September 23, 2017

Wax Prints are based on Javanese Batiks

But what is a Batik and which elements can be still found in todays Wax Prints?


Clockwise starting left upper corner: Super Wax Print by Vlisco, Batik Tulis by Ibu Maryati, Wax Print from Vlisco and Batik Tulis made after my design in Jeruk

Batik is a resist-dye technique to create patterns in different colours on cotton or silk. Decorating cloth with a resist-dye technique is over a millennium years old and it is hard to pinpoint when Batik was first made. Since 2009 Batik is an UNESCO heritage of Indonesia and it is practiced today on Java and in many other countries around the world.
To create Batik two techniques are being used: Batik Tulis and Batik Cap. Batik Tulis is unique for Java. With a copper pen like instrument called ‘canting’ wax is applied onto both sides of a cloth. The wax is a combination of beeswax and resin that goes onto and into the fabric to keep dyes from colouring these parts of the cloth. After dyeing the cloth with natural or chemical dye the wax gets bioled out in water. For every colour a new layer of wax is required.
With Batik Cap a copper stamp is used, the ‘cap’, to apply the wax. The stamps are made with small strips of copper and are an artwork in themselves. Batik Cap was developed to create Batiks faster. It was invented beginning early 19th century in Indonesia, but got popular with the commercialisation of the Batik industry in the 1850s.

Birds on textiles, left upper corner Batik Tulis by Ibu Maryati, 
next to it unfinished (last colour not added) Batik Tulis by Ibu Ramini, 
under 'Happy Family' Wax print by Vlisco


The first Wax Prints where also being made around the same time. In Europe there was a flourishing cotton-print industry based on the Indian woodblock printing technique. While trying to make an imitation Batik for the Dutch East Indies textile market, the Wax Print technique was created. Wax prints are made by applying “wax”, which in this case is a resin, onto both sides of a cloth with big copper gravures on rolls. The colouring is done first in a colour bath, traditionally blue. The second colour layer is printed onto the cloth. Until 1990s this was done partly by hand with wooden stamps. Today all is done with machines.

Infinity pattern by Julius Holland Wax, Bananas by African Textiles Holland, chequered pattern by Vlisco and spiderweb by Holland Textiles, all these Wax Prints are made in the Netherlands

As mentioned before Wax Prints started as imitation Batiks for the Dutch East Indies. The original market on Java wasn’t too keen on these cheaper versions of Batik. For them these “Cottons” (“Katoentjes” in Dutch) lack the refinement of Batik Tulis. They found the lines too thick. The lines with canting can be as fine as half a millimeter. Lines made by cap are a lot thicker. They also didn’t like the colour overlapping nor the crackle effect; which is for many people still what is typical for Batik. In Batik a crack in the wax is a lack of technique. Colours need to be even, plain surfaces perfect and overlap is only used to create an extra colour.
The overlap and crackle effect in Wax Prints is specifically created. The fabric goes after the first, originally blue, dye through a machine that breaks and cracks the resin. Depending on which kind of Wax Print, the process is repeated after another colour bath. The overlap in colour happend first because it was hand-stamped. These missprints showed that it was handmade. So the missprints are still done today, but with machines. The machines can print perfect, but they choose to make it a little uneven. The combination of these two, the crackle effect and the overlap of colour, makes that every yard of Wax Print is unique although it is machinemade.
Wax Prints got probably introduced in Africa first in the East and later West Africa. There was already a market for Chinz from India, Blue prints from Europe and Batiks from Java, next to the local Kente, Bogolan and Adire cloth. Wax Prints got popular fast throughout Africa and if we see a Wax Print today we think of West Africa.

Selvedges of Batik Tulis, Wax prints, Java prints and Khanga's


So we now know which technical elements in Batik and Wax Prints are similar and which are not. They are both a resist-dye technique. The wax is applied on both sides making the pattern equally visible on both sides of the cloth. The cloth is dyed several times. The textiles are both unique, but one is handmade, the other machinemade.
There are even more elements found in Wax Prints today that show it originated from Batik. They are found in the design. Especially in the older, classic designs the patterns of Wax Prints are put quite similar onto the cloth. Also to start with a base in blue is traditionally found in Batik.
What a significant thing is that will bind Wax Prints with Batik hopefully forever is the selvedge. The selvedge is the self-finished edge of fabric. On this part most Wax Print manufacturers put their brand and the code or name of the motif between a border with small lines. These small lines are also found on the selvedge of Batiks. In Javanese they call it ‘seret’. The ‘seret’ is originally made on Batik to give the idea of fringes around the edges.
I think it is wonderful that although Wax Prints look very different today from Batiks, this little element, the little lines on the selvedge, is still there after 150 years.


