May 20, 2017

Pattern Edition Batik Statement: Udan Liris


Last month I posted my first Batik Statement Pattern Edition. Time for a new one! 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: Udan Liris.
Udan Liris means "Light Rain" or drizzling. Or in Dutch "Motregen". When rain in the Netherlands starts falling diagonal it means it rains pretty hard, but in the case of this Batik motif we are talking about the light, drizzling stuff.
This Batik design is always made out of diagonal lines of different or similar widths. The lines are filled with different motifs. I believe there is a number of different motifs being used to create a ritme, but I forgot if it is always the exact same number of lines (if you know, please comment below!). These filling motifs can have each their own meaning, but together they are Udan Liris.
The motif is diagonal, like the the Parang motif I described in the previous Pattern Edition, and it is also traditionally in brown, black (blue) on white.
Today, likewise with Parang, this motif is mostly made with cap, but still some brave Batikmakers do it by hand. Ibu Rasminah was making one when I was visiting her in Batang with lines of 1 to 2 centimeter width. She didn't liked making it, because she got dizzy from it. I bought one from her with thick lines which will be featured in my book. The one I'm wearing in the statement is a gift from Sacha Lannoye, thank you dear! She bought it on Bali wear it is worn when going to temples. To capture the meaning of Udan Liris I posed for you in rain, heavy thick rain. I thought that if the rain was heavy enough my camera would capture it...Mind you, it was February when I took this photo...it didn't, but I still think it is a clear rain statement.


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,- > pre-order now at sabine{at}sabinebolk.nl !

May 5, 2017

Good Life II

Last week my first article for ModeMuze went online, 'Batik ‘Tiga Negeri’ & Java Print ‘Good Living’ jippie! Because it is in Dutch, I translated here for you. The article is a revisit to a subject I blogged about before, the Java Print 'Good Living' by Vlisco, and of which I learned more. 
And even more after my article on ModeMuze got published! So read the translated and extended article down below, enjoy!


Batik ‘Tiga Negeri’ & Java Print ‘Good Living’


What have the most popular Java Print in Ghana and most expensive Batik from Indonesia in common? A lot and much more then I thought! 

Batik at the exhibition 'Vlisco 1:1 Un à Un' in Helmond


There it was.

In the exhibition to celebrate the 170th anniversary of Vlisco, the Wax print manufactory in Helmond. The Batik I wrote about in the post 'Good Life' on this blog. But this post was not about this Batik, but about the identical Java Print designed by Vlisco. I already suspected it was a copy of a Batik. so I ended my post with the wish to see the Java Print next to the 'original' one one day. I promised to revisit the subject when I learned more and you can imagine my surprise seeing this almost identical Batik. Not only identical in design, but also in its meaning, its history and its popularity today.


Tiga Negeri


Lets start at the beginning. The Batik in red, blue and brown, shows a combination of patterns from different regions. End of the 19th century it was common to bring these different motifs onto one cloth. On Java, Indonesia, Batiks became more popular in the middle of the 19th century and the wearer was less concern with the rules of which motif belong to which region. Batik makers started experimenting with colours and patterns from other areas. This is how 'Tiga Negeri' Batiks got invented. 'Tiga Negeri'  means "three countries", or in this context "three states". 'Tiga Negeri' refers to the making of the Batik on three locations. Sometimes only the colouring of the cloth, but sometimes also the applying of the wax was done on three different locations on Java. The red and blue was done in matching motif in the 'Pesisir' region on the Nord coast of Java, the brown was done on the other side of Java in the so called ‘Vorstenlanden-style’.

