whether the wood has been made to look old or is really old.

Sabine: But you must be developing a eye for it now?

Louise: Yes indeed. Whenever I handle an object now I know sooner.

There is a plan to describe all objects as precise as possible and to make better photographs, but that is for the future. We have hundreds of Batiks here, all documented but not yet photographed.
We are very open and liberal if people have questions about our collection or related subject.

Sabine: I couldn’t agree more!

Louise: One of the first things I asked you was “are there certain Batiks you would like to see, email me”.

Sabine: Indeed, but I don’t know what you have in your collection yet and I intend to come and have a look. I do have a broad interest.
I do want see everthing, but as soon as there are some Batiks on display I will most certainly come see them.

Batik from the collection of Louise's mother

The opening of the textile exhibition with the special Indo-European and Indo-Chinese Batiks is on Saturday 17 december. For more information visit

The Batik Louise Rahardjo is holding in front of her is singed by Eliza van Zuylen (left upper corner). Eliza van Zuylen is one of the most famous Indo-European Batik Belanda makers from Pekalongan.
This particularly Batik was worn by Indo-European women during the wedding ceremony. THis kind of blue & white Batiks were worn by Indo-Chinese women as mourning wear and the deceased was also dressed in blue & white.
Later this tradition was interpreted by Indo-European women. After their marriage they saved the blue & white Batik and wear it during funerals and as mourning wear. They were buried in their blue & white wedding Batik.

Read more about & see more of Museum Nusantara in my previous blogpost "Museum Nusantara in Delft".

November 24, 2011

Making paper look like fabric

Acting a bit top secret about my new work in process, hope to tell you all about it soon. So much is coming together, synchronicity is hitting me in the face all the time. And this makes it difficult to share it, in such a fragile state. What if it doesn’t look the way I planned..sooo for now some synchronicity back in time.

Looking for some old photo’s, I came across work from 2006. Wondering if I’m ever going to make something new..! Haha!
First work I made about making paper look like fabric and visa versa. The drawings are one on one copies of my clothing combined with the real clothing. The working title was Clothes make the woman (naar het Nederlandse gezegde, kleren maken de man).

I had such fun making these pictures. The quality of the photos aren’t that good and I still regret not showing them like little (big) installations. Fortunately my work developed a lot since then, and I think I’m closer to what I really want to make now, and allow myself to make it, then I was then. I was a bit torn between the art institution and my own, yet to develop, path!

I used my bedroom and garden as a studio. Making drawings of my clothing at school & the wallpapers at home on the kitchen table.

Always enjoying and never enjoying the work in process part. The making of is always exiting and also very scary. Normally when I finish a work in my studio, I don’t visit my studio for another three days. I’m never sure about the end result. With temporary installations on location I don’t have this luxury and it helps me to make fast decisions.


Posted this on 21 december 2010 on my virtual residence blog. Putting the last layers of paint on the work I still didn't share fully. Only bits (birds) and pieces (Sunflowers), unfinished details, but not on my blogs.
When I'm finished painting, I have to transfer the painting on to tracing paper and send it by post to Indonesia. Where hopefully the Batik makers in Jeruk will use the design for a Batik.

November 23, 2011

Making fabric look like paper

And making paper look like fabric. Preparing a new work in my mind. Thinking about how clothes are first drawn on paper before cutting the fabric. How Batik patterns are first drawn on paper before transferring it on to the cotton. How to make paper look like fabric in drawings (like the woodcut-prints below) , but at the same time make them look like they feel.

It's typical how Geisha in woodcut-prints always look like they are moving with such ease, the fabrics move smoothly around their bodies. It is actually quite hard to wear a kimono and move with grace. It heavy and the many layers are tightly bound around your body. It's like a corset and you can only make small steps.
Photo from 1890, Women Washing

Found this beautiful website Old Photos of Japan. The photo above shows women washing kimono's. It almost looks like they are applying wallpaper. For me this is very symbolic. I make works on wallpaper, but base the patterns mostly on fabric patterns. I don't use the wallpaper purely as wallpaper, it doesn't have to hang on a wall, it can hang like fabric like strokes. Like in my wallpaper installation The journey of Batik.

