October 28, 2017

Is Batik Fair?

Guave presented their Batik cap collection at the Fair Fashion Festival 22 October in Utrecht

Wastra Indonesia event at the Indonesia Embassy on 24 July


After seeing Batik being presented as Fair Fashion a couple of times, I think it is a good moment to dive in this terminology. It seems to be the magic word right now in fashion, design and food. I heard during a talk, I believe it was a one of the Meet Up's at Centraal Museum, that food is a good indication when it comes to what people want. And that you can predict what people want fashion-wise in the next decade. Fashion is the last to join the party when it comes to trends even though it presents itself as being the first.
In the food section we already are aware of and are choosing more and more fair, organic, eco friendly, local and vegan products. Where first we look at our wallets, more people now start making a choice for healthy, sustainable goods. The shift in fashion is becoming visible as well. But with a big difference. In the supermarket you have to make choices between organic flown in strawberries from Spain or pesticide covered ones from the farmer in the area, but in fashion industry these little, big impact distinctions are harder to spot.
Take for example Adidas. I visited their website a while ago to see if I can find if they make Fair, Sustainable, Eco friendly Fashion. I mean a big brand like that surely has the money, and therefor knowledge and opportunity, to make their product in a responsible way. When I look at their sustainability progress report I see a lot of "We will"'s, but not many "We have"'s. At the same time their 'We will''s give them this free pass to produce in the fashion they are doing. I'm not saying Adidas is evil, but they are not anywhere near being sustainable either.
In my previous post A search for sustainable shoes, I already wrote about brands that are considered fair or sustainable and mostly are selling us their good intentions. So what is fair fashion and how does it apply to Batik?

My Batik Buketan temporary carpet at Museum Batik in Pekalongan, Java 
made from materials used for natural dye, 2016


Fair Fashion consist of many labels, which are mainly freely interpretable. Most are based on improving labour standards such as a living wage, a fair price for the product, reasonable hours. Also no discrimination or child labour are strong points in Fair fashion. Sustainability or how eco friendly the fashion is made is mostly linked to safe and healthy working conditions and respecting the environment. There are no actual standards for when is it a fair price or what are reasonable hours.
Mostly this depends on what is the standard in the country where the product is being made and therefor with a little extra a fair label is easily reached.
Also when we hear Fair, we not only think of Fair Trade, we also think of how sustainable the product is. So Fair is also used for products which are bio or organic, an eco friendly alternative or produced with zero waste, cradle to cradle, zero emission or with re-used materials.
Next to this we als think that handmade is also more fair then mass-production and if only one part of the entire process had one of the elements I mentioned above, it can be Fair Fashion (or design, or food).
Now, I'm not saying something can only be Fair if it good on all fronts. If you try to truly make a Fair product, you will decide to make nothing. When I'm talking about Fair, I'm more referring to the choice of the buyer. If you are a conscious consumer you already know that labels are guidelines, even marketing tools, but not the whole story. And before you can make a good choice, you need to inform yourself.
And what is important to you can be different to what I find important and it can vary per product. For example, I find a natural, biological, eco friendly made products super important, but when it comes to Batik, my idea about it is different.
During the Mini-Batik Symposium in Köln I met Reynold Rudyismanto. Reynold is studying his Master in Law researching how and if Indonesian batik should get a “Voluntary EU-Ecolabel”:

The EU Ecolabel scheme is part of the sustainable consumption and production policy of the Community, which aims at reducing the negative impact of consumption and production on the environment, health, climate and natural resources. The scheme is intended to promote those products which have a high level of environmental performance through the use of the EU Ecolabel. To this effect, it is appropriate to require that the criteria with which products must comply in order to bear the EU Ecolabel be based on the best environmental performance achieved by products on the Community market. 
(Okay!)
The core purpose of the research is to find the most appropriate policy the Indonesian government can make to support the batik industries with natural dyes which in the end could increase the export value of Indonesian batik textile in the international market, especially in European Union, where it is believed to be a very good market for environment-friendly products.
(Aha!)



