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 Post subject: Do you collect batik?
PostPosted: Tue Mar 13, 2012 8:36 am 
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Joined: Thu Jul 06, 2006 3:18 am
Posts: 53
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Hi everyone! I'll be curating a show on Indonesian batiks some time in mid June, and I'm interested to know why people collect batik. What is it about batik that appeals to you? Any feedback you might have would be very useful to me. Thanks!


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PostPosted: Sun Mar 18, 2012 11:22 am 
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Location: germany
Since others are tongue-tied or haven't yet received their "digest of messages", I will explain my interest in batik - interest; the few I have are random and hardly a collection.
My mother was once Keeper of Islamic and Oriental Art in a museum. At an early age, she explained the technique to me (among much else about applied arts); for a kid, the intriguing fact that the "drawing" was where the color wasn't. So I bought the first couple I saw in a shop, pleased to have recognized that they were batik, and occasionally ones since then.
Despite my appreciation of batik, fed here on Tribal Textiles, my interest in textile techniques is greater than that for specific cultures and the "mere" visual artistry of the object, so I am more likely to buy an ikat, cashmire, plangi piece.

That should make it easier for true collectors to reveal their interest in batik.
I hope so, Larry


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PostPosted: Mon Mar 19, 2012 9:31 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 1:42 pm
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Thank you Larry!

Yes, I have been procrastinating ever since Adline made her batik post!

I too am attracted to textile techniques and it was this which first signposted the way for me to tribal textiles - the textiles expressing cultural identity. I have personally experimented a little with batik and can thus appreciate even more the skills of those who are expert at the art.

The word 'batik' from Bahasa Indonesia tends to be used broadly and not only with regard to the technique from Indonesia. I guess that 'batik' is a term for the application of wax as a dye resist. This wax may be applied in various ways - using an implement 'canting' (Indonesia) holding wax and where the outline is drawn. It may also be stamped by dipping a prepared block in wax. I think one could get quite bogged down defining all the ways and means and levels of complexity!

I did a morning course with a Geija expert using the wax 'knife' that they use for their very fine wax resist drawing work. How very, very clumsy I felt! Clearly a skill best learnt young and practised for years as it used to be.

To try and answer Adline's question is very hard as the results of the technique are very broad and varied and I don't think I can categorise why I like it as I think I like different results for different reasons! I am currently wearing a simple waistcoat made from a patchwork of pieces of Jogja batik - many patterns, all brown, black and white. I have other waistcoats in different styles of batik from China and from Indonesia. They have different characters, colours and 'feel'. The technique has been used to give many effects. Because batik is applied to the surface of already woven cloth the batiked cloth can be cut and manipulated to give a myriad of effects. There is then a partnership between the creator of the batiked cloth and the tailor - however neither may know the other! Oh, and then there is the drawer of lovely scarves of varying styles of batik from the traditional to the explosions of line and colour! No tailor but just my attempts to fold and tie to display and wear to best advantage.

If you think of the Geija costume it is created from many different techniques of which one is 'batik' others being embroidery and woven bands. These are traditional textile techniques - originally developed and used from what was available to the community - which are used together to decorate and create identity.

There is of course a much newer form of batik which is not traditional of itself but using a traditional technique to create 'art'. It is a form of 'painting' on fabric (rather than canvas, board of paper) to create art. This often exploits the 'cracking' effect of the waxing and dyeing which is usually the very opposite of the effect striven for in traditional batik where the cracking is deemed a deffect and lacking in skill.

For me there is no simple straightforward answer to Adline's question. Perhaps this is almost a reason in itself for the attraction of batik!

Adline, you have a very broad topic here for an exhibition if you really let yourself explore the breadth of batik creation and use! Good luck!!!

_________________
Pamela

http://www.tribaltextiles.info
on-line tribal textiles resource


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 Post subject: batik
PostPosted: Tue Mar 20, 2012 11:17 am 
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I too had been procrastinating, but I also felt that I needed more background. Would the information be used in the exhibition? Or is it just background information? Where will the exhibition be held? For how long? For what kind of audience? Would it be about batik or the relationship between collectors and batik? Maybe, Adline, you could give us a glimpse into your hopes, intentions, plans.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 1:28 pm 
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Location: Bristol, England
Hello Adline, I’ve already written to you, but it seems that I need to gather my thoughts for a public airing!

