September 30, 2016

Exploring Batik Batang

View from Museum Batik in Pekalongan

Drying Rice on the sidewalk

The journey to Batik is not really a journey if it doesn't include traveling. Arriving Friday 23 September late at "home" from Solo, I got up extra early to leave again for Pekalongan.
Next to meeting people from Museum Batik in Pekalongan, I had the great privilege of joining Pak Kwan Hwie Liong to visit some of the Pembatiks in the Batang region (region next to Pekalongan).
For me a great opportunity to see what I want to film there and also to spend quality time with Pak William Kwan. 
After meeting only once in 2009, we shared many Batik thoughts over the internet and sharing in person is just wonderful. If it is combined with looking at lovely handmade Batik pieces; old, new, traditional, modern, finished, unfinished, it is a perfect way of spending time. It was quite the tour William prepared for me. And I have seen so many Batiks and met so many wonderful Batik makers that I still am processing it all.

Assistant Tanja, me, Ibu Miftahutin and her sons & Pak Kwan Hwie Liong

Signed by Ibu Miftahutin

I love Pak William's enthusiasm and his practical way of inspiring Pembatiks to re-invent their Batik Tulis without losing their style or the heritage.
He has a great way of showing you progress or making you connect the dots without pointing them out.

The first place we visited in Batang region was of Ibu Miftahutin. She is the spokes person for the Pembatik in Batang and on 5 October she will give a talk at Museum Nasional in Jakarta for Hari Batik (Batik Day).
Ibu Miftahutin showed us some "older" pieces from the 90s. They are not for sale, but are being kept to make a kind of database of motifs & designs that are being used frequently  in Batang.

When everyone is sharing about Batik motifs in Bahasa with much ease, it is difficult the keep track, but diving in the language of the cloth again like this is a wonderful experience.

As I mentioned before, William has a great way of sharing his research and making discoveries with you. With the "older collection" in mind we headed to the other makers in the region and I started spotting designs or symbols I saw before in Ibu Miftahutin collection.

Sharing stories with Batik makers in Batang region

'Windroses' and Tampal motif on Batik from Batang

A motif popular in the Batang region is a 'windrose', swastika kind of symbol that is used in many forms. As an edge for the 'tampal' design or placed between flowers and big sea shells. When you start recognizing a certain symbol, you start spotting it more and more. I already have a thing for 'windroses', so seeing this one in Batang made me very happy!

Body of a bird found on Batik from Batang

Another specific thing in Batiks from
Batang is how the body of the bird is drawn. In almost all Batik you will find birds; Gelatiks, quails, pheasants, peacocks, Phoenix, Garuda or Chicken. Even if you think there is no bird, there will be at least a part chicken been hidden somewhere in the design.
The body of the bird in Batang is drawn with its wing on his side. The wing is liver shaped and surrounded by little symbols. 

Sketch on cloth, some Batik makers make the design directly on the cloth

During my time spend with William, he showed me the many aspects that comes to researching Batik from a specific area properly. 
To gather the right information a combination is made between research in books and research in the field. For the field work, first the Batik makers need to be found. First thing is then to examining the general motif or design of the cloth that is being made now and in the past, same with the use of colour. Second is the names for motifs, symbols and 'isen-isen' (filling up patterns) which may be named different by different makers from different regions even different in different villages. The knowledge of how a pattern is created, how a motif can be drawn in wax and if the Batik makers still can make it, is of great importance to see if a motif maybe originally come from a certain area, or at least has been made there for some time in the Batik history. The influence of religion and politics made Pembatiks alter their design and also changed the demand on Batiks for certain styles. With trends in Batik motifs disappear from Batik designs or were replaced by "easier" or "quicker" motifs. 
Many interesting things to research and still a lot of work to be done.

Asking about motifs and what they mean

Next week I return to Pekalongan for the Batik Weeks. This time I won't meet William there because he will be in Jakarta for the Hari Batik event at Museum Nasional, but I hope I can meet some of the Batikmakers of the Batang region again! And I hope to meet William again soon as well!
Thank you Pak William Kwan for the great tour of Batik Batang and looking forward to our next meet!

September 26, 2016

Yogya & Solo

View from the train from Bandung to Yogya

After a train ride that lasted longer then my patience, I arrived with a welcome hug from my dear friend Barbara in Yogyakarta. I had to miss her for 5 year. It is so nice to see the person that is so dear to you laugh, talk and share the last passed years with you. And it is so great to get to know her wonderful husband Joko. Read more about him also in my previous blogpost 'The journey to Batik - introducing Joko Supriyono'.