Reynold concludes his research that there is a market for Batik and especially sustainable Batik on certainly the Dutch and probably the European market. But my question is does promoting "sustainable Batik" help Batik makers or the Art of making Batik?
I asked this question, because when I met Reynold again it was at the 'Wastra Indonesia' event organised by the Indonesian Embassy. Promoting "Sustainable textiles" and getting an eco-label for Batik were part of the program. Nothing wrong with that and some lovely Indigo, Blue and Sogan, brown Batiks were presented. My problem, or better my concern is with the makers of these textiles. I already noticed on Java that producing with natural dyes was something celebrities and royalties were doing. I noticed that so called natural dyed Batiks were extremely expensive compared to chemical dyed ones. The colours mainly consist of vague brown shades and Indigo. I was already warned that most natural dye is not really natural dye, because part of the process is still chemical or chemical dyes are mixed in to get a lasting colour. The lasting of the colour is a problem. Where chemical dyed Batiks can keep their colours for decades, natural dyes fade quickly. If you want a good price for your Batik, the consumer wants a Batik that keeps its colours. The story on that it is better for the environment, which can be argued about, is only reaching those who can afford it. Afford to make it and to wear/use it. The Batik makers I met 7 years ago switched back to using chemical dyes after not being able to make a good quality, good priced product with natural dye. And here lies the problem. If celebraties and royalties with the right connections and right price, because I'm sure they are getting more than a fair price, can make Batiks that fit the eco-label, because they use natural dyes, what effect will this have on the Art of Batik and its makers? How will this effect the price Batik makers get for their chemical dyed Batiks and how does it improve their chances on making their product more sustainable? Who will benefit from this? If you consider that the maker is getting the least paid already, how can this improve with an eco-label on the market?
There is a true problem with chemical dyes and the waste produced with making Batik and there is a true health risk involved. But this will not disappear by introducing something unreachable for many. It can disappear by education, support and sharing knowledge. The Art of dyeing with natural dyes has been lost almost a century ago on Java and it's not getting restored by trying to re-invent it. Get people from all over the world who do know how to use natural dye to the Batik makers, get people who can make safe drainage, who can help with waste-disposal. People who can inform Batik makers on how to get a fair price for their products. And what is a fair price? Put money in making it better for the makers of Batik, Pembatiks, not in Batik product placement and "Fair" market expansion.
And besides, isn't there a bigger, more polluting industry that you should be dealing with? People are pointing fingers to Batik makers, but they are not making the rivers red, or blue or purple. It is our "normal" textile industry who does that!


So is Batik Fair Fashion, or can it be Fair fashion? Yes and no. Batik is fair when it is bought for the right price and from the right person, preferable directly from the maker or from a seller you can really trust. Batik is fair when it is handmade under the right conditions. Batik is not necessarily more fair when it is made with natural dye although I hope in the near future there is more being done on improving the conditions in which Batik is produced as I mentioned above.

Thanks Reynold for sharing your research with me!
Lets see how this develops, I'll keep you updated here on The journey to Batik!



October 21, 2017

The Lady Africa Wax Print


Power Suit Meet up, Creating the bag that goes with the suit

A few months ago Irene Hin of Lady Africa asked me to write and research some things for an upcoming project. The last few weeks it's been shown on the catwalk and in a museum. I'm talking about the Lady Africa Power Suit!
When I heard Lady Africa was planning to use a newly designed Wax Print from Julius Holland Wax for their contribution for the Fashion Cities Africa exhibition at the Tropenmuseum, I got so excited. It was great to follow the creative process and seeing the final Power Suit on display and on the ever so elegant model Dorothe Schiks at the Fashionshow in Rotterdam & Den Haag. Only a third of what I wrote actually made it to the exhibition, so time to share more about it here!

