August 9, 2016

The journey to Batik - Introducing Batik Fractal

Batik Abimanyu, Pilang Village on Java*
Batiks made for Batik Fractal 

In a few weeks I will be back on Java enjoying the Indonesian culture and exploring the Batik world. With the question "How does Batik inspires and how do you preserve the Art of Batik?", I will travel around meeting different artists, Batik makers, entrepreneurs, researchers and of course Batik wearers. I try to capture the Batik world as it is practiced today and see how this art-form will continue, evolve and is kept alive by different people in all sorts of ways. One of the people I will meet during my second 'Journey to Batik' is Muhamad Lukman, Chief Design Officer of Batik Fractal. So a post to introduce Lukman and his Batik Fractal.

Willow blouse, Batik Fractal pattern made with cap. When I wear this blouse, people think it is African textile. Funny when I explain it is Modern Batik from Java, such surprised faces

Nancy Margried, front-woman of Batik Fractal, send in the third published Batik Statement for my blog, so I have been following Batik Fractal for some years now. Batik Fractal is a company that uses computer software to make Batik designs. This interesting combination of something so handmade and analog with something so modern and digital, made me fascinated from the beginning. 

When I was on Java in 2009, I discovered that the Batik designers were the ones in charge at most Batik workshops. The Batik makers were just following the patterns drawn on the cloth, which made them just workers and not creators. The money made by selling the Batiks went for the biggest part to the designers, while the makers were paid, if lucky by the hour, or per finished cloth. In the the end who didn't make the Batiks get paid the best. 
A lot like the Art world where who shows it earns, who makes it doesn't. The Batik designers didn't spend hours applying the wax with care and dedication to the cloth, they only executed the fun part. Only a few places I visited had Batik makers that were also the designers. On these locations you could see that the Batiks were being made with more joy. The makers were proud of their product and I know this as an artist myself, working as just a worker or creating your own thing is a huge difference.
Because not everyone is gifted with the ability to draw a design, the software Batik Fractal offers, a solution. It allows everyone to create a design. This makes makers stronger on the Batik market and more independent. 

Batik Fractal also promotes handmade Batik Tulis. At first their designs were mostly made using Batik Cap. I think partly because it is easier to create a repeating pattern. They make from these Batik fabrics useful and fashionable items like blouses, laptop sleeves and business-card holders. Some of these products are made with left-overs from the industrie, so re-use is also a part of Batik Fractal.
I ordered some clothing a year and a half ago. I was very happy with the Willow blouse, but very disappointed in the blouse I ordered for my love. The sleeves and collar were the only parts where Batik fabric was used, and it was printed!! A company that supports & wants to secure the future of Batik should stay away from printed fabrics with Batik motifs!
However shortly after that, Batik Fractal begin experimenting with natural dyes and made a line of products like scarfs with these natural dyed Batiks. Now they are busy with a new project #MADEWITHJBATIK in which Batik Tulis is being made using their jBatik software. So a good time to visit this inspiring company! 

Infinity Batik hanging to dry at Batik Kalinggo **

Infinity Batik with wax still on the cloth at Batik Kalinggo **

In the last months, I have been sharing thoughts back and forth with Muhamad Lukman, Chief Design Officer of Batik Fractal. I'm looking forward meeting him and learning more about the Batik Fractal software. But until then, a little interview:

Why is Batik important for you? 
And how do you see the future of Batik, the future of the technique Batik Tulis and the philosophy; the language of the cloth, the meaning of the patterns/motifs and colours?

I think the importance of Batik lies in several aspect: in Heritage, Art, Economy and in a Scientific/ Technology aspect.
I believe that in the future Batik will have its own voice in the world. Nowadays you can see Batik on several catwalks, but this is not enough for me. In my opinion the world only sees parts and pieces of Batik. They see it as a nice textile, or just as a tradition. I see a future where people will recognize Batik instantly and will have a connection with the tradition.

I think in the future people will recognize Batik in a more complete way. How it touches the tradition & economy, how the patterns are made, how we see it in science and technology.
Because the process  is so laborious, I would like people to know more, be interested, acknowledge this process and value it more.
For myself, I would like Batik to be promoted more prominently by our government. The future younger generations are getting interested in making Bati and want to be part of this. We need a thrive in economic aspect.
I also see a more sustainable future for Batik. In both economics as in waste management there is much to be improved.
I also see a future where technology could support us in terms of designing and preserving Batik.

Is Batik Fractal focussed on a specific Batik motif right now for a new collection or project? 

Batik Fractal is not focusing on specific motif right now. However, we have collected several Batik patterns that are part of the jBatik library. jBatik is desktop application that uses parametric systems to generate various batik patterns or any other patterns. The classical patterns form the base for us to develop various new patterns.
jBatik uses fractal theory, a branch of mathematic that deals with iterations, to create patterns.
Users can draw traditional Batik patterns and then create various new patterns by changing its parameters.
jBatik is being used to empower over a thousand traditional batik artisans in Indonesia. They can create various new patterns from their traditional ones.

#madewithjbatik is a special section (on our website) where we put the independently designed and produced batik fabrics by the batik artisans all across the country. These artisans are using jBatik Software to design the Batik and they produced it traditionally with handmade process (canting and stamp). With #madewithjbatik section, we provide them an online platform to display and commercialize their products through our website. These featured artisans have successfully utilizing technology on their traditional art.***

Working with jBatik

Training in jBatik

Do you consider what Batik Fractal is doing as Art or more as development? 

For us, it is both. Batik Fractal is the next step of development in Batik making. Using technology to create new designs and storing them. It is also an art, since this new way of thinking, using technology to generate patterns, can create a distinct new way of creating Batiks.
Our aim is to be sustainable and fair with our artisan friends. We give transparent pricing for the collaboration and we explain to our costumer about our vendors and partners for Batik Fractal.
We are also working in collaboration with institutions such as schools and universities for jBatik trainings. And of course we are still designing our products.

What is your favorite Batik design?

For Batik design, I guess every traditional Batik designs is my favorite. It gives inspiration and can generate various new patterns.

Muhamad Lukman wearing Batik, made with jBatik from Batik artisans from Batik Kalinggo

* More about Batik Abimanyu on
** More about Batik Kalinggo on
*** Visit for all #madewithjbatik products

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