Read more:

Book 'Katoendruk in Nederland'

My article Batik ‘Tiga Negeri’ & Java Print ‘Good Living’ for Modemuze

Previous blogposts Batik: Pattern vs. TechniqueTake some elsewhere, and let some come back to me about stories in Wax Prints and The best kind of prize is a *sur*prise! about my visit to the Vlisco factory

On the Vlisco website HeritageWax printing process




I wrote this article actually for another blog, but because it didn't get published (yet), I decided to share it here. The next months I will be sharing more stories on African fashion, African textiles and therefor Wax prints. Also on Sustainable fashion & design. And more on my explorations and new finds on (Dutch) Traditional wear and Colonial history.
This themes already appear on my blog and if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you know I don't just talk Batik. I'm still looking for the right form and way of sharing everything I find interesting, inspiring and must-know-learning-experiences when it comes to our Colonial history. So my blog will vary the next coming months in type of posts; some will be more informal, others more documentation of events and others more expressive, hehe.
Please feel free to contact me, through Social Media or in the comments below, if you want to know more or want to share my content for other platforms.

Note: all photos are made by me in this post (and on my blog, otherwise the maker is mentioned) and from my own textile collection.


September 8, 2017

Too Sad to Talk


After getting this mourning wear jacket, 'Jakje' in Dutch, from Spakenburg I have been thinking of its meaning and function. While trying the jacket on two ladies sitting in the café of the Museum Spakenburg dropped their knitting needles.
"Do you like it?" asked one, yes, I replied
"Fits perfect", the other one, yes, it fits good I guess
"Do you like it?", yes, I think I'm going to get it
"Are you going to wear it?", yes, I think so.
"You know its Mourning wear", yes, I guessed as much.
They were fussing, pulling the jacket and discussing the price with the lady working there. I wanted it, but I didn't know if it was okay. One kept asking if I wanted it, the other said, she wants it, I can tell. I thought the jacket was newly made after an old design. It turned out is wasn't. It was secondhand, or as one of the ladies put it "No one can make that anymore, they are all dead"...

After examining the jacket, we found all these little mended parts, new pieces of fabrics added and repairs. The jacket was also clearly worn by different wearers or at least was repaired by different people. Most repairs were done with much detail and care, but probably the last one, was done fast and without finishing it neatly as all the other alterations. A jacket tended to for many years while it was worn during the roughest times.


Inside out, at least 9 different fabrics were used in this jacket

I'm so surprised by the details on the inside 
and I wonder if they are pure practical re-use or are these pieces used for a reason?





In de back a piece of carton is sewn in to make it stand up nicely


There are so many different traditions of showing grief in clothing. We assume that black is the ultimate colour for mourning, but probably it is more the go-to colour when people want to dress fancy aka smoking & the little black dress. Black was considered a fancy colour and still is. First because it was difficult, and therefor expensive to dye textile black. Later it had already reached its status and became easier to get, so everyone wanted it. As mentioned in 'Fragments Of' (see my previous post New Perspectives on Traditional Wear, which is in Dutch) in Brabant people wore black almost daily, and specifically for funerals & weddings. And it was common in more places to wear a black wedding gown.
I read somewhere there is a tradition of wearing torn clothing during a funeral, I forgot were and why (if you know, please comment below). It had to do with honouring life and showing your grief. I liked that idea.
In the Netherlands every traditional wear had its own set of rules. On Marken they have seven gradations of showing mourning in their clothing. In Spakenburg, were this jacket is from, after a first period of wearing black comes dark purple and after that five years, five years(!), of light purple. At one point you end up wearing mourning wear always. And this is one of the main reasons traditional wear, in the Netherlands, disappeared. The strict rules of mourning. The clothing didn't only express your loss, your feelings, it also came with a pack of rules. You had to act the part, you weren't allowed to do certain things. Going to festivities, go dancing and I'm sure there were a lot more things you couldn't do. I don't know if the rules were the same for man and woman...So it wasn't just expressing loss but actually acting appropriate after loss. Which in some cases would be more acting then feeling I'm sure. But I still think when it comes to expressing feelings with clothing, I wouldn't mind a kind of mourning wear. Not one that makes the wearer act a certain way, mourning is a personal process and shouldn't been surrounded by rules, but one that works for their surrounding. If you are too sad to talk, how great is it if your clothing can do the talking.