Dorothe Schiks in the Lady Africa Power Suit 
at the Fashionshow in Rotterdam on 1 October


First, Lady Africa. I met Irene during the first Africa Fashion Week in Amsterdam in 2014. I was literally drooling over this Christie Brown Wax Print textile cords necklace a girl was wearing, when Irene introduced herself and explained this necklace was available at her store. After that I visited the shop at the Denneweg in Den Haag (NL) a couple of times, saw a fashionshow by Lady Africa in Den Haag, which was a proper party and we kept in touch through Social Media. Our love for Wax Prints and other gorgeous textiles is something that keeps us connected.
Next to the wonderful brands from the continent, Lady Africa started making their own custom LA line. Pencil skirts, jackets, custom made designs, A-shape dresses and much more is created by a tailor team in which Florence Hin, Irene's mother, plays an important role. She is LA Senior Fashion Advisor and if you see what her hands can do with fabric, amazing!

Detail of the Brilliantly printed Wax Print by Julius Holland Wax


For their LA custom-made line they work with textiles by Julius Holland Wax. In 2002 Jansen-Naninck in Helmond (NL) started producing their own Wax Print brand, Julius Holland Wax. The family business was already trading textiles since 1935 and if you've ever been there you know its a true candy-store for everyone who loves prints, patterns & textiles.
For the Power Suit a new, not yet on the market, design by Julius Holland Wax was used. The normal wax print version with big, abstract flowers in yellow and blue was used for the handbag made by Marianne Aulmann. For the suit the same pattern was used, but in a Brilliantly print. So with a nice chique silver shimmery finish.

Detail of Power Suit bag designed by Marianne Aulmann


The choice for a custom Lady Africa Power Suit, came from the idea to make a tribute to the strong women who inspired Irene and Gumi to start Lady Africa in 2011. The strong women in Ghana where Irene was born. How the women pass on their knowledge and strength to their daughters. The women in Irene's life, her family. Her mother who is now her Fashion advisor with her wide knowledge of tailorship. Her grandmother who was an entrepreneur herself and sold Vlisco fabrics on the market. A Power Suit Tribute for Strong Women.
The great thing about new Wax Print designs is that they don't have a name yet, and that the name comes most times from how and when it was introduced to the market. So meet Julius Holland Wax: Lady Africa


You can see the Power Suit on display as part of the exhibition Fashion Cities Africa at the Tropenmuseum in Amsterdam with lovely other fashion from Casablanca (Morocco), Johannesburg (South-Africa), Lagos (Nigeria), Nairobi (Kenya) and the Netherlands.

You can shop Lady Africa custom line at Denneweg 21A in Den Haag. For new arrivals check out www.lady-africa.com, their Facebook or Instagram!


For more on Wax prints, read my previous posts "Wax Prints are based on Javanese Batiks, But what is a Batik and which elements can still be found in todays Wax Prints?", 'Take some elsewhere, and let some come back to me' or use label 'Wax print'


October 12, 2017

Where Batik Belongs

Where Batik Belongs by Ada Van Hoorebeke, Frankfurt am Main, 2017

Where Batik Belongs - Frankfurt am Mein (Grandmother) 2017 by Ada Van Hoorebeke 

Little Red Riding Hood Batik Bandana Workshop

This weekend I'm travelling to Brussel to see and to participate with the work 'Fake Calligraphy' by Ada van Hoorebeeke and Maartje Fliervoet, a co-creation with the Gent based Artspace Manoeuvre.
I met Ada a few months ago when I was in Köln for the Mini Batik Symposium at Galerie Smend. Rudolf told me another one of the "new generation", as he calls us, would join. When I introduced myself asking about her upcoming exhibition, Ada asked me if I was the writer of this blog. She told me she got inspired by my posts about Fairytale Batiks. And that she had printed copies of it to make her exhibition 'Where Batik Belongs'.
We continued sharing during lunch. She learned making Batik during a residency in Gambia and is now exploring Javanese Batik. She complimented me on my interesting take on Batik and that she really liked my writing. While continuing Ada casually said: "My birthday is on Batik Day, the 2nd of October". I casually replied: "Mine too ".