There are various types of batik, some I love, others I don’t particularly like and many I don’t know, including Indonesian batik. What I particularly like and collect is the batik of the Bailing Miao, Gejia and Raojia from South East Guizhou, China. I suppose the main reason I collect these groups’ batik is fate. In 1996, I visited Kaili, and speaking Chinese, I got to know some of the local dealers who introduced me to their traditional textiles as well as their families. Although I wasn’t particularly interested in textiles at the time, I was bowled over by the friendliness of these minority peoples and amazed by the quality of the workmanship on the pieces of embroidery and batik that I saw. On returning to Taiwan, I needed to find something to occupy my spare time over the next few years and decided that collecting textiles from this area of China seemed a great excuse to spend a few weeks each year investigating this fascinating region whilst practicing my Chinese.

Although I’m not particularly artistic myself, I’ve always appreciated the simplicity of drawings, such as the line drawings of Picasso (Dove of Peace) and certain primitive art (Celtic). I find line drawings to be an inclusive art form, something we can all have a go at, which appeals. The batik of these three groups has similarities to simple line drawings, as well as to traditional Chinese ink drawings and calligraphy, which greatly attract me.
I personally enjoy doodling; spirals, Brancusi’esque curves (Bird in Space), ogee curves and single line animals etc., which seem to resonate with the shapes used by these groups in their batik. Doodles and batik are monochrome and delineated, which fits in well with my neat and tidy life (my wife wouldn’t agree).

I also like the contrast between the simplicity of the indigo and white batik and the bright colours and the more complex designs of the embroidery found particularly on Gejia clothing, sleeves and aprons and their baby carriers and also found on the jackets of the Bailing Miao and some kids’ jackets of the Raojia.

Although the batik found on Bailing Miao jackets is traditional and very formal, that used on their quilt covers has evolved over the last 60+ years from being constrained by traditional symbolism and form to become far more unrestrained, exuberant and energetic. Quilt covers provide women with a large canvas on which to express their personality and imagination, combining traditional patterns with the birds, plants etc. that they see in daily life. Here, they are looking at the overall big picture, a harmonious whole, with large, bold patterns full of playful energy formed from a few simple flowing lines unencumbered by detail.

In contrast, Gejia batik still tends to be ruled by tradition, custom and convention. Although patterns have changed over the last 100 years, symmetry and craftsmanship are still considered very important. Baby carriers, jackets, aprons etc. are designed to be seen at close hand, so patterns tend to be smaller and detailed, usually following traditional forms with subtle personal touches. Designs are expected to be neat, ordered and symmetrical, whilst workmanship is restrained, precise and meticulous, demonstrating skills of the highest quality. Patterns are often compound in form, birds and butterflies with fish bodies etc., and simplified to the point where the original meaning is all but lost.

Raojia batik is also very formal. Although quilt covers and baby blankets are the main outlets for their batik expression, they have not really developed a more relaxed modern style in the same way as the Bailing Miao. Again, their patterns are often compound in form, birds with flower or peach bodies etc. Also, for the Raojia, the dark space can be as important as the white, batiked pattern. I enjoy the mystery surrounding the patterns in their batik, as very little is known about this small, tribal group.

These days, I’m also interested in the production techniques of the batik and the historic/cultural meanings attached to the patterns.
I wonder at the amount of time and family resources that were invested in batik making, starting with the allocation of land to grow the cotton and indigo, the spinning and weaving of the cloth, the collection of bees wax and the making of waxing knives etc. and finally the teaching of the waxing skills, the understanding of the traditional patterns, the mixing of the indigo dye and the dying process itself. Growing up in a modern western society, it is amazing to think that so much time, effort and love was invested into these traditional textiles (even up until very recently) and that the textiles themselves were of such significance to the maker and her family.

On the technical side, fine blue lines, smooth curves and sharp edges are all difficult to master and therefore are admired and praised. Furthermore, it was important that the waxing process be completed without making mistakes, which would be almost impossible to correct and even disguising them could prove difficult. Then, when the waxing had been successfully completed, the whole piece could still be ruined during the dyeing process, where repeated plunging of the item into the dyeing barrel could easily crack or even dislodge the wax and so ruining the piece.

Collecting batik from South East Guizhou gives me an annual excuse to visit this area of China and to spend time with the friendly people, trying to understand more about their history and culture!

Blaa! Blaa! Thanks for giving me a reason to think through the reasons why I collect batik and spend so much time doing it.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 21, 2012 6:41 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 29, 2003 1:42 pm
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Location: Canterbury, UK
...and thank you, Andrew, for taking the trouble to pull your thoughts together and share them with us. I for one enjoyed reading them very much and the journey in my mind through the textiles of these three groups. I commend people to use the search engine on the forum to search for posts on them and see very many beautiful examples that you, in particular, have shared with us together with your always thoughtful comments on them.

There are a couple of photogalleries on the main tti website which show Gejia textiles - baby carriers http://www.tribaltextiles.info/Gallerie ... rriers.htm and jackets http://www.tribaltextiles.info/Gallerie ... ackets.htm - which perhaps can help to illustrate some of your thoughts.