The back, outside with embroidered buttons

The back on the inside

I'm personally never dressing to my mood, I like to wear clothing that makes me happy. It has to do with people here wearing a lot of dark or "neutral" colours. Why wear gloomy colours when our skies are already grey... and if you look at our traditional wear traditions, gloominess or colourless is not really how you would describe our historical way of dressing, so why the gloomy colours? I always wanted to go against it. I don't wear black (got some black basiscs) and I never wear blue demin jeans. Both clothing choices were made when I became a girl. Sounds maybe weird to put it that way, but that is how I felt when I was 14 years old... Or better said, I embraced being a girl. It had not so much to do with dressing 'girly', I just wore jeans all the years before that and started a new chapter. I started adding more colours to my wardrobe and being totally fascinated by the art movement 'Impressionism' influenced my choice not to wear black also. Dating a gothic a few years later changed that for a while, but still black is hard to find in my dressing choices.

I'm still not sure if it is okay for me to wear this jacket. I think I can, because I'm outside of the tradition. I'm actually thinking of wearing it inside out. The most mended side on the outside. Honouring this handmade beauty and not offending anyone with the actual function of this jacket.





Mourning wear within traditional wear is an interesting topic which I definitely will re-visit in the near future, for now read more on:

The colour black in 'Past & Present: The Color Black' on Design*Sponge

Article 'An historical overview on dyes, dying and fabric colors in the Renaissance'

Mourning Glory: Two centuries of funeral dress

Articles in Dutch:  'n Draadje meer of minder - dat maakt het verschil by Jacco Hooikammer and Rouwen of trouwen? on Modemuze

Previous post 'Let's talk about Chintz'


August 24, 2017

New Perspectives on Traditional Wear


'DRACHT' by Kasper Jongejan at KAF in Almere, 2017


In my quest to unravel the history of Batik, I also started unravelling another history, the Dutch history, the colonial one and my own. I started asking myself what is being Dutch and what are we actually talking about if we are referring to "typical Dutch".
The more typical Dutch traditions I explored, the more I learned we are a culture that's is mixed with, influenced, inspired and changed by other cultures. And instead of celebrating this, learning from this shared history and heritage, we dig our heels in the sand (I found a Dutch expression that is actually a correct English expression, the miracles haven't left the planet yet!). Happily I also discovered that more and more, especially young people, are exploring Dutch culture and are putting it into a new, fun, interesting and educational perspective.


DRACHT by Kasper Jongejan




Let me start with the 'Dracht' ('Wear') collection by Kasper Jongejan. I got a tip about this exhibition at KAF in Almere and was happy I was just in time the visit it the last week. Such a pity I didn't know it earlier, because 'House of Arts' was great and had many nice artworks. And what a location! I would love to make a work there!
Jongejan's collection is a new invented traditional wear for Almere. Almere is the newest city in the Netherlands on the reclaimed land of the province Flevoland. The first residents arrived in the seventies, a time in which almost no one wore traditional wear in the Netherlands except maybe some newcomers.  Jongejan based his 'DRACHT' on the Dutch traditional wear from Marken and Huizen, two villages near Almere with a striking traditional wear, and on the three biggest ethnic groups of Almere, people from Suriname, Antilles and Morocco. I loved that these traditional wears were on display too. It was for me a wonderful reference to the whole 'being Dutch' discussion, because all these wears can be found nowadays in the Netherlands. And frankly, the ones from Marken and Huizen will be hard to find in everyday life.

Display of five traditional wears found in the Almere region, in front from the Antilles


Traditional wear from Huizen from 1940, part of 'DRACHT' at KAF

Traditional wear from Suriname, part of 'DRACHT' at KAF

Traditional wear from Marken from 1950 part of 'DRACHT' at KAF

The five traditional wears were interpreted into a new collection of five outfits and a brilliant headpiece. And I will say it again, I will wear it in a heartbeat (do need it a size up or two), so if you read this Kasper, when and where can we order the collection?

My favorite, dress for a grown woman, 
part of the collection 'DRACHT' by Kasper Jongejan

Dress for grown man, 
part of the collection 'DRACHT' by Kasper Jongejan

'Caphul' 
A baseball cap combined with lace, 
part of the collection 'DRACHT' by Kasper Jongejan


ETNOMANIE by Ellie Uyttenbroek


Overview of ETNOMANIE at Nederlands Fotomuseum

Next, ETNOMANIE at the Nederlands Fotomuseum in Rotterdam. This weekend is already the last weekend, so go check it out!!
ETNOMANIE plays with the idea of and how to deal with the big collection of ethno-historical photographs in Dutch museum collections. Most of these stereotypical images are gathered and made in the 19th and the beginning of 20th century in Asia, the Middle East, Noth Africa, North America, but also nearer to home. The Nederlands Fotomuseum invited Ellie Uyttenbroek, a so called style profiler, to make a show out of these pictures.