Me & Ada, Selfie to share our birthdate is on Batik Day

Talking about synchronicity! Rudolf made a special announcement after lunch of our discovery.
In Where Batik Belongs Ada was exploring the Fairytale Batiks and especially Little Red Riding Hood. She gave a Bandana workshop in which you make your own red dyed Batik headscarf. I recently learned that Bandana comes from the Indian technique Bandhani which is a type of tie-dye. So a different way of creating dots on textile.
Ada's style seems rough, investigative and spontaneous, yet everything comes together, fits. Like a pattern taken from an actual Batik Tulis from the Smend collection which is repeated as a backdrop for the Grandmother picture (see picture above). The dyes are natural, yet from unconventional sources. An Art take on Batik. Where Art meets Traditional Textiles. When Batik is put into a museum as Art. When you are exploring where Batik belongs...

This weekend wil be a different yet again interesting take on Batik.
Fake Calligraphy is a sculpture inspired by the calligraphic batik, Batik Besurek, a tradition from Bengkulu (Indonesia). Batik Besurek, originally conceived by Indonesian Muslims, is derived from the Arab script but the signs are not always readable as such. The Fake Calligraphy sculpture presented at WIELS is inspired by those calligraphic batiks that are playing with the aesthetics of a written language abstracted from its original meaning. The sculpture is made as such that it can be activated, reminiscent of a workshop, where it serves as an environment to create a new interpretation of calligraphic batiks. In this sculpture different stages of batik production such as creating a design, transferring it in wax on texte and dying with natural dyes are used as a means of communication that goes beyond language barriers. Fake Calligraphy aims to be a platform for exchange of speech, body language and the sharing of different cultural knowledge in an artistic and social context.

Looking forward to meet my Batik Day Birthday Twin again!



More about

Ada van Hoorebeeke on adavanhoorebeke.blogspot.nl

Fake Calligraphy on www.wiels.org 


October 2, 2017

Pattern Edition Birthday Batik Day Statements

Batik with banana flower motif by Ibu Ramini 
& wax print with bananas by African Textiles Holland
Banana plant from Taman Indonesia & Bananas from Ekoplaza, 


Since I started my Batik Statement series in 2012, I've also been making Batik Statements to celebrate Batik Day & my birthday, both today! 
Last year I was standing in Barbara's jungle garden in Sleman, near Yogyakarta. I made a series with the newly bought Batiks. The year before I posted my version of 'We Can Do It'. Which was used this year for the IDFX project 'Colourful Woman Power'!
I use my Batik Statements as reflections. Reflections of what I find important, what and who inspires me and to share my and others love for Batik. My series maybe started as a joke, but they became part of my work. This part is always tricky and something I'm always contemplating about: What is my work as an artist? And when is it not Art?
I consider myself as an artist first, always, in every role I get or play. I say role, but you can fill in job, assignment, idea...Of course when I blog, when I'm writing, when I organise an event or do someones PR, I'm not making Art, yet I am not not an artist at that moment. From everything I do I get inspiration and I also learned "making an artwork" can have many forms. In my case; a nature walk, a film, a temporary carpet, a performance, a school project, yes maybe even my Batik Statements, maybe even my blog. When I write, I feel I create, but the next day I have to take a photo, so I end up on a cold February morning in a Wax print with a banana plant at my feet before my camera. I ended up not using the pictures, till now, because they didn't fit the idea I got from making them; the new Pattern Edition Batik Statement series

Made this photo in February

When me and Koen go somewhere, recently I end up taking a Batik or another fabric with me. I'm walking around with this idea in my head and think out places to make the shot. Like the previous posted Batik Buketan and Pisan Bali made in a public garden and at a museum. In the same way. I ended up posing with ducks at the Botanical Garden. Because, well because I have this crazy Batik dress with flying ducks and a khanga from my brother with ducks and I needed to pose in it with actual ducks. I love that Koen supports me in my crazy ideas!

