April 28, 2012

Leaving a mark

From Vlisco campaign 'Nouvelle Histoire' 2011

For this post I would like to continue with the history of Vlisco and their designer Johan Jacobs. Leaving a mark is an important part of our history. We like to show off what we own and have many ways of doing so. Two nice ways of showing what we own are represented in the story of Vlisco: Wax Prints & Ex Libris by Johan Jacobs.

Vlisco, Wax Prints & Kente

From Vlisco campaign 'Tableau Vivant' 2010

Since 1946 the fabrics of Vlisco are a part of the African culture. The import to the Dutch East Indies stopped and the market for Vlisco fabrics shifted to West Africa. There are different theories why the Vlisco Wax Print become so popular in Africa.*
The batiks could have been introduced in West Africa by traders. On lists of the VOC the cargo in the 17th century already included batiks.
The popularity can also be explained by something that occurred in the middle of the 19th century. With the import of Javanese batiks, the trade of Indian Chintz was so disrupted that batiks where forbidden for a period of time in West Africa. Another theory involves Swiss missionaries.
The most used theory is that recruited soldiers from the Gold Coast for the KNIL introduced batik in West Africa. Between 1831 and 1872 3.000 soldiers were recruited. After their duty they returned to Africa bringing with them Indonesian Batiks.
Despite the different theories it is not clear if the introduction of Indonesian batiks in West Africa started the popularity of Vlisco Wax Prints.

West Africa had its own production of textiles. Through caravan routes import and export was done with The North of Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The trading peaked between the Middle Ages and the 19th century. Because traveling was expensive mostly luxurious goods where transported. Silks from China, woven cloths from Morocco and printed cotton from India.

'Asante omanhene (paramount chief) at a durbar'
Kumasi, Ashanti, 1980
Photo by R.A. Silverman

Owning a big collection of good quality textiles gave you a high social status in the 17th century on the Gold Coast. Also it provided a way of expressing oneself.
Similar to the Batik motifs that are meant for royal family of Kraton in Solo, Yogyakarta and Surabaya, a special woven cloth was worn last quarter of the 17th century by rulers in Ashanti (inland behind the Gold Coast). The patterns on the so called 'kentecloth' were given a symbolic meaning. Most likely traders started giving imported textiles names so the patterns would have a 'royal' status.

The Vlisco wax prints still represent luxury and wealth in Africa. By wearing Vlisco fabrics you show that you can spend money. Since 1963 the text 'real Dutch wax' is added to the fabric, on Sunday going to church women will show off this text clearly to show they are wearing real Vlisco textiles.**

'VL044161.06', Guaranteed Real Dutch Wax Block Print by Vlisco

The more fabrics a woman owns, the higher her social status is. There is even a special Vlisco design to show of how many pieces you own.  'Zoba zoba', meaning "pieces", contains the most popular and famous designs on one cloth. By wearing a 'Zoba zoba' you express that you own all these Vlisco's.
The rule with collecting fabrics is the older the fabric, the more value it has. When a old lady passes, her relatives show her fabric collection and share stories on when she received or wore each piece. The collection not only represent her status, but also shows her character.

Ex Libris by Johan Jacobs

In 1900 Johan Jacobs started his position as chief of the drawing room at Vlisco. Because of his function he came in touch with more higher positioned staff. And also outside of the Textilefactory he came in contact with in important group of the Helmonds society like lawyers, doctors, scientist and other educated people.***
In those circles reading was considered an intellectual activity and owning books was cherished.
The owners of a big collection of books, marked every book of his library with an Ex Libris, showing his pride.