When Batik is presented they hang it on these beautiful wooden racks or hang it on the wall. Batik is made to wear, but it's used as decoration, as a piece of Art hanging on the wall, as a tablecloth, bedspread etc. Kimono's are considered as a thing to look at. Rich man use to buy beautiful, detailed made kimono's for their favorite Geisha. Kimono's have always been collected, hanged on a long wooden stick.

One of the reasons I work on paper, and especially wallpaper, is that it isn't bound by the rules of painting. I never framed my work, I'm planning to try it out, but it feels like I'm taking away their freedom. A canvas has to be hang on a wall. Paper can still move. A Batik or a Kimono can be worn, hang on a wall, used as a daily thing, but also be cherished like a piece of Art or collectors item.

Still don't know what I'm going to make, but like the think about paper acting as or being used as fabric, while it's based on fabric and so forth.


Posted this after "Flower of the Sun" in december 2010 on my virtual residence blog.
I did frame one of my works for the exhibition "Paper in progress" (19 february till 27 march 2011 in Den Bosch). The work Bed rest has a really shocking red frame now. It works pretty well. This is a smaller work of mine and with the frame it's already very unhandy. So I think I mostly stick to rolling them papers up.
When I started this residence blog I was still looking for my way to communicate on De reis naar Batik. It became more open and personal after writing for the other blog. I noticed that for myself and my work it's helpful to write these blogposts. I'm thinking a lot about how to continue De reis naar Batik. I'm suppose to turn it more into a kind of research or is it good the way it is? Will a structure get formed on it's own? Maybe I need to make a new book? I don't know yet. But first I have to finish this work!

November 22, 2011

Flower of the Sun

End of Summer 2010

The Sunflower is maybe the most used symbol for the Sun & also a symbol that everyone understands. For Dutch people the Sunflower represent the Sunflower fields in France and therefor their holiday full of Sun in France.

Vincent van Gogh made his Sunflower paintings while waiting for Gauguins arrival. He used them to brighten up the yellow house. Vincent was drawn towards the Sunlight and followed it to France. In many of his letters, he writes about the beautiful yellow aura the Sun creates around objects and how he tries to catch the light in his paintings. In his Sunflower paintings the Sun shines in the oils. It's bright and you almost feel the warmth coming towards you.

"Fifteen minutes of freedom" watercolour on paper, 2006

When I had a home with a garden, I always planted Sunflowers. You always want to have the biggest in your neighborhood and when the summer ends the dying Sunflowers bring life in your garden with a lot of different birds. I made one painting with Sunflowers in it called "Fifteen Minutes Of Freedom". My bird Batik was just living with me and escaped several times. The first time he escaped, he escaped for a total of 15 minutes and ended up balancing on the blinds. This image of his short freedom was so sad and I made this watercolour about it.

"Sunflower on the broken stone ground", Natural-dyed batik by Batik women of Jeruk (Lasem)

I remember sitting next to Koen in the car and seeing this big pile of dirt with on top a bright and happy Sunflower. I ask Koen "Where do Sunflowers come from originally?". We both didn't know and I forgot to look it up.

The Sunflower is a typical plant, it can grow on any kind of soil and turns his head towards the Sun. It's a strong, yet delicate plant. It's not only known for it's beauty, but also provides us with food & oil.

I always like it when subjects interests me and even more if I find synchronicity. The Sunflower, which reminds us of Vincent & the Sun, was first introduced in Europe by the Spanish sailors in 1530. Before that the Sunflower only grow in South and North-America. Around 1000 BC the Sunflower was domesticated. The Incas honored the Sunflower, for them it represented their Sun god. Big statues of Sunflowers and ornaments where found in their temples. The priests wear a crown that looked like a Sunflower.

The Sunflower is a much used subject in art, and maybe it should be a symbol for art and especially the artist. We grow and flourish under any kind of condition. Our ground maybe malnutrition, but we always turn our heads towards the future and better times. Art is not only beauty, it can also feed your mind and fill your thoughts. Let the Sunflower be our symbol for the survival of art and artists!