"I look at the people in these pictures the same way as I look at people in the street today. And I use what I see to produce small style profiles"

She selected 380 portraits on their style. The exhibition consist of huge, curtain-like, prints of coloured-in black and white photos with short style phrases like "DUKDUK, Onesie streetwear"& "Indigogo girls, the holy source of long-lasting levi's autentic rugged jeans" on the ground. In a small room are the actual black and white, almost miniature, photographs. Only a small part got the special coloured in treatment, but I do like the selection on style. Such a simple, yet great idea. I regret not buying the book, if you go this weekend, buy me a copy!

Overview of ETNOMANIE at Nederlands Fotomuseum

Overview of ETNOMANIE at Nederlands Fotomuseum

"Indigogo girls-the holy source of long-lasting levi's autentic rugged jeans" 
style phrase by Ellie Uyttenbroek

Community Dressing by Theodorus Johannes




Community Dressing is a documentary series of which the first episode got put online in April. This episode is about the regional costume of Noord Brabant, my roots and the roots of the maker, the flamboyant Theodurus Johannes. With nice information about the 'Poffer', a North Brabantian hat/headdress. I like Thijs his presenting style so much and can't wait for a new episode!



For more on traditional wear, Dutch culture and my quest in re-identifying Dutch culture read my previous posts New Dutch traditionsLet's talk about Chintz and De reis naar Batik (in Dutch)

August 11, 2017

Pattern Edition Batik Statement: Buketan



Summertime is Batik time! I spotted this field of flowers and knew this was a good spot for my 4th  Pattern Edition Batik Statement. With this series of 'statements' I try to explain the meaning of a pattern or motif. During my journey on Java last year, I noticed that every dot or line on a Batik has a name. Sometimes the Batik as a whole represents something, but also every individual detail has its own name and meaning. To learn a little more about Batiks and their story I thought it would be nice to capture their meaning in 'Batik Statements'.

Let me introduce: Buketan
Buketan comes from the Dutch word boeket or bouquet in English. Buketan is used as a big motif on Batik in both the kepala, the head, and the badan, the body. It literrally looks like a bouquet of wild flowers, loosely arranged without a vase or bow. Usually its surrounded by flying birds, butterflies and insects. 

When you think of Batik Buketan, you think of Pekalongan. The city were the motif was invented and is still being made today. 
The motif is first made by, or at least got famous by, Eliza van Zuylen. Eliza van Zuylen (1863-1947) ran a Batikworkshop in Pekalongan producing high-quality designs for a Indo-European, European and Peranakan clientele. Next to designing her own, she copied designs of other batik entrepreneurs. Her Indo-European styled Batik combined traditional Javanese motifs with Art Nouveau patterns. In the book 'Fabric of Enchantment' is written that her design of an asymmetrical tree with wading birds, evolved into a wisteria tree, blauweregen in Dutch, sheltering peacocks. This then became a bouquet of assorted flowers around 1910.

A story of how Van Zuylen designed her buketans goes that she used cut-outs of flowers and arranged them. So the same way as how you would arrange an actual bouquet. Her paper arrangement was then transferred onto paper and turned into a Batik. Fun fact, her sister, Christina van Zuylen, who ran a Batikworkshop also, first sold floral arrangements and bouquets.
Eliza van Zuylen was the last Indo-European to have her workshop open during the Japanese occupation (1941-1945). After the capitulation she got interned by the Indonesians. She passed away in 1947. Her Batik workshop got plundered, yet, Oei Khing Liem, a Peranakan entrepreneur, whose backyard bordered Van Zuylen's batikworkshop, still offered a large sum of money for the rights of her signature. The offer was declined. He already was making copies of her Batik Buketan designs, without the signature.

Chinese Batikmakers started using the design all over the North coast area of Java. And it is within these workshops the Buketan legacy still remains. 
Nowadays the best Batik Buketan can still be bought in the Pekalongan area. Widianti Widjaja, granddaughter of Oey Soe Tjoen, still makes her grandfathers famous 3D designs. I heard the waiting list for a Batik from this workshop is 7 years, or was it 3 years, anyway it is worth the wait. 
Oey Soe Tjoen started around 1925 with his wife Kwee Nettie Kendoengwoeni. They both designed Batiks, but they got most famous for their copies of Eliza van Zuylen's Buketan. He created a unique three-dimensional effect in which rows of dots create this shadow effect in the flower petals. Apparently Van Zuylen tried to copy this effect and couldn't...
In 1975 the workshop was taken over by his son and is now run by his granddaughter. This fierce lady is in the documentary 'Batik, Our Love Story', showing how the high-quality Batiks stay high-quality. The Batiks are made in 7 colour baths, which means that the wax is applied 7 times. If in any of these steps a mistake is made, they start with a new Batik. In the docu you see Widianti Widjaja preparing the cloths, drawing the designs on and checking the cloths between steps. A hardworking lady with a beautiful product! Hope to visit her workshop during a next visit to Java!