"Ex Libris (also called bookplate) is a small printed label, placed on the inside of the frontcover of a book, bearing its owners name and a sign of personal identification. Derived from Latin the word means ‘from the books of’ and originated out of the need to indentify the books ownership. An exlibris represents a miniature art developed to adorn books and a individualized way for the book’s owner to be identified. Bookplates typically bear a name, motto, device, coat-of-arms, crest, badge, or any motif that relates to the owner of the book, or is requested by him from the artist or designer. The name of the owner usually follows an inscription such as "from the books of . . . " or "from the library of . . . ", or in Latin, ex libris ....Bookplates are important evidence for the provenance of books."
- From Wikipedia

Ex libris designs by Johan Jacobs

It became very populair beginning of the 20th century to mark your library with an Ex Libris. People also used Ex Libris to improve their social status.
Johan Jacobs started designing Ex Libris in 1907. The first one was for lawyer Kees Prinzen. The discipline was new for Jacobs and for his first assignment the influence by Arts and Crafts artist Walter Crane is very big.
After this design his Ex Libris became more authentic. With a Jugendstil decoration and his love for nature he made the Ex Libris really into small pieces of art. Using symbols and the occupation of the client to make a personal, yet professional mark to put in their library.

Sketch for Ex Libris by Johan Jacobs

See more Johan Jacobs Ex Libris here www.johanjacobs.nl

* From 'De introductie van de waxprint op de West-Afrikaanse textielmarkt' by Paul Ingebleek in Textielhistorische Bijdragen 38 (1998)
** From 'Van boerenzakdoek tot Afrikaanse mode' door Ingelies Vermeulen
*** From chapter 'Johan Jacobs; tekenaar pur sang' by Ger Jacobs in 'Johan Jacobs (1881 - 1955) designer, artist and trainer from Helmond'

April 26, 2012

Vlisco designer Johan Jacobs

Book 'Johan Jacobs (1881 - 1955) designer, artist and trainer from Helmond' on a Vlisco

Sunday I'm going to visit the Vlisco exhibition "Six Yards" at MMKA in Arnhem. I'm so looking forward to it and I planned to write some posts leading up to it. It's difficult, because the more I read, the more I find out I need to know more. And most importantly the more Batiks I would love to see. But I don't have a good excuse for seeing the Batiks. When I made an appointment to see the Batiks made by Maria Paulina Carp, I was preparing a lecture about 'My journey to Batik' and I knew that Maria Paulina Carp's granddaughter would be there.
My only excuse now is that I just really would love to see all Batiks in the depots made on Java and the ones made in the Netherlands during 1870 till 1920. I know there is already a lot written about Batik Belanda and I'm hoping to buy my own copy of 'Batik Belanda 1840-1940. Dutch Influence in Batik from Java. History and Stories' soon, so I can't really tell why I'm looking into this subject so much.
Maybe it's the philosophy behind the patterns (due to the Dutch influence I can read this type of Batik better and in the process I learn more about the original, authentic patterns used in Batik), maybe it is to find out why I'm fascinated by Batik and finding my Dutch roots, maybe because a 100 years ago Batik was of so much importance to the Dutch, for Dutch women living in the Dutch East Indies and for the Dutch art scene ("De Nieuwe Kunst", de Dutch Art Nouveau art scene based on William Morris Arts and Crafts movement), maybe because it inspires me to make new works.
So Vlisco, TextielMuseum, TropenMuseum & Wereldmuseum, if you read this, I don't know why yet, but I'd would love to see some of your Batiks someday!

Design for duvet by Johan Jacobs

For now, a short history of Vlisco and one of their designers: Johan Jacobs (1881-1955). We start in 1843. In that year Peter Sutorius, cotton printer, starts working together with Pieter Fentener van Vlissingen, a merchant from Amsterdam. In the early years of Vlisco, then called Vlissingen & Co, they mostly made handkerchiefs, blankets, furniture fabrics and chintzes. Around 1846 the designs where copied from designs from abroad, mostly from Paris, then made in Helmond and sold in the Dutch East Indies.