In the garden wearing dress gift from Barbara 

The house of Barbara and Joko near Yogyakarta is a little piece of paradise. The next day I spent enjoying the garden, cleaning my cloths and unpacking. 
Barbara is teaching English conversation classes, so I accompanied her twice to watch her teach and to converse with the students about Batik, Indonesian and Dutch culture. A nice way of learning and sharing experience of a 'Bule'.
Till Yogya my 'Bule' status was not so underlined yet. In Jakarta & Bandung only Taksi drivers seem to react strongly on it, but most people just think you are on business.
In Yogya the 'Miss, can we take picture' started. Well, it actually started in Bandung when I was sitting on a bench in the Museum Geologi and a guy sit next to me while his friend quickly took a picture of us. I didn't forget, but somehow I was suspecting it. It is a strange, fun, sometimes annoying, but a interesting experience to be ask by random people to pose on a photo with them just because you are a foreigner.

Looking at Joko's Tattoo designs

Next to sharing coffee & stories with Barbara, visitings Joko's Tattoo studio and planning my upcoming travels, I also got some Batik fun!
Together with a friend of Barbara I visited a place where they make Batik patterns on wood. Until I actually saw it with my own eyes, I didn't know these Batik motifs are also being made with canting. It is Batik Tulis in wood!
I was so surprised and happy! 

Batik Tulis on wood in Yogya

I also met with Hanif, the daughter of pembatik Ibu Maryati, to arrange my visit to Jeruk. She took me to the Museum Batik in Yogyakarta. A small museum full of old Batiks. The collection is displayed on rolls and some pieces are framed. Photographing is only allowed in the beginning were they explain the process of making Batik. Our guide gave a good tour in English and there are some very nice pieces in the collection. I particularly liked the very high quality Batiks from Lasem. Also because I was there with the daughter of a Batik maker that works directly in that history/heritage. On one cloth was a pattern in the background in a soft green. Little grains of rice. The grains of rice Ibu Maryati in Jeruk uses now in a bigger version.
Another nice piece of which they had two versions, one in Sogan (brown/blue/white) and one in blue & white. It was 'Thumbina" ("Duimelijntje"/ Klein meisje). "Thumbelina" (Danish: Tommelise) is a literary fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen first published on 16 December 1835 in Denmark. The motif on the Batik was a repeating patten of a girl shaped figure with an flower around her head. Simple, but the first time I saw this fairy tale in a Batik.

Our guide

Batik "brushes" were in use before the canting pen 

Seven dot canting pen, no longer being used by pembatiks

On Friday 23 September I headed to Solo for the Payung Festival and to meet Rusmilawati. We met before in Yogya on my last night in 2009 and later when she was studying in Leiden. So great to meet friends again after so many years!
The Payung or Umbrella Festival is a yearly event of three days in Solo were they decorate a park with hand painted paper umbrellas and celebrate different Indonesian cultured. Part of the event are two parades. I unfortunately missed the more Batik filled Carnaval on Sunday, but I could see the Umbrella parade.
My first real filming in the "field" so it was great to start with such a colour explosion. Designer Arif Tuep Artwo collaborated with komuniti/community Duta Seni dan Misi Kebudayaan Boyolali. Beautiful girls wore dresses in layers of woven fabric with on the edges a part Batik. I was in luck being early to document, because when the first girls were ready, the photographers started to flock like bees to honey. They asked the girls to pose, asked the dressers to move in the light and so on. It made it clear to me that whatever I film during this journey, I need to keep it real. 
Keeping it real not in a philosophical way, but real as in how it unfolds itself before my eyes. I have to find the images, not create them. An overall useful experience!

September 17, 2016

Hello Bandung

Old trains used as housing

Photo of Rumah Ebo and traveltip from me, take picture of where you're staying, so you will find your way back