On my Batik Statement I'm wearing a body warmer, made for my mother from a, yes fake, batik my grandmother bought and a skirt, my grandmother had made on Java. The fake printed textile is based on the famous designs by Oey Soe Tjoen. My mother wore this for years when she was working in garden and I got it from her when I was preparing for my first journey to Java. Normally I would always go for a real Batik-Batik Statement, but with all the copying going on of the Buketan motif a fake copy fits the story, doesn't it?



Photos made by Koen de Wit, Thank you! 



Read more:

Last October I made a Batik Buketan carpet at Museum Pekalongan during the Batik Week 

My first post about Batik Buketan 

More about Eliza van Zuylen in my previous posts Give honor to whom it’s due 
and Difficult Time 

August 4, 2017

Javanese Batik to the world by Maria Wronska-Friend

Maria Wronska-Friend at Galerie Smend

Batik from Rudolf Smend collection featured in Wronska-Friend new book on page 20
on display in Galerie Smend, June 2017


I intended to write a post on my experience at the brilliant Mini-Symposium, which wasn't mini at all, organised at Galerie Smend in June. I ended up writing only about Maria Wronska Friend's book, which was launched during the evening before the symposium, and about her talk, which was during the symposium. So in a way it is about the symposium after all and I maybe post more about the symposium later.
Let me start with thanking Rudolf Smend for the invitation. What a wonderful opportunity to meet so many Batik fans and share an evening & day full of Batik in Cologne, Germany!

After a very easy train ride to Cologne (love living in Utrecht), I arrived at Galerie Smend just in time for the opening of the Batik Art by Catalina Espina and the launch of Maria Wronska-Friend's book Javanese Batik to the world.  Batiks from Rudolfs collection mentioned in Maria's new book were on display through out the gallery.
First one that caught my eye was this dark blue indigo canvas with just a simple batik crackled white line on it. I knew this work from somewhere...Took me till the next afternoon to find out I had been chatting with the maker of this piece and of the lovely book 'Indigo' (2013) I have at home, the artist Peter Wenger.
His delicate work is best described as poetry written with Batik. He started using the batik technique in 1952. Originally from Germany, his years living in Ireland and the inspiration from it can be traced back in his work; the sea, the myths, the poetry. Peter is now based in France and has been making works till recently, and will hopefully continue again soon. The publications made by Galerie Smend from 2005, 2007 and 2013 are more then just catalogs, they are artworks and a great way of getting to know this artist better. Thanks again Peter for the kind gifts! And great that Maria included this artist in her new book!


Photo from page from the book published in 2005 by Galerie Smend of Peter Wanger's work


Maria's book Javanese Batik to the world is in English and Bahasa Indonesia, Batik jawa bagi dunia. Publishing it in two languages must have been an enormous effort for the auteur and it is great she made it. Most Batik books are only available in English or even Dutch...and even some only in Bahasa.
Maria's knowledge is vast and wide. Her interests are so similar to mine and it so wonderful to see how much more there is to discover.
Her book Javanese Batik to the world is actually not about Javanese Batik. It is about how Javanese Batik inspired people across the world to work with Batik. The book includes a chapter on how 'De Nieuw Kunst' movement, the Dutch Art Nouveau**, started making Batiks for interior design, a chapter on the history of Wax Prints, on English Batikmakers from the 70's and on batikked Sari's from India. A must read and I need to make more time to do so myself.

Rudolf Smend asked Reynold Pasaribu during the booklaunch to read the title in Bahasa

Detail of a Batik Belanda from Rudolf Smend collection 
featured in Wronska-Friend new book on page 24 

Detail of Classic Tiga Negeri Batik from Rudolf Smend collection 
featured in Wronska-Friend new book on page 15

During Maria's talk at the mini symposium, 16 June 2017, she introduced us to her research. I like to highlight two more persons she introduced and of whom I wish to learn more about in the near future. And definitely will thanks to her new book!