Design for handkerchief by Johan Jacobs

"The patterns on the Vlisco handkerchiefs (Vlisco is the only company in the Netherlands that still makes old-fashioned farmer's handkerchiefs) are always designed with the same base: 
a symmetric, not to busy, border around a center filled with sprinkle motives ('stooimotiefjes'), sometimes with a medallion in the middle. The patterns in the borders are mostly branches and garland, but also dots, flowers and geometric forms are used. Most of these motifs are from fabrics imported in the 17th century to Europe from the Far East like China (also ceramics), India (Chintz) and Persia (tapestry). Examples of these used patterns are stylized lotus flowers, palmette (based on a palm leaf) and the paisley-motif (curved drops: 'Bodeh', based on a date-palm. Looks also like the Garuda-wing used in Batik)."
- From 'Van boerenzakdoek tot Afrikaanse mode' door Ingelies Vermeulen 

Somewhere between 1846 - 1852 Vlisco started to export imitation batiks to the Dutch East indies. There was a great need for cheaper batik sarongs, slendangs and headscarves. An uncle of Pieter who worked there informed them of this need and helped with starting up the business. I think the Dutch frugality played a important role in this part of history. The motifs from the original Batiks where imitated including the typical craquelé.

In 1894 Pieter founded Vlisco's own drawing room, ending the copying of designs from abroad. He hired Dutch designer Michel Duco Crop (1863 - 1901) to make twenty designs for the factory. In 1896 Johan Jacobs became Michel Duco Crop's assistant and student.
Michiel Duco Crop (1863-1901) was one of the first Dutch industrial designers. He was greatly influenced by the English Arts and Crafts movement by William Morris (1834 –1896) and Walter Crane (1845-1915). Arts and Crafts was an international design movement that flourished between 1860 and 1910, especially in the second half of that period, continuing its influence until the 1930's. It was largely a reaction against the impoverished state of the decorative arts at the time and the conditions in which they were produced. It stood for traditional craftsmanship using simple forms and often applied medieval, romantic or folk styles of decoration. It advocated economic and social reform and has been said to be essentially anti-industrial.
From 1900 till 1951 Johan Jacobs is chief of the Vlisco drawing room.

In 1933 the trade with the Dutch East Indies stops. The Dutch East Indies close there borders for imitation batiks to create a better market for the Batikworkshops on Java. From then on Vlisco started to create a market in (West)Africa. The designs changed to fit this market.

Pages from 'Johan Jacobs (1881 - 1955) designer, artist and trainer from Helmond'. Left page design by Michel Duco Crop next to a design by Johan Jacobs. Right page two sketches by Johan Jacobs

'Two crows', woodcutprint by Johan Jacobs

When I visited Helmond with my mother (see blogpost 'Vlisco in Helmond') she bought me this wonderfull book about Johan Jacobs. I really would have loved to see the exhibition last year 'Johan - Made by Vlisco', but this book is a small consolation. This week I will try to post some more about Johan Jacob's carrier at Vlisco and his designs of Ex Libris.

More about Johan Jacobs (in Dutch) on www.johanjacobs.nl

More about Vlisco on www.vlisco.com

April 21, 2012

Batiks in Van Dis

Still from Episode 2 'Hollandse duinen'

Traveling is in our blood, in the Dutch blood and that of my family. Watching 'Van Dis in Indonesië' makes me homesick although I long to go back to a country I never felt at home, but I did feel totally myself there.
Why do the Dutch travel so much? We, the Dutch, who know that 'the grass always looks greener on the other side'. Do we just don't want to admit that we want to leave, because everywhere and nowhere is more exiting, thrilling, more meaningful than in our small country with its moderate weather, moderate landscape, moderate cuisine and moderate people?

Van Dis brings without compromise a painful history to light. But also the present life in Indonesia, in which poverty and division are bigger than ever, is brought into the Dutch living-rooms. He meets important people and dares to ask them high-risk questions but somehow he never steps on anyones toes. A great television program, learning & showing the Dutch what history we have and at the same time telling about daily life in Indonesia.