Posing with ducks at Botanical Garden in Utrecht in May

Wearing Batik Cap dress bought at Taman Indonesia, with a Khanga with ducks and my Sankofa earring from Ubuntu

While documenting some of my Batiks I brought with me from my last journey, I got the idea of staging Tracey Emin's famous 'I've Got It All' photo using Batiks instead of money. I had muscle ache for a week after this picture haha. And then I though, how do I share this? I love Tracey Emin, but who will get it? And, why am I making these statements? 
Well, I guess because I'm an artist.

After Tracey Emin's 'I've Got It All' (2000), made in March

I will be making a booklet to celebrate 5 years of making Batik Statemenst! I already had some pre-orders, sorry for the delay, I hope to be ready at the end of this year. You can pre-order your copy at sabine{at}sabinebolk.nl and you will receive first option to buy it! They will be limited edition, so le me know if you want one!

September 30, 2017

Out of Fashion

From the Modemuze selection: Fries traditional wear from around 1800's
In 'Out of Fashion' at Centraal Museum, Utrecht (NL)

Till now this year is particularly peculiar when it comes to me and fashion. After being at the Jakarta FashionWeek, 22 - 27 October 2016; frozen, amazed and filled with fashion, I thought this was more a one time thing. But I saw more fashion (as in live before my eyes) this year then ever before and I wrote this year a lot about fashion (if you count me complaining on not finding sustainable shoes and exploring Dutch traditional wear). I even wrote a review for Modemuze on the opening of the Amsterdam Fashion Week (the article is in Dutch 'Wortels en witte onderbroeken, duurzaamheid en diversiteit. Opening Fashion Week'). 
So why stop there! October is going to be a month filled with fashion, for me definitely and it can be for you too. Next to many events, check at the end of this post, there is a must-see exhibition about Fashion in Utrecht. I already went to it three times and still am amazed by new details in garments. The exhibition shows over a 100 highlights from the Centraal Museum collection under the title 'Out of Fashion'. It goes from Chintz skirts from the 18th century, to Bas Kosters Monster dress, till a new collection being showed at Paris Fashion Week next week (help Liselore Frowijn making her show tiptop in Paris, read more in this post).
The exhibition runs till the 22 of October, so enough time to visit (and let me know, its my hometown). But I do like to share some of my favourites already!

This jacket!! A 'Japonsche Rock' from 1700-1800 made with custom-painted chintz 

Blouse and skirt by Dutch & Colombian designer Aico Dinkla. The bird blouse is from the 80's and the bird was the last added to the piece. It was a jute souvenir from Bogot, Colombia, a gift for his parents . On the shoulder a small button with the portrait of his sister & his fashionmuse

Bas Kosters 'Freedom' clogs from 2010

Modern & old fashioned ear-irons, 'oorijzers'. They are soooo cool! 


In the last part of the exhibition is room for new talent. 
Liselore Frowijn showed her collaboration with Michiel Schuurman. A collection with futuristic prints and pineapple silver leather. 

Her collection is now on its way to Paris, were it is shown during the Fashion Week. Check out Liselore Frowijn crowdfunding project on Voordekunst.nl to get her New collection LISELORE FROWIJN S/S 2018 showed the right way!