Wrote this blogpost in December 2010 for my virtual art residence. The work I started making, inspired by Vincent van Gogh & staying in a "virtual caravan", is almost finished & full of Sunflowers. It's interesting for me after almost a year of working on this painting to read what inspired me to make it and everything I put in it this last year. I even planted Sunflowers and had to wait for them to be big enough to finish the painting.
This week I will share two more blogposts from my residence also about this work. It is almost finished, but it's still not finished at all. Becoming curious? During PindaKAAS Light I showed a preview of this work in progress, see blogpost "PindaKAAS Light in Tilburg"

November 16, 2011

A quest in Delft part II

Room in 19th century style with furniture from the 17th century and a painting by Paul Tétar van Elven

I promised to find out more about how Delftware influenced Batik Belanda (see blogpost "Batik Buketan") and how our Delftware got influenced by the Chinese porcelain (see blogpost "A quest in Delft"). I haven't really found out much, only made a lot pictures of porcelain from Paul Tétar van Elven's collection. One thing I do know, I have to get me one of those porcelain sets myself. What a beautiful images are created on a plate. I can't imagine eating from it. They all tell little stories, which is similiar in Batik. But much more figurative and more like a comic almost.

Before telling more about the documented porcelain, I start with the scenery there placed in. The Paul Tétar van Elven Museum was once the home of the 19th century Academy painter and art collector Paul Tétar van Elven (1823 - 1869). Finding alternative places where Delftware is on display, this sounded as one of them. Next to the collection of his work: historic pieces, portraits and copies of the Old Masters, he had a large collection of oriental and Delft pottery.
The rooms of the house are decorated in the styles of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The museum boasts one of the top 100 best preserved interiors in the Netherlands. Some parts of the interior are authentic and some parts, like the wallpaper, are specially designed for this museum.

Detail of new imitation painted fabric wall decoration

The library walls are covered with gold-gilded leather from around 1700 (see picture) and imitation gold-gilded leather made from paper from the 19th century.

This gold-gilded leather is a wall decoration made of tanned leather (calfskin),pasted with silver leaf and covered with a golden-colored varnish.
When in 1628 a Dutch gold-gilded leather maker got a patent on making relief into the leather, new designs got popular like floral motifs, birds and cherub figures.
The same development happens in the Hindelooper motif, but much later according to my research I did so far.
In "Volkskunst der Lage Landen" the Hindelooper designs got more bold and filled with floral motifs, birds and cherub figures in the 18th century.
They believe that the Hindelooper folk art got influenced by the presents of the Dutch East India Company, more about that in my previous blogpost "Checkmate".
The funny thing is that the Dutch gold-gilded leather was transported to China and Japan. Maybe it was adapted to their preferences or maybe it was already based on asian motifs, I do not know.
In the 18th century, the much cheaper, wall decorations on fabric made it difficult for the gold-gilded leather industry to compete. The same is happing in Indonesia with Batik at the moment. Cheaper, printed imitation Batiks from China are taking over the market. It's difficult for Batikworkshops to compete, because the hand-made fabrics are much more expensive to make and therefore more expensive to buy.

Imitation gold-gilded leather made from paper from the 19th century

Paul Tétar van Elvan porcelain collection

Delftware tile with a painting of a Heron in the staircase to the loft

Chinese "Familie Rose" porcelain from the 18th century

Chinese "Familie Rose" porcelain from the 18th century

"Amsterdams bont"

The most interesting objects in the museum where in a cabinet on the first floor. These object weren't documented or studied, because there were "less interesting historically and of less quality". That figures, I go "ooh" and "aah' and the "experts" didn't even bother. The museum is run by volunteers and they are very kind and happy to give information. The volunteer couldn't tell me much about it, but she believed that most of the porcelain in the cabinet was "Amsterdams bont" and was used to eat from, instead of showing them of in a cabinet.

"Amsterdams bont" is porcelain imported from China and then (re)painted in Amsterdam. Also blue-white porcelain was repainted with a additional decoration. It was more expensive to do this in China, so they made it in amsterdam. The images are similar to the ones on the Chinese porcelain. "Amsterdams bont" is easily recognizable due to the second thicker layer of paint.