"Adriaan van Dis (Bergen aan Zee, 16 December 1946) is a Dutch author, with Indo (Eurasian) roots, residing in France. Van Dis debuted in 1983 with the novella Nathan Sid. In 1995 his book Indische Duinen (My fathers war), which in its narrative is a follow up to his debut novella, was also awarded several prestigious literary awards.
He is also known as the host of his own award winning television talkshow named Hier is... Adriaan van Dis, that lasted from 1983 to 1992 and several successful award winning television documentaries.
With the publication of his Indies inspired compilation book De Indie boeken (The Indies books) in 2012, Van Dis establishes himself as one of the most significant second generation authors of Dutch Indies literature.

His father was an Indies-Dutchman and his mother a farmer's daughter from Breda who had met each other in the Dutch East Indies after the War. By then his mother already had three daughters from her first marriage to a Royal Dutch East Indies Army KNIL officer of Indo-European descent. His father had been married before as well, in the East Indies. His family had been heavily affected by the Second World War and the subsequent Indonesian revolution."
- From Wikipedia

For 'De reis naar Batik' I made stills of the Batiks shown in 'Van Dis in Indonesië'. These stills are from episodes 2, 3, 5, 6 & 7. I couldn't pause the episodes without a big pause-button in the frame (I watch Van Dis online), so I made photos while playing the episode. Enjoy!
Still from Episode 2 'Hollandse duinen'

Still from Episode 3 'Soekarno's kinderen'

Still from Episode 5 'De economische erfenis'

Still from Episode 5 'De economische erfenis'

Still from Episode 5 'De economische erfenis'

Still from Episode 6 'Verloren Taal'

Still from Episode 6 'Verloren Taal'

Still from Episode 6 'Verloren Taal'

Still from Episode 7 'Het offer van Bali'

Still from Episode 7 'Het offer van Bali'

Still from Episode 7 'Het offer van Bali'

Still from Episode 7 'Het offer van Bali'

Still from Episode 7 'Het offer van Bali'

'Van Dis in Indonesie' every Sunday 20:25h on Nederland 2 (VPRO)

April 20, 2012

Photographs, postcards and projects

Found some nice things on the internet this week that I would like to share with you.
First of the project 'Textielpost' on Berthi's Weblog. Berthi Smith-Sanders has a site, www.textile-collection.nl, showing her collection of embroidery fabric like 'merklappen', sharing patterns and writing a weblog (in Dutch).
Textielpost - Spakenburg from Berthi's Weblog

"I like the story behind a piece of needlework. These stories make
fascinating reading and in the meantime valuable information will be
passed on to the next generation. It is my passion to preserve old needlework."
- Berthi Smith-Sanders
Textielpost – India (Gujarat) I from Berthi's Weblog

In June of 2010 Berthi received a postcard from Sardinia. It gave her the idea to ask her readers to send her postcards of textiles from around the world. In return she will send a postcard of Dutch textiles back. It is already a big collection, I really love this project because it gives a direct contact with the readers of your weblog or blog. You can see her received postcards on www.berthi.textile-collection.nl/textielpost/.
Textielpost – Philippijnen from Berthi's Weblog

Next up, the project 'Photo looking for Family' ('Foto zoekt familie') by the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam.
Children of the Indonesian family Van Lingen

The Tropenmuseum is looking for the owners of 350 family-photoalbums (estimated 80.000 photos) they have in their depot. The albums are from families that lived in the Dutch East Indies. They want to give the albums back to their lawful owners and are curious to find the stories behind the pictures.