First: Henry van de Velde 

Henry van de Velde (1863 – 1957)  was a Belgian painter, architect and interior designer. His influence on the Belgium Art Nouveau was big and he is considered to be one of the founders of this movement. Van der Velde got introduced to Javanese Batik through the collection of Thorn Pikker in 1894. Where artists and designers in the Netherlands used the technique of Batik, because it was handmade and fitted perfect with the ideas of the Art Nouveau movement, Van der Velde took the unusual step of using industrial imitations of Javanese batiks that at the beginning of the twentieth century were printed in several factories in the Netherlands as well as in the United Kingdom and Switzerland.*
He used the imitations in interiors, but also dressed friends and family in it. The ultimate Batik Statements in black and white from a century ago!
In Maria's article on Henry's love for and work with Batik, mostly imitation batik fabrics, you will also find more pictures of his friends and family dressed in batik motifs. Request a copy through the link at the end of this post.

Henry van de Velde and his family at their house “Hohe Pappeln” in 1912


Second: Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Emily Kame Kngwarreye (c. 1910-1996) was an Aboriginal women who started making Batik when she was 67 years old. With a group of women she was producing batik in the desert under the name Utopia Batik.**** This hard way of producing batik outside made Emily switch to painting with acrylic when she was 80. Her switch from textiles to painting put her on the map as one of the biggest artist from Australia. An overview exhibition in Osaka in 2008 was to best ever visited exhibition ever held in Japan! A whole chapter in Maria's book is about this grand lady and her wonderful batiks. What an inspiration!

Installation view of a museum visitor looking at Kngwarreye’s batiks at the National Museum of Art, Osaka, 2008. Photo: Sonja Balaga



Read more on/in/at:

* From Maria Wronska-Friend's article 'Henry van de Velde and Javanese batik'. In the book 'Henry van de Velde: interior design and decorative arts: a catalogue raisonné in six volumes: volume 2: textiles.' 2014. Request a copy on https://researchonline.jcu.edu.au/38409/

** More on 'De Nieuwe Kunst', the Dutch Art Nouveau movement, in these previous posts 'Batiking men in 1918', 'Little Red Riding Hood, where are you going?', 'Vlisco designer Johan Jacobs' and 'Give honor to whom it’s due'

*** Article on Emily's exhibition in Japan in 2008 "Emily Kame Kngwarreye in Japan"

**** More on 'Utopia Batik' and by Ingkerr anyent-antey in The language of batik

*****More on Aboriginal Art in the previous post 'Follow this line'


June 30, 2017

Pattern Edition Batik Statement: Beras Wutah


Summertime is Batik time! I received some nice Batik Statements through Social Media, keep sharing that Batik love! Now time for a third Pattern Edition of my Batik Statements. With this series of 'statements' I try to explain the meaning of a pattern or motif. During my journey on Java last year, I noticed that every dot or line on a Batik has a name. Sometimes the Batik as a whole represents something, but also every individual detail has its own name and meaning. To learn a little more about Batiks and their story I thought it would be nice to capture their meaning in 'Batik Statements'.

Let me introduce: Beras Wutah
When I was making my Batik Buketan carpet for the Museum Batik in Pekalongan, people of the museum were joking it was so nice I even used a famous Batik motif for the background. They were referring to Beras Wutah. 
Beras Wutah gets translated as 'Graines of Rice', or sprinkled and spilled rice. The motif is used as an isen-isen; a background motif or so called filling motif. The traditional pattern looks like actual grains of rice are scattered over the textile.
In Jeruk during my last visit I discovered a new version of this motif. Ibu Maryati started making it bigger, which resulted in a modern looking polkadot kind of pattern. Only thing is that this new interpretation looks very much like the 'Broken Stone' motif, Krecakan, Watu Krecak or Watu Pecah, Lasem is famous for. The difference for me is that the 'Broken Stone' is a more triangle shaped dot and the 'Big grains of Rice' by Ibu Maryati are more oval dots.
And the difference is they told me which were what.

When thinking of how to show this motif, I thought of the Catholic tradition to sprinkle newlyweds with rice when they leave the church. A nice way of explaining this motif to people here. What, wait, why do we throw rice at newlyweds?
When I started googling I got all these things about how we started using rice because it was cheaper than corn...That it came from the Greeks...or ancient Romans...We apparently did copy a lot of Catholic wedding rituals from the Romans, like the veil and being carried over the threshold, but throwing food at the newlyweds is probably not one of them...