After a train ride through impressive landscapes I arrived in Bandung. It was raining again very hard, so I hope this won't become a trend for my ongoing travels.
I had booked a room at Rumah Ebo, a small guest house with a beautiful garden and limited luxury. A big adjustment from the POP! Hotel, but a very welcome one. 
After a short night rest, I went to 'Spatial',  a factory building which is turned into creative office spaces for fashion. I was off to meet Muhamed Lukman, Chief Design Officer of Batik Fractal.
I was so happy Batik Fractal wanted to be part of my project. I asked to learn more about JBatik and after an introduction on the software, I gave it a go myself. The program is surprisingly easy to use and I think it can be very handy for Batik makers ones there designs are in the database. 
The patterns I played with had for me the specific Batik Fractal feel. Of course when the design is made into a actual Batik Tulis, the handwriting of the pembatik will be more clearer. 
The software, originally made to design architecture and ornaments on buildings, works with 'fractal'. Codes to change, double, multiply, rotate or twike patterns. A pattern can easy be changed by just changing colour or by creating a totally new layout. It is a quick and modern way of making designs and allows you to create again and again. 
What I think I like the best is that Batik Fractal inspires a new generation to work with Batik. Batik makers that follow the workshops usually take someone of a younger generation with them to help with the "computer stuff". Also designers and other more computer orientated creative people use JBatik and get inspired to create actual Batik. It's a stepping stone that can make a better future for Batik Tulis.
Batik Fractal started in 2007. Their first designs were printed as textiles and later Batik cap design were added. Today they ask Batik artisan that use their JBatik software to sell some of their products through their webshop (see #madewithJBatik on their website Of every Batik Tulis, information can be found like who made it and sometimes some "making of" pictures are included. 
A few of these Batiks where in the office and Muhamed asked if I wanted to document them somewhere in the building or garden. I took the opportunity after a short break eating pancakes in a hipster cafe and before the rains start. Apparently in Bandung it always rains in the afternoon. 
The outside was beautiful with plants in recycled cans, the railway track and other factory metal rusted to orange and chicken running around. Great place for a photo shoot and Batik Fractal made a good choose moving. They just unpacked two months ago, so for once I'm very uptodate!

Learning JBatik

Batik Tulis made with JBatik

While I was taking pictures, Muhamed worked further on my try-out to make an actual Batik design from it. For me it is wonderful to spend a day being creative and it is so great I had such a day already in Bandung!
Returning to the office Muhamed created really fast a very nice design. 
The plan now is to let this design be made in Solo at one of the artisan Batik Fractal works more often with. In this way I captured the 'making of' and end result of one design. I hope I can film while the Batik is dyed, cooked & hanging to dry! 
But anyway, I'm already happy with the time spend at Batik Fractal. It is so wonderful to be able to ask everything I wanted to know, share ideas about Batik & the future of this heritage and just meet the creative mind behind Batik Fractal.

Keep up the good work! And hope to meet again soon!

I also got a lot of tips how I should spend my next day in Bandung. First day out really as a tourist alone. Made me a bit nervous, but I relax better doing things. I started with a visit to Hasan Batik, a studio focussed on making home decorations with Batik cap for the Japanese market. I was shown around by Nia, Ibu Hasan Batik. She was very kind and even let her workers hang a huge Batik so I could take pictures. Their Batik Cap is a 'tampal', patchwork design. They play in the design with lighter parts to create a 3D effect. 
Nia's sister also creates Batik Cap, but specializes in designing clothing for children. She makes designs with smaller sized classical patterns, but also with cars and cowboys. Very cute stuff!
I fell a bit silly buying only a little table runner, but my focus is on Tulis, but I wanted to support her and her sisters efforts. Batik Cap is still 1000 times better then printed textile!

Nia asked me my plan, so I explained it was walking to the other well known Batik studio. Right away she asked one of her workers to take me per scooter. I will never get my 30 minutes of exercise here... it was up hill, down hill and we arrived at Rumah Komar Batik. Their Batik workshop was kinda closed due to the holiday, but I could still take a look. First thing I was shown was a printed Batik. It didn't say anything about it, but I'm surprised they even allow printed textiles in their shop. 
She noticed I responded better to cap & tulis, so she continued showing me betted & better pieces. 
Bandung doesn't have a Batik culture originally, so in a way it's difficult because you can't work within a tradition. At the same time it is freeing because you can design anything you want! Also a reason Batik Fractal is based here.
She continued showing me their cap motifs with "the bridge" (I haven't seen it myself) and 'angklung' (a bamboo musical instrument). Also a blouse designed by Mr. Komar with a fingerprint in bold colours. Apparently the blouse can be ordered custom design, so with your own fingerprint. Don't know if it is true, but the idea is brilliant!
In the workshop three girls were making a textile combining batik cap with Shibori. An interesting combination and it looked nice. How weird it is that Shibori is now a global trend! Can be Batik's turn after Wax print and Shibori?

New Batik Bandung by Rumah Komar Batik

Batik Cap & Shibori

The afternoon was spent with more touristic things. After visiting the Museum Geologi, which I really liked! I went to see 'Jalan Braga' or "Braga Street". A must visit and for me a confronting one. I was told to go for "Dutch desserts", so I jumped in the first place I spotted, because it started to rain. 'Het Snoephuis' is located in this huge, empty space. From the ceiling a very big and smaller Art Nouveau lamps hang which don't work (I asked). The edges in the building are typical for 1920s and you can imagine the matching furniture back in the day. Also the matching "high life" that went along with it. I never felt so sad while eating pie. 
I was happy when I reached the end of the street and had a chat with a taksi driver. He was complaining that Uber & Grab makes it hard for him and he didn't own a car himself. He was pointing to buildings across from us, saying: "very old, very nice building here". I was happy to hear that it is appreciated for its architecture and I was happy to pay a bit more for a ride back to the guest house.