In 1948 the 'Indisch Instituut' (now the 'Koninklijk Instituut voor de Tropen') received 30 chests with approximately 1000 private photoalbums from the Dutch East Indies. The photoalbums were found by Dutch military in abandoned houses. Many albums were returned to their lawful owners. In 1950, with the use of 'open viewings, 613 albums were given back. But after that it became more difficult to find out too who it belonged. Now KIT started a new project to find back the families on the photos, more will be revealed about it on their website and on Facebook.
Boy and girl with two members of the Javanese household staff

Another fine project I found is "Spakenburgse Divas" by Hans Lemmerman en Inge van Run. Together they form Het Wilde Oog in which they try to combined worlds that are normally strictly separated.
Design by Marike Kamphuis, photo by Ben Vulkers

In their project ‘Spakenburgse Divas’ they portrayed three traditional costume wearing women from Spakenburg for 12,5 years with photo and film. Corrie, Hendrikje and Wijmpje Koelewijn symbolize a passing time but are very open to new forms of art. The three sisters developed from heritage bearers to perform artists. I really like this project and I will keep following it! And keep you updated!
Exhibition 'Wonderland - through the looking glass' by Hinke Schreuders, photo by Wout Nooitgedagt

April 14, 2012

Sometimes I wish I was a fashion blogger

On 21 of april 2009 I posted my first blogpost on De reis naar Batik (The journey to Batik).
I started my blog to write about my travel-plans to Indonesia, making a journal about my trip and finding out more about the use of patterns in my work.
As I returned from Indonesia I had so much more to share about Batik (history and now) and patterns (in Batik and in synchronicity between my work and what I came across).
I continued my blog in Dutch. In the summer of 2010 I showed a wallpaperinstallation based on a Batikfabric from Lasem (see last picture) during an exhibition. I named the work in which my bird Batik and the Garuda (Phoenix) takes flight "De reis van Batik"/"The journey of Batik". Because I wanted to share this work with people I met in Indonesia, I wrote it in Dutch and English.
After that, I decided to continue in English (and I'm now trying to work my way back translating and labeling my previous posts).

My English is not so good. I'm learning more with every post I write and that gives me the strength to make posts about history, art and other things that interest me. I'm still trying to find out what I want with my blog. I love reading books and visiting exhibitions, a lot, and my blog gives me a good excuse doing so. It gives me insights in my work and interests I wouldn't have had if I didn't write my posts.

In de Dutch media, due to Fashion week and the new collections on the catwalks, fashionbloggers are everywhere. Being interviewed, giving special workshops on how to pay your rent with blogging, filling spreads in magazines with there original street-styles and such. I have always been a big fan of fashionbloggers, following Tavi Gevinson's fashionblog The Style Rookie for some time now. I always love the self-made fashion-pictures made around the house. Tavi always makes me smile with her wild and sweet combinations of found and made up Fashion. After a while she started to receive items from designers (beginning and already there) and was front-row at every fashionshow. But still she makes her pictures (or her dad does) and she really reaps what she sows in a positive, yet progressive way.

Sometimes I wish I was a fashion blogger, instead of a...is there a title for a Batik loving, history digging, art making Blogger?
It took me quite a lot of time making these pictures and I think I'll stick to my kind of blogging, but I really liked making this post! Because fashion bloggers are hot this season, and so are patterns, mostly tropical, but I also spotted Batik African style fabrics on the catwalks, I made these Batik-fashion-tribute-to-fashion-bloggers photos. Enjoy!

Wearing Batik jewelry I bought in Yogyakarta with a Batik on my head that was given to me by Johanna

Batik, I received as a present from Prita, with my Swarovski black sheep necklace and black sheep-shaped watering can

Batik made by the Srikandi Jeruk Batik Women Group, in Jeruk (Indonesia)

"Veritable Java Hollandais 1875 R" Vlisco on a yellow skinny jeans with white peeptoe-shoes and a bird in a birdcage necklace

Batik from Workshop Mr. Sigit, in Lasem (Indonesia). First coloration, one wash (end result Batik has 4 or 5 colours)

April 6, 2012

Lavender floors and muddy walls

"54 kilograms of lavender" by herman de vries

Sunday I visited the Rijksmuseum Twenthe in Enschede. My friend and colleague, with whom I'm preparing a forrest exhibition for this Sunday, has a small exhibition there with a great series of graphic works (made with stencil and dry-point) under the title "The new land".
I wasn't allowed to take pictures in the museum, fortunately the museum has a good online collection overview with fantastic pictures.