Rice is a major food staple and is eaten daily in most places on this planet, especially in Asia. Because its is such an important food source in almost all Asian countries, rice is also used in many rituals. Mostly the rice is put, sprinkled or spilled on the ground to protect or to invite spirits in (Lakshmi Puja), to let babies make their first steps (Tedak Siten) or for the bride to show she is going to bring abundance to her new family. This last one and more wedding related rituals include rice are popular in India and common in Hinduism. During the wedding ceremony rice is used as food, sacrifice, a combination of the two. They are sitting on it, walking on it, throwing it in boiling water, fire and on each other. Also, and here comes the Catholic tradition from, when the groom ties the thali, a kind of necklace, around the brides neck, which is similar to the putting rings on the finger-moment, they get showered by rice.

Rice is food and therefor it is life. Wishing for a good harvest, is wishing for a future. A better harvest equals a better life.
Rituals to honour the Goddess of Rice, which has different names in different countries, are not only just to get more rice. It is asking for a healthy and fruitful life, it is asking for fertility and nowadays also businessmen asking for money.
Using rice as a Batik motif is wishing for the same things. Maybe the big grains of rice are not so subtle, but they are very pretty!

In this Batik Statement I'm wearing a skirt that was custom made for me last year by The Aria Batik. This brand by my friend Jennifer Wanardi sells wonderful Batik Tulis & Cap. From Lasem, Jeruk, Yogyakarta and other places. She is all about supporting pembatiks, learning about the Art of Batik and you can order custom made clothing from amazing Batiks.
The Batik for the skirt and background are both made by Ibu Maryati in Jeruk. The background Batik has a similar motif with a different isen-isen. Koen is wearing a blouse I bought in Lasem with the famous Latohan motif on it, maybe for a next pattern edition more about that one.

Special thanks to Koen for throwing the rice!
Thanks to Jennifer Wanardi & Siti Alkomah for the right Batik motif names!



To celebrate the 5th anniversary of my Batik Statements I'm making a magazine! A magazine with all my 'Batik Statements' from 2012 - 2016. It will be limited edition and only €10,- if you pre-order at sabine{at}sabinebolk.nl !


June 24, 2017

Let's talk about Chintz

Frisian traditional wear with Hindeloopen style jacket, the huge lace hat 
and Chintz skirt from the 18e century at Friesmuseum, Leeuwarden

Dutch traditional wear with a Chintz skirt 
filled with exotic birds like parrots & the Greater bird-of-paradise


I woke up this morning from a dream that felt so real and made me realise I'm still hurting from something I didn't really notice before. In my dream I was in a long line of people presenting themselves. I presented this intricate ricecarpet (which I'm not even sure I could make in real life). The jury came by and I saw everyone being excepted and jumping of joy. When they arrived at my work they just looked displeased and told me "I didn't fit the profile". When I woke up I remembered that the people next to me, who were accepted for whatever we were hoping to get into, were actually two people who rejected me in real life. Or well my work, but if you are an artist you know what I mean.
One of the projects I didn't get selected for is now on display as part of the 'Chintz' exhibition at FriesMuseum in Leeuwarden. I just read back my proposal and I'm still puzzled why it didn't fit. I wrote about how I would love to explore the patterns, the use of colour, how I am researching Dutch Folkart and how they are influenced by other cultures and how in my opinion you can't just talk about Chintz when you want to show the cross-cultural exchange caused by the VOC: "The history of textiles can not be seen without our colonial history and the trade routes of the VOC. I therefor would like to say that your project could benefit greatly if not only the VOC route with India is explored, but also the other trading routes that influenced the Dutch and many other cultures."
I got a reply from them that my plan didn't fit their ideas, research plan or final products. I believe that my candidness about their project is what failed me to be part of the team.
Only one artist in the "final" project addresses Chintz within the colonial history. Unfortunately in the exhibition only this is said about his work: "Luxury goods from the East have both a price and a past. Inspired by this, Jasperse designed a traditional Zeeland 'boezoeroen' (Dutch blouse) with a pattern that refers to the VOC's textile trade".