September 14, 2016

Selemat Pejalan

Museum Tekstil

My 5 days in Jakarta went fast. I don't care much for the city Jakarta, but I'm very happy and lucky with the people I could meet during my stay. I was so lucky with my first two days spending time with a big Batik fan like me. Jennifer has great ideas for the future of Batik. And I think with her spirit and modern take on Batik she will help the Batik industry a great deal! Can't wait to meet with her again and share thoughts on how the help Batik Tulis!
Who I also met and who really helped me to get my mind clear for this project is Krisna Murti. I know him for 7 years, since I start preparing for my first journey to Batik in 2009, but we never met in person. When I arrived at his home it was like we saw each other the day before. It is so strange and normal at ones. Glad to have met this inspiring video artist and see some of his works with personal explanation by him. It helped me a lot to share my plan with him and I'm very happy with his feedback and support! Such an honor to have this support, thank you Krisna!
Yesterday I went to an opening at the Erasmus Huis. My friend Arjan Onderdenwijngaard joined me and it was so nice to see him & enjoy Art with him. I was really impressed by the exhibition by Trisna Sanjaya. It is so surprising to be in a place where my kind of work and work I love is normal. Temporary art, performances, rituals, nature, addressing waste & the environment, combining tradition with dance, visual art and music! All together, mixed and enjoyed here!
To my second surprise Pak Kwan Hwie Liong arrived in Jakarta and we met that very evening. It was so nice sharing Batik theories in person. I met Pak William only once before, but again it was so normal to meet for drinks, like I'm seeing a friend in the Netherlands.
And last but not least, my Grab taksi driver. After having a really unpleasant ride with Express, I went back from the Museum Tekstil with Grab (an app to book a ride). The driver started with the for me traditional "No good english". Well here no good English means good English! I had such a nice chat with him, when he told me he lives in East Jakarta I asked him to be my ride for the next day. I was in luck to have him as my driver 3 times and hope when I return to Jakarta that I meet him again.

Happy in the taksi

Pembatik at Museum Tekstil

Museum Tekstil

While I'm writing this post in the train to Bandung an changing landscape glides by. The city with his backdoors, clothing hanging to dry, waste piles, the first sawahs, chicken, banana trees, ducks, more green and people waving at the train passing by.
After my first day meeting Jennifer, we met each other the next day at Museum Tekstil. Museum Tekstil is located in several colonial style buildings with a garden that is a Natural Dye garden/Taman Pewarna Alam.
Signs explain the plant name, what part is used and the colour it makes, for example: "Mahoni, Swietenia mahagoni jaca, batangsi/stem/bark, Collat/brown". In the border the cotton seeds was ripe and the white fluff was sticking out. Several huge butterflies circled around me, no picture yet, but I hope soon!
You can't visit the museum without making Batik yourself. Jennifer brought some of the Batik from Jeruk so I could take pictures of them and we used one of them to copy a part of the design. Remember if you do make Batik at the museum that you will be working next to a real pembatik! You can appreciate even more after putting the hot wax on cotton, how hard it is to make the lines and dots. So many factors need to be accounted for: the temperature of the wax, the finest of the cloth, the direction of the design and which colour will be put on first.

The museum has a nice collection of "newer" Batiks and if you want to learn more about different patterns or styles from different regions, it is a good way of getting introduced.

Erasmus Huis 

On Sunday as I mentioned in the intro, I went to the Erasmus Huis. Visiting them was on my wish list a long time and I was lucky that I was just in Jakarta when their new exhibition opened. 
The opening performance of Trisna was just wauw! In his work he wants to address people's use or better miss-use of nature. He uses found waste, traditional rituals, music and dance and everyday objects to share his thoughts. He makes art, but it is also a way of making protest. He works a lot with Doekoen's. A Doekoen is a traditional medicine man. They heal both body & mind and have a lot of ways of doing this.
For this specific performance his favourite collaboration Doekoen was wearing a kind of waste monster made from plastic bottles. See little clip on my Instagram. The performance continued inside, making the visitors go in like a kind of parade. Three people were laying on a blank canvas. The parade circled around the canvas chanting, singing, dancing and throwing spices. The people and canvas got covered, creating a portrait. The smell of the spices was pretty strong so everyone was sneezing and crying at one point. After a long loop of walking, dancing, adding more spices, the persons on the canvas stand up and joined the parade. 
I enjoyed it very much and I can advice everyone in Jakarta to go and see this exhibition!

Thanks for following my journey to Batik!
And till the next update!