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Pamela

http://www.tribaltextiles.info
on-line tribal textiles resource


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2012 12:36 am 
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Joined: Thu Jul 06, 2006 3:18 am
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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Hi everyone, thank u so much for your replies. I am so sorry for not replying earlier, i have been so tied up. Andrew, i did reply to your email, but it seems u didn't receive it :-( i discovered yesterday that i am having trouble receiving and sending certain emails, so perhaps that's why. I am on my way to work at the moment and let me digest everything you've all shared. Thanks again everyone :-)

Ps: i am dying to tell u all what i'm working on, but cant reveal much at the moment :-)


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 Post subject: batik
PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2012 4:31 am 
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Joined: Fri Apr 14, 2006 7:18 am
Posts: 93
Pamela, you mentioned in your little expose of why you love batik that probably the word batik refers to the application of wax. Indeed it does, but more specifically tik refers to the dot that is made with the canting or wax-holding pen when it touches the cloth: tik tik tik. When you see a Javanese batik maker at work filling in the background of a design, very often she is making fine dots: tik tik tik. mbatik - to make the fine dots.

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Sandra Niessen

www.bataktextiles.com
http://bataktextiles.blogspot.com/


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2012 6:05 am 
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Joined: Thu Jul 06, 2006 3:18 am
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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Dear Andrew, Sandra, Pamela and Larry,

Thank you very much again for shedding light on my very general question - why do you collect batik? I agree that there isn't an easy answer to this, especially if one is so passionate about the subject in question. There's just multiple layers to it :) One batik collector recently told me that collecting sometimes becomes an "obsession" when the collector is in constant pursuit of rarity, perfection etc.

All your input has been very, very helpful. I think I have a better idea of what draws collectors to batik now :) Have a great weekend ahead everyone!


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Fri Mar 23, 2012 1:57 pm 
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Joined: Thu Dec 07, 2006 7:22 am
Posts: 65
Location: germany
Adline,
And others have compared a collector's obsession with that of Don Juan, not that you probably can use the simile for your exhibition:

The link was only ten lines in the box.

The Collecting Culture: An Exploration of the Collector Mentality and ...
digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1120...
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat
by T Sawaged - 1999 - Related articles
Muensterberger clarifies, using the story of the great collector of love, Don Juan, as a metaphor: The lustful escapades of Don Juan were not just an unusual ...

The passage is on page 85.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Mar 24, 2012 12:16 am 
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Joined: Thu Jul 06, 2006 3:18 am
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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Thanks Larry :)


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 Post subject: Batiks
PostPosted: Sun Mar 25, 2012 7:42 pm 
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Joined: Mon May 24, 2004 7:35 pm
Posts: 176
Location: east coast
Hi - I can't say I am really a batik collector although I have two from Rudolf Smend's collection which I purchased from him a number of years ago. I happened to see Rudolf's book on Batiks from Courts and Palaces in a book store in Boston and had the usual collector's experience of several of them "speaking" to me right off the page. I knew nothing about batik and still know very little but I pursuaded Rudolf to sell me two.

I had a similar experience with weavings from Borneo after seeing Edric Ong's book on Pua in a bookstore in Kuching but that resulted in a complete obsession which continues today.

I find it difficult to verbalize the real attraction of either batik or Borneo weavings except they pierced right into my heart and soul at first view. I could talk of what I like superficially such as the technique of the finest ones, use of colors, etc., but basically I respond to those which "move" me regardless of other factors. Probably the "art" of the piece which reveals the soul of the creator. Being allowed to glimpse into the soul of the weaver is a wonderful and rare experience. I cherish the two batiks from Rudolf for similar reasons.

And speaking of Rudolf, he has just published an excellent article on batiks in the latest Textile Forum magazine which can also be read on line. I think this link will take you to it.
http://eastindiesmuseum.com/library/overview.html
What Rudolf has to say is always worth listening to.

Hope this is of some help.

_________________
John


Last edited by john on Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 11:46 am 
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Joined: Thu Jul 06, 2006 3:18 am
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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Dear John, thanks so much for sharing your experience with me :) How wonderful that you acquired some of Rudolf's now legendary collection! Thanks for the link, a friend/batik collector shared it with me some time back.


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Mon Mar 26, 2012 2:48 pm 
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Joined: Mon May 24, 2004 7:35 pm
Posts: 176
Location: east coast
Hi Adline - Best of luck with your show. I wish I could attend. Will there be any book or such from it?

_________________
John


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Wed Mar 28, 2012 4:16 am 
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Joined: Thu Jul 06, 2006 3:18 am
Posts: 53
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Hi John, we are working on a catalogue. Will keep you all updated :)


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