I think what bothers me most, is not that I didn't get picked. Well it bothers me, but being rejected is never easy or fun. The number of Artworks I could have made if a little more people believed in my plans would have been a lot more...But what bothers me most is the total lack of owning up to Colonial History.
I was super excited when I heard about the project and also about the Chintz exhibition. For me it seems like the perfect opportunity to talk about our past and the perfect tool to educate people. But there is such a big cloud surrounding our history. The fear of saying the wrong thing or having to address things we rather not talk about, result in, for me, painful exhibitions & lectures. It started with the exhibition from 2015 in the Rijksmuseum, 'Asia > Amsterdam. Luxury in the Golden Age'. It was literally gold, silver, delftware and tapestries. All the luxury goods the rich surrounded themselves with. Not a word on how we got so rich, what influence we had on Asia or any other part of the world.
I also went to the symposium and it was about four lectures on Delftware in paintings from that time and what people ordered in Batavia (Jakarta during the Dutch East Indies) to be custom made for their tropical homes. I understand that many of our past stories are hard to talk about or even grasp, but don't you agree this is not the way? This is not respectful, it is even insulting.
So I had high hopes for the 'Chintz' exhibition and everything that would be organised around it. Maybe I missed some hidden explanations in the texts on the walls of the exhibition, but I can't say I felt educated on our history by it.
The exhibition focus is showing Chintz, and a lot of them. Chintz made in India, both original and adapted ones, copied versions from Europe and new interpretations. In the second room of the exhibition they quickly introduce the VOC with a huge map, the work of Jasperse, a morning gown in Japanese style and a very interesting skirt. I first read about the skirt on the Modemuze blog. On the skirt is a scenery of ships from the Dutch West India Company on their way to or from Curaçao. To my surprise I found the skirt was displayed almost hidden, behind a travel trunk, in a far corner of the stage. I believe there is a blow-up of the skirt on the wall, but its so different from seeing the actual textile and the impact from it. This was something I would have loved to learn more about! The blogpost on Modemuze mentions there is more about the skirt in the publication of the exhibition...

The skirt with a scenery of ships from the Dutch West India Company (WIC)
 on their way to or from Curaçao at Friesmuseum, Leeuwarden

When Chintz is explained it is mostly put in context with the fact that it was a useful fabric to trade spices with in the Indonesian archipelago in the 17th century. And that it later, by the end of the 17th century, became a popular textile in Dutch households. First used in interiors then in clothing. Usually they leave it at that, no further explanation needed. Apparently everyone is well aware of our colonial history, trading routes and business spirit. Don't expect any TABOO kind of confessions... by the way, I can't wait for the second season of that!

Wooden fireplace figurine (Placed in front of the fireplace during Summer) 
showed with other Chintz that are suitable to wear in mourning 
at Friesmuseum, Leeuwarden

Chintz can still be found in our traditional wear, from amongst others: Hindeloopen, Volendam, Marken and Spakenburg. But you see it also in costumes from the 18th century that were based on France or English fashion. The fashionhouse Oilily, founded in 1963, based their designs on Chintz found in traditional Dutch wear and the new ones made in India. The Dutch brand was huge in the 80s and its typical colourful, playful and multicultural clothing is well known. Funfact, the Oilily scarves, that we Dutch link to a certain group of people, is actually a hot item in Staphorst. This little Dutch village known for their traditional wear and folkart wears these scarfs and transform them into 'kraplappen'. Their use of colour and motifs fits with what they traditionally used, but isn't made anymore.



The Summer day of the Dutch Costume Association (Nederlandse Kostuumvereniging) was all about Chintz this year. A new part of the project, the project that inspired this post, got launched. I haven't seen it at the exhibition yet, but it is an alternative tour of the 'Chintz' exhibition. With the website 'Meanwhile in India', www.ondertusseninindia.nl, Saar Scheerlings and Lieselot Versteeg share reflections from India on the shown pieces. So for example a Chit maker, Chit is the wooden stamp used to make Chintz, reflecting on the 3D printed stamps in the exhibition. I quote: "Everyone sees it as Craft (Making Chit) and then there is modern techniques [Like 3D printing], but that is stupid. Because this newer techniques will became older and older and will be [seen as] Craft [one Day]". An interesting project which shows at least a little bit more of the makers in India then just the technique.


When you know you own that print!
Wimpje researching her traditional wear for the exhibition that is now at Museum Spakenburg

Another nice presentation was about a new exhibition in Museum Spakenburg. With the title "How Dutch is my traditional wear" Spakenburgs own ambassadors of traditional wear, Wimpje Blokhuis and Hendrikje Kuis, started this quest visiting museums in the Netherlands and looking at piles of Chintz. The little publication was sold during the Summer day and I love that their quest ends with more questions! As they put it on the website: Wimpje and Hendrikje went looking and came to the conclusion the journey is more important then the purpose. I haven't been to the exhibition yet, but I hope to go soon.

Me in front of Chintz-inspired items 
All items are from the museum staff 
They are shown at the beginning of the 'Chintz' exhibition


Sorry for this, is it a review, is a rant, or is it just one of those blogposts? I don't know, anyway, thanks for reading till the end and please feel free to comment below on where to see, read & learn more about Chintz, Colonial History, WIC and the VOC.