I like this "Amsterdams bont", because it has a childlikeness way of painting to it. The "experts" call it "lack of quality" I think, but I think it's now very interesting how and why they changed the authentic porcelain into a bolder, not coloring within the lines, Dutch porcelain. The bird on the plate above transformed into a Great Tit. They have this bird in China (I think), but I find it unlikely that they used him instate of some exotic bird to paint on to a plate. And here the Great Tit is one of the most exotic, in both character and color, birds we have.

"Amsterdams bont"

pigment for painting porcelain

Imari from 17th or 18th century

Imari from 17th or 18th century

Chinese "Familie Rose" porcelain

"Amsterdams" bont bowl

Japanese Imari porcelain

Imari from 17th or 18th century

Because I can't tell the difference between Japanese and Chinese Imari and worse the "experts" also can't tell the difference, the pictures with only "Imari" are from China or Japan.
The Imari history is a bit difficult. Who copied from who and why, started again with the Dutch East India Company. They bought porcelain from China and Japan, and of course where business is done, the best price wins. So Japan and China competed to sell their porcelain.

"We do not know what Paul Tétar van Elven thought about the colonies and other cultures. He properly saw the situation mainly from a commercial perspective. A woodprint from 1857 shows a parade in the streets of Delft of foreign students playing Gamelan. He was aware of the Indonesian culture, but he probably preferred Beethoven."
-freely translated from a review about an exhibition at the Paul Tétar van elven Museum

Trying to find out more about Batik, our folk art, different traditions, I can't avoid a certain subject no longer. We, Dutch people, got pretty good at it. This time of year when "Sinterklaas" and his Black Piets are running around the streets, it's not a popular subject, but also a very popular one: Our history and what we did with it. Most of it is based on ego, and never anything good can come from actions based on ego. Reading and trying to read around it everything comes back to the same starting point, the same base, the one thing we share. The Dutch East India Company (Dutch: "Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, VOC").
At Secondary School, HAVO, I graduated with the profile Culture and Society, also known as the fun package. In my fun package was geography, history, art and art history. Our history exam was about the Dutch East Indies. I didn't liked how it was taught to us. Our Golden Age, our fame and glory, all the ego, wanting more, wanting what wasn't ours to begin with. I thought it was very black and white. It was about the profit and never about the loss. If mankind had a more exploring nature then one that wants to conquer, our history would have looked a lot different.
But it doesn't, and we can keep trying to ignore it. We can't keep saying how the traditions we have, the things we make, the (folk)art are all genuine. Trying to hide our past, trying to avoid the subject. Feeling ashamed about it, putting history in a one sided light.
I don't really know a lot about the VOC time and I'm connecting the dots from my point of view. So if I'm historically wrong, or just wrong, please don't hesitate to correct me or help me with more information. I have to learn more about this part of my history. The things on my path, Batik Belanda, Delftware, Hindeloopen, and I even think the flowercarpets, have this history in common. It changed it, it created it, it blossomed from it. People did terrible things and on the other hand people created beautiful things. Somehow and most of the times these two are connected and the arteologist inside of me has to discover what those connections are.

November 13, 2011

Tripping over temporary carpets

"Wood Circle" by Richard Long at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven

Wednesday I visited GLOW in Eindhoven with my mother. Because I still hadn't see the real "Wood Circle", I told my mother that if we were on time we should visit the Van Abbemuseum. I was convinced we wouldn't make it, but my mom is very determined. So four minutes before closing time we entered the museum and could still see the "Wood Circle".
I'm happy to say it's a beautiful, strong work. It's a bit crowded, I think the work needs more space. And seeing photos of the work in the woods, it feels a bit artificial indoors. But never the less; the flow, the feel and the mark he leaves is very strong, even indoors.

Detail "Wood Circle"

GLOW, International Forum of Light in Art and Architecture. This year was already the 6th edition with the theme ‘Illusion and reality’. The city center of Eindhoven turns into a forum of interventions, installations, performances and events based on the phenomena of artificial light.
We walked around the TU area and saw some nice strong projections and installations. We were walking back to the station when this work by "We make carpets" caught my eye.

"Glow carpet" by We make carpets at GLOW in Eindhoven

WE MAKE CARPETS consisting of three designers, Marcia Nolte, Stijn van der Vleuten and Bob Waardenburg. They use mass products like plastic forks, paperclips or band-aids (see photo below) to make temporary carpets.

