May 30, 2012

Traces of Emerald

Stained glass and facade detail, House 'Hejmo Nia'. Photo by K&WH

On Monday 21st of May on the Tong Tong Fair we also went to an interesting lecture about 'Sporen van Smaragd' (see 'Batik on the Tong Tong Fair'). They are making an inventory of Dutch-Indonesian heritage from the period 1853 till 1945 found in building in Den Haag.
I'm inspired by this project, thinking a lot about this cross-over in architecture. These marks, traces found in Den Haag, 'widow of the East Indies', are now seen as typically 'Haags'. The last generation of former emigrants from the Dutch East Indies are getting extinct and along with them the knowledge of this shared history dies. On the one hand 'Batik Belanda' and other unique things are found by grandchildren on attics and in basements (see 'Tour to Batik Belanda'). On the other hand stories, information and things worth knowing disappear. 'Sporen van Smaragd' hopes by finding these building related to the Dutch East Indies this part of history can be protected.
House 'Hejmo Nia' in Den Haag. Photo by Michael Freriks
Villa Góndang in Den Haag. Photo by Michael Freriks
'Villa Padang' in Breda

Can these traces only be found in Den Haag or are there more cities with this influence on architecture?
Breda has a rich past. Spaniards invaded, Oranjes lived here (or at least buried here), Poles freed us and the KMA trained KNIL soldiers.
There was and still is a big Indonesian community, maybe not so visible anymore, but maybe we just don't see it yet.
Thinking about these things, looking at old buildings in Breda, I almost fell of my bike when crossing 'Villa Padang'. I was on my way towards a Butterflies-excursion (more about that some other time). I made this picture on my way home. The houses in that neighborhood are from begin 1900, some are dated: '1907', '1925' and '1927'.
The building has a tropical feel to it. I first noticed the style, the white with dark red, the balconies and the conservatory. The sign with the name is new, it isn't there on Google maps Street view and I can't find this house in the online archive of Breda. Maybe the title is new and maybe it is just coincidence, but it has made ​​me curious.
Maybe there are more traces of emerald to be found in different cities in the Netherlands. Wouldn't it be great if these places are known and kept save from rebuilders and demolishers. That this 'shared heritage' became part of our history, not hidden or kept hidden, but out in the open to show our mixed culture and colonial past.
Java bridge in Den Haag. Photo by Michael Freriks

The organization behind 'Sporen van Smaragd' will keep me posted about activities and publications in 2012-2013, so you can read about it on De reis naar Batik!

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May 23, 2012

Batik on the Tong Tong Fair

Monday 21st of May was a Batikfull day at the Tong Tong Fair (Pasar Malam) in Den Haag. The day started with a workshop how to knot batiks by Red Batik Solo. Red Batik Solo is best known for its Batik Carnaval in Solo, Indonesia. It was great to get instruction on how to make beautiful outfits using a batik-cloth and knots by these talented people. Their creations with Batik, bark, rope and other organic materials are extravagant yet easy to simplify to make your own.
If I had seen this workshop earlier my 'Sometimes I wish I was a fashionblogger' shoot had been much easier...Good thing the workshop inspired me for a new project, asking my readers to share their own batik fashion picture!
So if you read this, make a picture of yourself wearing your favorite Batik and please send it to me by email or post it on my Facebook wall. For inspiration see my previous post 'Sometimes I wish I was a fashionblogger' or check out photos from fashion-bloggers or in fashion-magazines (tip: sunny, nice locations, lots of colours). Looking forward to your Batik fashion statements!
For this 54 edition of the Tong Tong Fair Rens Heringa, textile specialist and author of 'Fabric of Enchantment', curated a little exhibition called 'Grandmothers sarongs - Family stories in Batik'.
This exhibition, and a very interesting article 'Sarongs: From Gajah Duduk to Oey Soe Tjoen' a Facebook friend shared on my wall, made me realize it's time to take a closer look to the Batiks my grandmother brought with her from her many journeys to Indonesia. My grandmother bought many different batiks over the years. In small shops, big tourist places and from batik-makers in kampoengs. Printed, Batik tulis, cap and paintings. When I read about the batik with the fuchsias and bunches of grapes I remembered my favorite batik tablecloth we used at home. I photographed it in 2009 (see 'IV inspiration around me'). I thought it was a typical tourist batik made to use during the Summer in the garden. I never knew it could have been a typical 'Batik Belanda' inspired motif that was given to wish someone a happy and fulfilling marriage.
Little Red Riding Hood Batik from around 1850. Made (and signed) by Willems, a famous Batikworkhop in the 19th century
Batik with peacocks, fuchsias and bunches of grapes was worn by the grandmother of Philip Schornack van der Waag on her Weddingday on 18 December 1902
Batik made of Twents cotton. The number 16, see picture right corner, stood for the finest cotton
Signatures on Batik cloths
'Parting gift'. Similair kind of Batik is shown in the exhibition at Museum Nusantara (see 'Tour to Batik Belanda'
Louise Rahardjo, assistant curator of Museum Nusantara, who I interviewed for De reis naar Batik (see 'Interview with Assistant curator of Museum Nusantara'), gave a lecture about Batik Belanda in the Bibit-Theater with examples from the exhibition "Sarongs van naam. Design in batik 1880-1940" now shown at Museum Nusantara in Delft. The exhibition will be prolonged till 28 of October.
The Tong Tong Fair is till monday 28 of May in Den Haag. For more information see

