Posts Tagged 'batik'

Connecting Fibers

Alexandria Clifton and Kyli Brook are two students of UNT professor Lesli Robertson and both recent grads from the college’s Fibers program. Earlier this year, they set off to research the process of making traditional batik on the island of Java. They were tasked with the challenge (and we are so glad they accepted!) with producing eight batik samples that illustrate the complex creative process of traditional batik makers. These samples will be installed in Waxed: Batik from Java, opening this weekend on Level 3. (Read a little more about the process and the installation in this post.)

Clifton and Brook’s journey began with a trip to the DMA’s textile storage with curator Roslyn Walker and preparator Mary Nicolett to examine some of the textiles up close and personal. These works are incredibly detailed, and photos alone do not do them justice!
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Back in the studio on UNT’s campus, they mixed wax based on traditional Javanese recipes. The wax must be sufficiently durable to resist dye, but also removable. Their research determined that both hand-drawn and stamped batiks involve an initial application of a brittle but easily removable wax mix (klowong) followed by various applications of a stickier, more durable wax mix (templok). The ingredients for hand-drawn wax—their method of wax application—include paraffin, pine resin, beeswax, and fat. Wax for stamp application also includes eucalyptus gum. They used strips of fabric to test out the waxes.
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Today in Central Java, indigo dye is generally made from indigo paste, lime, and ferrous sulfate mixed with water. A soga brown dye mixture includes bark from various trees and shrubs. In an effort to be as authentic to the process as possible, Clifton and Brook also used natural dyes for their project. (Learn about UNT’s cool Natural Dye Garden here.)
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The design of their final eight samples is based on the motif of the red wraparound skirt (kain panjang) with blue clouds (megamenlang). Ultimately, the concentric outlines of this motif more clearly illustrate how to produce gradated hues with subsequent wax applications and dyeing; however, throughout their process the two tested a multitude of designs, all inspired by the DMA’s collection.
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During their research Clifton and Brook compiled a robust binder of samples and experiments and shared it with us. I was particularly impressed because even their notes are lovely!
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Not only are Clifton and Brook’s “finished” products on view in the exhibition, but visitors can actually touch and feel the samples. During the fall semester, we look forward to receiving a second set of batiks from Amie Adelman’s class. A HUGE thank you to our friends and colleagues from the UNT Fibers program for another wonderful collaboration!
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Andrea Severin Goins is the Head of Interpretation at the DMA.

Interpreting Batiks

We are looking forward to Waxed: Batiks from Java, which will highlight the DMA’s fabulous collection of Javanese batik textiles later this fall. These works will continue the thread (pun absolutely intended!) of displaying textiles on Level 3; previously, Add to, Take Away: Artistry and Innovation in African Textiles explored textiles across Africa.

Batik is a technique of textile decoration that involves applying wax to a fabric by hand with a canting (wax pen) or a stamp. The fabric is then dyed, but the wax resists dying and creates pattern and decoration in the negative. Although the earliest and most simple batiks involved applying only dots of wax, the process has evolved to yield incredibly detailed and complex designs.

Batik tools, like these wax pens, will also be on display in Waxed.  

Batik tools, like these wax pens, will also be on display in Waxed.

Making a batik requires serious creativity, skill, and time. It took several months to complete a design like this cloud motif. If you look closely, you will notice that each cloud form includes six concentric outlines that shift in tone from a deep blue (the innermost line) to white (the outermost line). In order to achieve the variations in color, the cloth had to be dyed and waxed six separate times.

Wraparound skirt, (kain panjang) [pointed-ends cloud motif (megamenlang), Indonesia: Java, c. 1910, Cotton, commercial dye (?), Textile Purchase Fund, 1991.58

Wraparound skirt (kain panjang) [pointed-ends cloud motif (megamenlang)], Indonesia, Java, c. 1910, cotton and commercial dye (?), Dallas Museum of Art, Textile Purchase Fund, 1991.58

The job of “interpreting” textiles—or presenting them to the public in a way that facilitates understanding, piques interest, invokes appreciation, or inspires curiosity (among other things)—is a unique one. Because textiles are everywhere in our day-to-day lives, from mattresses, to clothes, to carpet and upholstery, it becomes necessary to very clearly convey what makes certain textiles so special. For our Inca exhibition last year, we collaborated with University of North Texas professor Lesli Robertson and the students in her class “Topics in Fiber: Community, Culture, and Art.” They created samples of textiles that reflected the very specific weaving techniques of textiles in the exhibition. We discussed the project in this blog post. These samples were such a success in the exhibition that we wanted to collaborate with our UNT colleagues once again for Waxed.

This time, we will work not only with Lesli and two of her recently graduated students but also with Amie Adelman, UNT professor of fibers, and one of her fall classes. The students will collaborate with DMA staff to design and develop an educational display that presents the steps required to produce complex batik designs. Together, we will further explore batik production in 19th- and 20th-century Java, including specific techniques, tools, colorants, and even wax “recipes.” The students will also have opportunities to visit the Museum’s textile storage and view some of the batiks up close, before they are installed in the galleries. By the fall, the students will produce eight to ten batik samples, each illustrating a different step in the process. By breaking down each individual step, our goal is for visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the extensive time, creativity, and planning involved in producing batik. Visitors will be able to learn from looking at these samples, and also from feeling them and touching the wax applied to the fabric.