Band-aid carpet at BKKC in Tilburg till 12 January 2012

For GLOW they used "glow in the dark" pebbles. At first I felt they could be competition for my work. It's a nice carpet, but also plain. Their designs are very graphical and they base their pattern on the material. This makes the shapes you can make limited. I wouldn't use a material that determines the pattern. With rice, lentils, beans, but also leaves, nuts, sunflower seeds and corn, I'm free to draw and create the pattern I had in mind. But on the other hand I wouldn't mind being challenged by using a man-made-mass product for a temporary carpet.

Because I make carpets I would like a collaboration with We make carpets someday.

November 9, 2011


"Folk Art brings joy and therefore has to be seen. It's like a free bird, descending next to us, bringing us a little miracle."
- Hil Bottema

In my previous post "What kind of Boerenbont are you?" I found out that the new Boerenbont collection has an interesting pattern in it. The Gingham pattern was brought to Europe in the 17th century. That the word Gingham is based on ging-gang, or genggang, which means "striped" in the Malay language spoken in places such as Malaysia and Indonesia, where it is believed to have originated.

Reading in the book "Volkskunst der lage landen" last night I came across a description of a typical Hindeloopen interior back in the day. A fabric is used to decorate the windows & mantelpiece, it's called "Oost-Indisch bont" (East-Indian bold)...

Under cap made of Oost-Indisch bont, Hindeloopen

Well you'll never guess, it is the Gingham pattern and its even used in the Hindeloopen traditional clothing. I was reading that the Hindeloopen style of decorating furniture and all sorts of object (their Folk Art) changed a lot from the 17th till the 19th century. It is thought that Hindeloopen style was influenced by the East India Company. The VOC had a storage place there. They brought object like porcelain with them from their journeys. From India and very likely Indonesia the VOC imported fabrics like the chintz and the Oost-Indisch bont. How the paintings by the Hindeloopen are influenced by the fabrics or porcelain I don't know, but I'm planning to find out.

Chintz ('sitsen') is a floral motif cotton fabric imported from India by the VOC. At the Tropenmuseum they have a very nice example of it on display.

In 1675 the Dutch East India Compony (VOC) began importing brightly coloured chintz ("sitsen") from India. In the Netherlands they started to make imitations. This jacket ("jakje") is from the around 1817 closed cotton print factory "Overtooms welvaren" in Amsterdam.

More about Hindeloopen in the blogpost "Traditional Dutch".
More about Boerenbont & Gingham in "What kind of Boerenbont are you?".

November 8, 2011

Follow this line

"A Line Made by Walking" (1967) by Richard Long

"If you came across this circle (Wood Circle) in a forest, you will know: Someone was here, this temporary structuring is the evidence of it."- Annabel Kuperus

I ordered the book "WOW" a few weeks ago. The proceeds went directly to the "Save an artwork" project. How is it possible to save an artwork AND get a very nice publication is beyond me, but I'm very happy with it.
In the book different people tell what they see, feel and think about the Wood Circle and why it's so important that it had to be saved. Fortunately they saved it, so you can enjoy the real deal at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven.

Olav Fakkeldij tells about another work by Richard Long, "A ten mile walk" (1968). This early work by Long is a walk in a straight line through meadows, over hedges and walls, through the forest and swampy grassland of Exmoor, England. Apparently the walk is very surrealistic, while climbing over a hedge, following the route, you'll see a gate just a few meters away. Halfway the walk the line exactly follows a primitive dam. It has to be planned like that otherwise you had to walk through a lake, so it's not just a straight line put on a map.

Book "WOW"

Richard's way of changing nature (by using what is already there), leaving a mark, making a route. A path, a walk, which you can follow and get closer to the artist, reminded me of the works I saw at the Museum of contemporary Aboriginal art (AAMU) in Utrecht. AAMU focus on modern Aboriginal Art. By supporting local artists in making permanent work, they keep their heritage alive for the next generation. The traditional Aboriginal Art was mostly very temporary and it wasn't preserved.