Detail of Batik at the exhibition 'Vlisco 1:1 Un à Un' in Helmond


The Netherlands, Indonesia & Ghana


At the end of the 19th century there was a lively trade in all sorts of textiles on Java among which 'imitation batiks'. This one-side printed cottons are introduced on the market beginning of that century by i.a. the English, Dutch and Swiss. Sales increase when the textiles are colour-resistant, washable without losing its colour, and printed on both sides. These cottons were the predecessor of the now well-known Wax prints, but have a market of their own.
End 19the century the 'imitation batiks' were not only sold in Indonesia as a cheap alternative for Batik, but also found their way to East Africa as ‘Khanga’ fabrics for Tanzania and Kenya. Later they went as ‘Fancy prints’ or ‘Java Garments’ to i.a. Ghana and Nigeria in West Africa. Now the prints are best know as ‘Java Print’ by Vlisco.

‘Tiga Negeri’ Batik was made on three places on Java and later got inspired by three places in the use of pattern and colour.  Today a 'Tiga Negeri' is the ultimate way of showing your skills as a Batik maker. The design allows you to work in different styles, but most importantly you can fill the cloth with as many patterns as possible. This in combined with a lot of colours: the base in red, blue and brown, and today even yellow, green and lilac, makes a 'Tiga Negeri' one of the most expensive Batik designs today.

And when do you wear such an expensive Batik? When you can married of course!

Work by artist Renée Koldewijn made and inspired by 'Good Living'
On the wall a original Vlisco, lighter blue then 
the Chinese 'Hitarget' copy, that was used for the shirt, hares and painting


A Good Life


The big motif on the Batik is builded up out of floral vines with lotuses and flying birds. The motif is based on the frequently used 'Tree of Life' from India that is also common in the fabric Chintz.
Chintz were traded and copied in Europe and Indonesia already from the 17th century. The 'imitaties batiks' were a direct result from this. The 'Tree of Life' can be found in many religions and is a symbol for getting knowledge through growth. A Lotus stands also for purity, because it grows from the mud producing beautiful flowers. A Tree Of Life from Lotus flowers is what you wish as newlyweds for your future together.

The Java Print' is already 75 years a bestseller in Ghana. Batiks get named after the maker or type of design, with the Java Prints this goes different. The sellers name the fabrics. In this case  ‘Good Living’. The cloth is worn to protect against jealousy about your good life. "A good life
brings forgiveness” says an owner of this print in the video ‘The Currency of Ntoma'
by Godfried Donkor.

So what have Java Print 'Good Living' and Batik 'Tiga Negeri in common? Almost everything! Two fabrics on two locations in the world connected in their history, their design and meaning for already a century.


A Second Skin



After the article got published by ModeMuze, I got a friend request on Facebook. I normally don't accept so fast, but her pictures made me happy at once.
It turned out I wrote my article about artist Renée Koldewijn favourite fabric. A fabric that inspires her and of which she made many artworks. I was happy I could use two of her pictures in this post. The first picture shows a painting, shirt and rabbits sculpture made from a Hitarget copy from the classic Vlisco 'Good Living' design. After discovering this Hitarget fabric was a "fake", she found the original from Vlisco and got even more inspired by it. I love the image of the Java Print wall, with the artist dressed in the Java print (Chinese copy) holding up her painting of Obama with a 'Good Living' shirt on!



"This motif became a second skin. I wear it daily and even added it to my interior  This is my home. We are one, my house and I, we blend together"

- Renée Koldewijn


Thanks for sharing Renée!


Screenshot while preparing the article for ModeMuze


Read more:
- Previous post ‘Good life’
- Book ‘Katoendruk in Nederland’ from 1989
- Book ‘Indigo, Leven in een kleur’ from 1985
- Book ‘Fabric of Enchantment, Batik from the North Coast of Java’ from 1996
- Book ‘Batik, de ziel van Java’ from 1996
- Article ‘Over Indische batik-kunst, vooral die van Java’ by G. P. Rouffaer from ‘Bulletin no. 23 van
het Koloniaal Museum te Haarlem’ from 1900
- Book ‘Textiele versieringen in Nederlandsch-Indië’  from J.A. Loebèr from 1914
- ‘Van Vlissingen & Co’s gedenkboek 1846-1946’ from 1948