Sketch of preliminary ideas for educational display

Sketch of preliminary ideas for educational display

We look forward to working with our friends and colleagues at UNT this summer, and we cannot wait to see what they come up with! Stay tuned for more behind-the-scenes pics of this exciting collaboration!

Andrea Severin Goins is the Head of Interpretation at the DMA.

Discovering Eliza

It was a truly exciting moment for me when I discovered that the DMA held a batik produced by “THE” Eliza van Zuylen. Owning one of van Zuylen’s exquisite hand-drawn cloths was a privilege that only very wealthy women in 19th-century colonial Indonesia enjoyed. With the average wage of a government employee being twenty guilders a month, and a van Zuylen sarong costing around thirteen guilders, these batiks were comparable to a Chanel bag or Louboutin shoes today. Adorned with European-style flower bouquets, hence buketan-style batik, the cloths were wrapped around the waist and combined with fashionable lace-trimmed blouses called kebayas.

Three Indo-European women wearing kebaya blouses with batik sarongs, Batavia (Jakarta), around 1880. Heringa, R./ Veldhuisen, H.C: Fabric of Enchantment. Batik from the North Coast of Java. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Los Angeles, 1996. pg. 48

Three Indo-European women wearing kebaya blouses with batik sarongs, Batavia (Jakarta), around 1880, from Heringa, R./Veldhuisen, H.C., Fabric of Enchantment: Batik from the North Coast of Java (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1996), p. 48.

Mainly produced by women in their home and for their private use, Javanese batik underwent a process of commercialization in the late 19th century. In addition to Peranakan Chinese, several Indo-European women on the north coast of the island established batik workshops, often to supplement their husband’s income. Mostly middle class, these women, who were of European and Asian, Chinese, or Arab origin, were situated in between the local Javanese population and the Dutch colonial society. Their intermediary position allowed them to create batik for several societal groups, including the Indo-European, Peranakan Chinese, and upper-class Javanese.

Eliza van Zuylen. Heringa, R./ Veldhuisen, H.C: Fabric of Enchantment. Batik from the North Coast of Java. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Los Angeles, 1996. pg. 76

Eliza van Zuylen, from Heringa, R./Veldhuisen, H.C., Fabric of Enchantment: Batik from the North Coast of Java (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1996), p. 76.

Eliza van Zuylen was one of these women; she was born in 1863 in Batavia (Jakarta) as the daughter of a Dutch soldier and an Indo-European woman. After her husband, Alphons van Zuylen, was appointed as government inspector in Pekalongan, she moved to this north coast city, which, since the 1850s, was an important batik production center. After helping in her sister Christina’s batik workshop, van Zuylen opened her own business in 1890. Starting off with just three Javanese batik makers, her workshop was very prosperous and expanded quickly, by 1918 becoming the largest Indo-European batik business in the whole of Java. Her workshop ended up being the only Indo-European batik business to survive the economic depression of the 1930s.

Peranakan Chinese batik entrepreneur Tee Boen Kee and his workshop in Batavia (Jakarta), around 1930. Heringa, R./ Veldhuisen, H.C: Fabric of Enchantment. Batik from the North Coast of Java. Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Los Angeles, 1996. pg. 41

Peranakan Chinese batik entrepreneur Tee Boen Kee and his workshop in Batavia (Jakarta), around 1930, from Heringa, R./ Veldhuisen, H.C., Fabric of Enchantment: Batik from the North Coast of Java (Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1996), p. 41.

The batik designs, inspired by Dutch horticultural books, imported European flowers, and European fairytales, were created by Eliza van Zuylen herself and then drawn on the cloth with hot wax by her batik makers. Provided the wax drawing met van Zuylen’s expectations, she added her signature to the cloth and allowed it to be dyed. Together with a stamp from her workshop, this signature guaranteed the authenticity of the batik. Not only was the habit of signing batiks, which had been introduced by Indo-European batik entrepreneurs such as van Zuylen, meant to help protect patterns, but it also functioned as an advertisement.

Woman's Sarong, 1910, Java, Pekalongan, Indonesia, batik on commercial cotton, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Bywaters in memory of Paul and Viola van Katwijk

Woman’s sarong, 1910, Java, Pekalongan, Indonesia, batik on commercial cotton, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Bywaters in memory of Paul and Viola van Katwijk

The signature and stamp on the DMA batik by Eliza van Zuylen. Woman's Sarong (details), 1910, Java, Pekalongan, Indonesia, batik on commercial cotton, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Bywaters in memory of Paul and Viola van Katwijk

The signature and stamp on the DMA batik by Eliza van Zuylen

A gift from former Museum director Jerry Bywaters, this beautiful sarong entered the DMA’s collection in 1982. The signature “E v Zuylen” and the stamp stating “Batikkerij Mevr. E. van Zuylen, Pekalongan” prove that this batik was made in van Zuylen’s workshop. The beige and blue color combination, in this case probably achieved with indigo, is referred to as kelengan and was popular among both Indo-European and Peranakan Chinese women on the north coast. The body, or badan, of the cloth is decorated with three flowering twigs along with birds and butterflies. This motif is repeated on the head, or kepala, but on a contrasting dark background. The pattern fields and the edges of the cloth are decorated with floral lace borders. Such a batik would have been suitable for a young Indo-European bride on her wedding night, with the beige symbolizing her purity and the lovebirds referring to marriage.

Elisabeth Seyerl is the McDermott Graduate Curatorial Intern for African and Asian Art at the DMA.


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