"Camel Creek/Gernawarliyany" (2005) by Paddy Bedford

"Indigenous Australian art (also known as Australian Aboriginal art) is art made by the Indigenous peoples of Australia and in collaborations between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians . It includes works in a wide range of media including painting on leaves, wood carving, rock carving, sculpture, ceremonial clothing and sandpainting."
From Wikipedia

In 1971–1972, art teacher Geoffrey Bardon encouraged Aboriginal people in Papunya, north west of Alice Springs to put their Dreamings onto canvas. These stories had previously been drawn on the desert sand, and were now given a more permanent form. The dots were used to cover secret-sacred ceremonies. The well-known dot paintings are actually a kind of maps. The Dreaming dot paintings stand for the "timeless time" of formative creation and perpetual creating. While creating the paintings they enter the dreamtime and let their hands "write" down what the ancestors tell them.

What the painting mean is not for us to know, but research showed that some of the paintings are actually maps. The paintings give a top/bird view of the landscape. Looking at the paintings with this in mind you can see how some dots create a river and maybe the other one is a line you should follow to get safely to the other side.

The works mentioned above are both very interesting paths to follow!

More about Richard Long on
More about AAMU on

November 5, 2011

What kind of Boerenbont are you?

Article "Hoe bont ben jij?"/ "What kind of Boerenbont are you?" in the Viva, background wrappingpaper made bij Lief!

To start with, I helped save an artwork. A little bit of it at least. The Wood Circle by Richard Long is going to stay at the Van Abbemuseum in eindhoven. More about that in a later post.

Reading the Viva (Dutch magazine for grownup girls) I came across this quiz "What kind of Boerenbont are you?". Boerenbont is definitely a candidate for a Tradional Dutch blogpost. So here it is.

"Boerenbont is a traditional pattern used on pottery from the Netherlands. Translated from Dutch, "Boer" means farmer and "bont" refers to a mixture of colors. The distinctive floral pattern is hand-painted with simple brush strokes of red, yellow, green, and blue. Currently manufactured by Royal Boch in Belgium, the pattern originated as a local craft made by farmers’ wives in the 19th century. According to the Royal Boch website, a variety of patterns have followed the path of Dutch merchants all over the world, from Sumatra to Zanzibar via Goa. It remains a popular pattern today."
-From Wikipedia

A new Boerenbont collection* is now on the market. Its based on the traditional pattern. One style is a simplified pattern with only blue & white (original the Boerenbont pattern is blue, red and green on white). One with a red Gingham pattern as a base. The name Gingham originates from an adjective in the Malay language (the language which forms the basis of standard Indonesian and Malaysian) ging-gang or genggang , meaning striped. When originally imported into Europe in the 17th century it was a striped fabric, though now it is distinguished by its checkered pattern. And the last one, the "bontste" (pied/most colourful/bold) is with a aquacolour blue checkered pattern and over it the orginal Boerrenbont pattern.

Following the steps of the quiz with multiple choice questions like "Is there a floral pattern jumpsuit on your wishlist?" (Hell Yeah, for a year now :)) and "With Carnival I go dressed as?" (I was Lady Gaga this year, so CHECK), "I get a tattoo..? " (I have one and I'm saving for one, so next question), I ended in only 4 steps at "Bontst". No surprise there.

In 2009 I made a screenprintseries based on Delftware & Batikpatterns. "In Holland Stands a House"** (title of a Dutch children song) also has the Boerenbont pattern in it. The concept of the print is that every house in Holland (Holland is the Dutch part above the rivers, North & South Holland) has some Indonesian history in it. A history in roots or a colonial past.

Because I don't believe in coincidence, I think I put this one in my synchronicity list. Now that Boerenbont is new and improved they added the Ginggam pattern. I find out that the Gingham pattern is brought to Europe in the 17th century. That the word Ginggam is based on ging-gang, or genggang, which means "striped" in the Malay language spoken in places such as Malaysia and Indonesia, where it is believed to have originated.
In "In Holland Stands A House"** I used the pattern combined with Batik to show our shared history. And now I know that we have a shared pattern, it's only a checkered one, but still very interesting.

Man attending Friday prayers at mosque, page from the book Batik, creating an identity, on the background Lief! wrappingpaper

* Boerenbont Collection "Bonter"
** Previous blogpost "In Holland Stands A House"