My next post will be about 'Sporen van Smaragd', a very interesting project in Den Haag. They are making an inventory of Dutch-Indonesian heritage from the period 1853 till 1945 found in building in Den Haag. They have a stand on the Tong Tong Fair where you can buy a wonderful glossy 'Smaragd' filled with articles and pictures of the mixed culture found in Den Haag. More information on

May 22, 2012

Patterns & music in Klingenthal

A week ago I went on holiday to Klingenthal in Germany. It was my third visit to this little town in the Vogtland region. Koen de Wit, my fiancee and partner in art crime, visited this region for the first time in 2000, this journey was his tenth time. We don't just go there for the beer and food (which is great and in the Berggasthaus 'Schönen Aussicht' they even have a vegetarian menu), we go there because Koen's clarinet is built in Markneukirchen. How Koen met his clarinet and its makers Winfried Otto Nürnberger and Nico Sämann at Fa. W.O. Nürnberger, you can read in his posts 'Vogtland Journeys, from Boehm to Oehler – Part I' and 'Part II'.

Koen's home away from home in the Vogtland, became an important part of my life as well.
This last journey we combined with the festival 'The International Accordion Competition Klingenthal'. We took along with us friend, artist and melodeonist Johanna Schweizer. Apparently there is a bit of a vendetta between melodeonists and accordionists, we didn't know, fortunately Johanna did like the concerts. We went to two concerts, the first by Duo Paris - Moscow was a mix of folk and classical music from France, Germany, Russia and other European countries. The second we went to Akkordeon-Landesjugend-orchester Baden-Württemberg, 21 accordionists between the ages of 16 and 27 brought a performance from Bach, to a modern composition by conductor Stefan Hippe, to 'Carmen'. At the moment they tour in Europe. In August (exact date is not yet known) they are in the Netherlands, it is really worth seeing and hearing them perform!

During my trips, holidays and walks I make a lot of pictures. These digital photos form my sketchbooks. My sketchbooks are collection of what might seem as random pictures but most of them (a pattern, or a subject, are an overview) eventually find their way in my work. My Vogtland sketchbook is becoming a nice collection of strange or special instruments, snow fun (first visit), wild life (nightingale, last visit), cute houses with their decorations and patterns. Here is a selection of mostly patterns I documented in the Vogtland, enjoy!

May 15, 2012

Johan Jacobs sketchbooks

My favorite part of the Vlisco exhibition 'Six Yards Guaranteed Dutch Design' was the table with the very old, beautiful pieces of Batik (see "Making notes") and Johan Jacobs sketch- and inspiration-books. His sketchbooks are full of fine detailed drawings. Little paintings of fabrics (mostly batiks), Persian carpets, Roman vases and other beautiful things. Small artworks made with craftsmanship and quality.

When Johan Jacobs was chief of the Vlisco drawing room he took his colleagues from the drawing department to different places for inspiration. A daytrip to the Volkenkundig Museum in Leiden or excursion in nature. All collected ideas were put in so called 'idea books' and were used for making new designs.*

Michel Duco Crops designs were mostly based on plants and flowers, Jacobs designs also involved wildlife. In hundreds of sketches Jacobs drew animals from his surroundings like chicken, roosters, turkeys, peacocks and rabbits. His love for animals in and around his house gave him inspiration for new motifs.*
Not only animals, especially birds, gave him inspiration, also foreign people with their exotic customs and costumes.
Johan Jacobs loved museums, together with nature it formed an unlimited supply for new works. He wasn't fond of modern art, he was more interested in ethnology and history.
For example in the Colonial Institute in Amsterdam (now Tropenmuseum) he saw jewelry with feathers, this gave him the idea to make a pattern of feathers for Vlisco.*

An inspiring artist who loved nature, especially birds (me too), ethnology (yes!) and history (check!). And who made beautiful designs with these inspirations. Great to get a closer look of the process towards classic Vlisco designs!