Next to a beautifully set-up exhibition, there is an interesting side program organised by Modemuze. These Meet Up's give a stage to different points of view in and on Fashion. 
First were the makers. It was a packed room with four fashion designers getting really personal about "bad fashion" and their carrier-road filled with empty bankaccounts. I was surprised to learn that even fashion designers struggled so much with getting paid for their Art.
Second Meet Up was with the wearers. Oh I loved this meet up! It also made a lot clear to me. I don't see myself as a person loving fashion, but I do love clothing, textiles, interesting people, dressing up, watching fashionshows-pictures-brands-instagram-books-exhibitions... So I guess I do love fashion.  It was lovely to hear, especially trendforecaster Antionette van den Berg aka The Lady in Blu, talking about the love for wearing. When the question was asked: "Did you especially thought what to wear to this event?", my first reaction was "No". When Nick Pieplenbosch and Antionette said "We always think of what to wear". I was like "Yesss!". 
Two more Meet Up's are coming up. Next Mode Muze Meet Up's will be on Thursday evening 5 oktober  #3: visionairen uit de mode & Sunday afternoon on 22 October #4: restauratoren uit de mode


Fashion-wearer dream team at the Meet Up #2 on 8 September, 
trendforecaster The Lady in Blu  and Nick Pieplenbosch


Upcoming Fashion events in October:

'Out of Fashion' will be on display till Sunday the 22 of October at Centraal Museum in Utrecht

For more fashion in Utrecht the Fair Fashion Festival is held on Sunday 22 October. 

This weekend and next weekend, Sunday 1 and Sunday 6 October you can see a great Fashionshow by Lady Africa for Afrovibes in Rotterdam & Den Haag

And on Friday 6 October Fashion Cities Africa opens in Tropenmuseum, Amsterdam!

September 28, 2017

Pattern Edition Batik Statement: Pisan Bali




The end of Summer is here and Batik Day is around the corner. Time for a new 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: Pisan Bali
The first time I clearly saw this motif was last year around this time. I was given a tour through Batang meeting different Batikmakers. One of them was the lovely Ibu Rasminah who is also featured in my film 'The journey to Batik, Tari Batik'. She was just finishing this Batik with a big motif on it. It had its first colour bath, blue, and was ready in wax for the second colour bath, brown. Eight big orchid flower shapes formed the base with in between a smaller Garuda winged motif. At the time the pattern was described to me like a kind of seashell. 
A week later I returned to the Batang region to film. Arriving at Ibu Rasminah she showed us the finished Batik. It was wonderful, a deep dark cloth with a big yet subtle motif on it, I had to have it and I'm very happy I bought it.
After this first clear encounter with this motif, I started spotting the orchid flower shapes on more and more Batiks, big and small. In the Fashionshow at Museum Pekalongan, in Batiks I already owned and in newly bought ones. There had to be a story for this pattern.
Looking for something else, I found the motif online with the name Pisang Bali. I started googling and found a description that it was a lar motif, wing shaped pattern, like Garuda (note: I will put Lar & Garuda on the list for this series).
I read online that it was called 'Pisang', as in Banana, because it was an abstract version of the banana flower. If you ever saw a Pisang flower, which is beautiful, you know this is not what it looks like, not even with a lot of abstraction.
In my books I found the motif as Pisan Bali, without the g. After asking Pak William Kwan about this, he explained; Pisan means once, Bali means returns. This Batik motif symbolises loyalty. Once you commit to a vow, a promise, you have to keep it. 
I read somewhere (sorry, I have the info but forgot to write down the sources, terrible) that the motif was popular to give to travellers, seafarers, who were leaving to wish for their safe return. 
Be safe and come back soon!


Thanks Batik expert William Kwan Hwie Liong for the information!
Thank you Koen de Wit for taking the pictures and making the GIF!
Pictures were made at Zuiderzeemuseum in Enkhuizen (NL)



September 23, 2017

Wax Prints are based on Javanese Batiks

But what is a Batik and which elements can still be 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 perfect surfaces and overlap is only used to create an extra colour.
The overlap and crackle effect in Wax Prints is specifically created. After the first, originally blue, dye the fabric goes 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 introduced in Africa, probably first in the East and later in 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.
These 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 on 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)