Talking about temporary carpets, Emmy told me about this work she saw there: "54 kilograms of lavender" by Herman de Vries. She and her boyfriend were looking at the work when a man wondered in and walked straight into the work. This happens a lot with temporary carpets, I know from experience. Somehow we all know that we should not touch art on walls, but when it's on floors we forget. Walking over it, feeling the material it's made of, these things occur quite frequently. I remember this artwork at the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven. It was made of coloured sand (I think). Someone was standing bent over looking at it, the guard was paying good attention to make sure he didn't touch it with his feet. Then he sneezed. Everyone was in total shock, I was laughing so I had to go to another room. When I looked at the work later, I couldn't see any damage to it.

The work "54 kilograms of lavender" by Herman de Vries is very strong. The smell of lavender is in all the rooms, getting stronger when getting closer. We first went the wrong way, losing the smell, but ran into some works by Richard Long!
Finding the work "54 kilograms of lavender" it was very damaged (it was also very busy that day in the museum which is a good thing). The edges were covered with footsteps and what looked like marks of hands picking up lavender. It lost its intensity, how straighter the lines, how more powerful the image is. Never the less, I liked it a lot. Also his other works are great. I didn't know his work, but he is quite the celebrity in Twenthe.

Behind the lavender carpet are framed drawings called "terre de cézanne". Every piece of paper is coloured in with soil taken from the mountain Sainte-Victoire of which Cézanne made many paintings. In the room next to it, framed leaves are on display. The leaves form a rhythm, a pattern. His works are journals. Collecting materials which by framing become a moment in time.

"leaves from the courtyard, hotel amritha" by herman de vries from 1977

"In his many journeys to other places in the world, however exotic or remote those places may seem to be, it is what de vries prosaically calls the 'facts' that make their way into the journals that he creates as a documentation and a record. As with the seeings of my beings, it is what singles itself out from the infinite diversity of possibilities that is caught in the frames of the journals, which are composed of random samples thus encountered in whatever place the artist finds himself at a given moment. How could any plant, blade of grass, leaf, shell, rabbit dropping or earth specimen be more significant than any other? Every natural object is like Blake's 'ev'ry bird' - 'an immense world of delight'. 'If the doors of perception were cleansed' wrote Blake elsewhere, thinking of the 'clos'd senses five', 'every thing would appear to man as it is, infinite.' For de vries, the opening of the senses - sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell - and the consequent expansion of consciousness are primary purposes of art."
-From herman de vries's website (see "journals & journeys")

"Throwing Muddy Water" by Richard Long

Another great capturing of time in the museum is Richard Long's "Throwing Muddy Water". Emmy told me, after bumping into his work, that there was more. I was as excited as when I was 12 and went to a Backstreet Boys concert (I was equally excited seeing Lou Reed during his 'Berlin Tour' in 2007, so don't worry).
Its a bit silly, getting all jumpy about some well thrown mud on a wall, but knowing that Richard Long made it...
It made me realize that it is a good thing I recognize artworks made by my heroes from a mile away, but probably not the makers, which hopefully wouldn't make me act like a fool when I get to meet one of them.

The Rijksmuseum Twenthe also had a more historical collection. Among it works by Jan Toorop (1858-1928). A beautiful portrait (with a beautiful frame as well) is now on long-term loan. It illustrates nicely Toorop's own style and influence by Art-Nouveau. He made Art-nouveau well-known in Holland. He designed a poster for a Delft salad oil factory. Because of this Art-nouveau got the Dutch nickname "salad oil style" ('slaoliestijl').

"Girl in a white kimono" by George Hendrik Breitner made in 1895, collection Rijksmuseum Twenthe

More about Rijksmuseum Twenthe on www.rijksmuseumtwenthe.nl

More about Emmy Dijkstra's exhibition in Rijksmuseum Twenthe on www.emmydijkstra.nl (in Dutch)