* Information from 'Johan Jacobs: Tekenaar pur sang' by Ger Jacobs in 'Johan Jacobs (1881 - 1955)'

May 5, 2012

Tour to Batik Belanda

Louise shows a batik that was worn by her grandmother

With my blog De reis naar Batik I write about Batik and other forms of art that interest me. Because my reach with blogging is limited, I try to come up with ideas to do more and different things with sharing my interest in Batik.
Louise Rahardjo, Assistant curator of Museum Nusantara, who I interviewed for De reis naar Batik (see Interview with Assistant curator of Museum Nusantara), told me she did a lot of research about the Batiks on display at the exhibition '"Sarongs van naam. Design in batik 1880-1940"' at Museum Nusantara in Delft. There was much more to be told then could be shown at the exhibition. I asked her if she wanted to give a guided tour sharing this information.
Batik with Chinese fairy-tail about a God riding a phoenix

On Thursday she give a tour at Museum Nusantara. I invited some people, we were with a small, but interested group. I'm planning to organize more of these kind of trips. Maybe in the future: "Batik daytrips in the Netherlands by the Journey to Batik tour operator!", but for now, if you are interested to learn more about Batik and live in the Netherlands, send me an email (see 'About me'). I will keep you up to date if I organize something like this again!
Batik from around 1890, signed by Wed. Jans, Pekalongan

Louise had some interesting intel about the Little Red Riding Hood Batik. The Batik is probable made around 1930. Cotton for Batik was imported from Twente, The Netherlands to the Dutch East Indies. The Dutch could maintain their position on the cotton market pretty good till the Second World War, but in the end of the First World War a difficult situation occurred. Due to submarine warfare the route to the Dutch East Indies was blocked for shipping. For a period only lower quality cotton was on the market in the Dutch East Indies. The Little Red Riding Hood is on a lower quality cotton than older examples of Batik Belanda, making it a 'newer' copy from after the 1920s.
Another nice detail, the Little Red Riding Hood batik was given as an engagement present. Little Red Riding Hood representing virginity and youth. For the wedding the peacock batik was given (see 'Opening "Sarongs van naam. Design in batik 1880-1940"') representing the the grown up (and full grown) women and the eternal fidelity of their love.
In this Batik a love poem is written. It appears to be written phonetic. At the time most Batik-makers were illiterate. They copied the text from handwritten papers which makes making mistakes or misspelling easy.
There are examples of misspelled names of important Batik entrepreneurs, also revealing copycats. Some important Batik entrepreneurs, like Eliza van Zuylen, only signed a Batik herself after she approved it.
When men had to leave for work (or to return to the Netherlands?) they gave this type of Batik to their sweetheart.
Detail with a phoenix

It was interesting to be at Museum Nusantara with different generations. Johanna and Corrie learned the names of all the islands of Indonesia on school. People had just returned from the Dutch East Indies and still believed they would return. Later our Indonesian history became the past, a sore past that was buried on attics and in basement.
Like Chester said, we have been in Indonesia for over 350 years. And not all was bad. Louise told us that now the younger generations unravel this history. She met with Rens Heringa, textile specialist and author of 'Fabric of Enchantment', who told her that she was receiving more requests by people asking to look at Batiks they found. Grandchildren find Batiks in boxes on the attics and in the basements of their grandparents who passed away. Not knowing about this heritage of us, they sometimes throw important parts of history away. Fortunately a lot of people know the way to places like the Tropenmuseum and Museum Nusantara to ask what it is they found. Batik Belanda is still pretty unknown in the Netherlands. Good thing more people are getting interested in this part of history, and not only people with Indonesian roots, but also the Belanda.

Do you want to learn more about Batik Belanda, the exhibition "Sarongs van naam. Design in batik 1880-1940" at Museum Nusantara in Delft will be prolonged till October. Louise Rahardjo, Assistant curator of Museum Nusantara, will give guided tours explaining more about Batik Belanda and the Batiks on display.
More information about the guided tour on (in Dutch and send an email to join the guided tour).

Also Louise Rahardjo will be giving a lecture about Batik Belanda on the Tong Tong Fair in Den Haag. On Monday 21st of May in the Bibit-Theater at 14.30h. It's going to be a Batikfull day at the Tong Tong Fair that monday with workshops making Batik and how to wear a Batik. There is an exhibition with photos of visitors showing their Batiks and the story behind it.
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