Special thanks to the library of the Textielmuseum Tilburg
and Batik expert William Kwan Hwie Liong


May 2, 2017

This Is How She Does




Katy Perry at the Met Gala 2017


While everyone is talking about the 'red dress', I'm staring amazed at her head. Not one, but two traditional Dutch head ornaments are on Katy Perry's head. And apparently they are not Dutch, but part of the latest Maison Margiela Spring collection*. This is how it happens and it is very appropriate that - I believe we can call her that - the Queen of Cultural Appropriation finally is walking away with an European tradition. **

The Catwalk look by Maison Margiela 

Katy Perry at the Met Gala 2017


There is a lot of talk online and offline about Cultural Appropriation and particularly about what a white person shouldn't wear. For me this is very helpful and I learn a lot about important traditional dress from many different cultures. I learn about how it is traditionally worn, where, why, its history and in the process you can conclude for yourself this is probably not meant for you.
It also inspired me to look into Dutch traditional wear more. Because what is the appropriate fashion for Dutch and why do we feel the need to 'lend' so much from other cultures if we have a interesting traditional wear history ourselves.
First of, we start with the whole history repeats itself. When I first looked into Dutch traditional wear, I noticed we wore a lot of grey and black. Not really the thing I'm known for to wear. There were no patterns, not even checked fabrics. Our colonial history let us to colourful, patterned textiles that entered our tradition wear, mostly in the more coastal areas. We lend, copied, used fabrics from overseas. Silk from China, Checked and printed cotton from India. The wealth that came to our shores by trade allowed the traditional wear to become more elaborate, more over the top. A part of the traditional wear shows this proces really nicely: the 'oorijzer' (translated "Ear iron", is there an official English word for it?).

The Catwalk look by Maison Margiela 

Affiche from 1931 to promote 'Holland' for English tourism
The funny thing is that the traditional wear the girl is showing 
can only be found in the province Zeeland #

Ladies in traditional wear at a book presentation about traditional wear #


What started with a simpel iron band behind the head to hold the lace cap on its place become in three centuries an ornament that was big and shiny. 
During the ModeMuze lecture by Jacco Hooikammer he explained and showed this development. I also was surprised by images of traditional wear from Vlaardingen. I was so happy to discover that in the place I was born, 'Oorijzers' wear part of that dress too.*** After Jacco's mother showed us the Sunday dress for Staphorst including a beautiful big zilver 'oorijzer, I was ready to start rocking this myself!
Even though Katy Perry beat me to it, I still want to do something with this. I think it is an interesting subject to explore further. Both in history as in actual fashion to wear, so I'll get back on this for sure!


Display at Fries Museum of the development of "Ear Irons"



Read & see more:

* The Hair and Makeup at Maison Margiela Haute Couture Spring 2017 Was Pure Art
* ARTISANAL - SS17 SHOW LOOK 23 
** 5 Reasons Katy Perry Is Pop Music's Worst Cultural Appropriator 
*** Vlaardings Oorijzer from 1896  on ModeMuze

# Both images of from https://encyclopedievanzeeland.nl/Streekdracht

Images of Katy Perry at the Met Gala 2017 are from:

Katy Perry's Met Gala 2017 Ensemble Is Jaw-Dropping http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/05/01/katy-perry-met-gala-2017_n_16373058.html
Met Gala 2017: avant-garde looks on the red carpet - in pictures
https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/gallery/2017/may/02/met-gala-2017-avant-garde-looks-on-the-red-carpet-in-pictures#img-6
Met Gala brings the weirdness as Katy Perry dons a veil http://www.digitalspy.com/showbiz/news/g24619/met-gala-gallery-katy-perry-jaden-smith/?slide=1
Katy Perry Goes All Out in a Red Dress and Veil at Met Gala 2017: Photos http://www.usmagazine.com/stylish/news/katy-perry-goes-all-out-in-a-red-dress-and-veil-at-met-gala-2017-photos-w479955