Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.

Batik at Tembi, Yogyakarta

Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
One of Tatang Elmy Wibowo’s batik artworks at his gallery.

Batik at Tembi, with Tatang

After the busy dusty dirty streets of Jakarta, it was pure relief to arrive in Tembi, South Yogyakarta, with its bright green rice fields, banana trees, ginger and coconut palms.
I couldn’t resist returning to the village of Tembi, it was where I first met Tatang and visited his group of batik artists last year, during my Scholarship trip. I wanted to meet up with them all again and see their new work, this time with Richard.

Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
With Tatang outside his Gallery.
Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
Aprat Koeswadji with new work drying outside his studio. It was great to see him again and meet his brothers, also batik artists.
Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
Mrs Yati, Tatang and Mrs Arminah, batik artists and friends.

Tembi Rumah Budaya

We stayed in Tembi Rumah Budaya, or ‘Tembi Cultural Home’, in a traditional style bungalow surrounded by rice and peanut fields. Everyday agricultural workers tended the land by hand, weeding, harvesting peanuts or planting rice for the rainy season. It was a really lovely place to stay and incredible value, at £30 a night it included breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea with cake and dinner, which I hadn’t known about when making the booking, such good luck !

Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
Tembi Rumah Budaya bungalows.
Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
Our bungalow, last on the right near the Ampitheatre entrance.
Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
View from outside our bungalow porch.

 

Soon after our arrival we were greeted by Tatang to discuss our week ahead. We planned to visit batik villages, wood carvers,  Parang machete makers, cap printing workshops and cap makers, batik artists and puppet makers, all with Tatang as our fabulous cultural arts tour guide.

Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
Sili, Javanese folk singer and instrumentalist partner. A wonderful night !

Tembi Rumah Budaya has its own small Museum of culture and a music forum allowing students to study and play Gamelan and other musical instruments. On our first night we were invited to a concert of Javanese folk usic in the amphitheatre at the back of the grounds. The female singer sounded melodiously beautiful, her voice crystal clear, full of quivering harmonies and expression. It was a real treat and we only had a few steps to our bungalow afterwards. The next night there were several singing groups from Sulawesi, Borneo, Malaysia and Java, playing in a mixture of styles, some quite theatrical and dramatic.

Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
The young Indonesian violinist was amazingly good and the sound of the guitarist and vocalist blended beautifully.
Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
A dramatic mix of music and poetry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Batik making

Many of the villages in this this region of Bantul including Tembi are known for their batik making, each specialising in its own distinctive style. The creative skills of ordinary and often poor people are breathtaking, exquisite Tulis designs delicately flow across the cloth, all hand drawn in wax with a canting.

Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
Fine Tulis canting work by Mrs Yati.
Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
A group of women applying second and third layers of wax to their once dyed batik works.
Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
One of the ladies working for Tatang, on a scarf that I bought at the end of my stay. Surprisingly she didn’t use a support, working directly on her lap.
Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
Two of Tatang’s expert batik workers.
Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
Detail of the intricate motifs of this batik worker.
Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
Village women batiking communally outside Tembi.

The women generally work in rudimentary conditions; a low stool on a concrete floor, a bamboo stand to drape the cotton over, a kerosene burner to heat the aluminium bowl containing the wax and various sized cantings filling a rusty tin. Their manner is serene while they work almost instinctively, “drawing” repeated designs with wax onto the length of cotton.

Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
Starting my batik the Javanese way, in Tatang’s workshop, Tembi.
Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
Blowing the spout of the canting to reduce flow initially.

 

I spent two days with some ladies working on my own batik at Tatang’s workshop, it was a real privilege. Sitting on a small stool all day was challenging enough, but to keep a steady and constant hand while applying wax to draped, un taut cotton was very difficult ! Batiking the traditional Javanese way is all together different and much more demanding than our contemporary methods in the UK. It’s about precision and accuracy, calm application with an even flow of wax and no drips allowed.

As I only had 2 days to make this 2 metre batik cloth I decided to mix abstract and traditional motifs to make faster progress. It was hot work but pleasantly therapeutic with the chatter of people around me, the regular Muezzin call to Prayer and the distant Gamelan playing.

Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
Waxing the areas of green I want protected from the next blue dye.
Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
Detail of batik dyed green
Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
Tatang dyeing the batik in blue Naphthol dye. It appears a pale yellow before the chemical reaction.

 

 

Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
My batik after the blue dye has been through the acid water. Instantly blue, like magic.
Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
Water boiling in a heavy iron pot ready for the de-waxing process.
Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
My batik de-waxed in 5 minutes, by dipping into boiling water a few times, melting the wax out.
Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
Section of my completed batik made in Tatang’s studio workshop, the traditional way.

I was able to complete my batik in time, dyeing it with green and blue Naphthol dyes, with the help of Tatang, who did all the chemical work for me. Naphthol dyes are banned in Europe, UK and the USA because of their toxicity and danger to the environment. It is a shame we don’t have a safe version of, or similar dye to Naphthol because of their instant colourfastness and ability to be boiled without losing any colour depth. As soon as my batik had its final blue dye, still wet, it was dipped into a pot of boiling water to remove the wax, all done in 5 minutes ! It would have taken me at least a day of ironing through newspaper at home with my Procion cold water dyes, and wax residue would still remain.

Mufidah

On our way to a cap making workshop we popped in to see Mufida’s natural dye studio set in a picturesque rural area outside Tembi, it was good to see her again and admire her beautiful batik work.

Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
Richard and Tatang watching Mufidah dye her batik in natural Mahogany dye.

 

Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
Mufidah dyeing her batik in natural mahogany dye.
Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
Beautiful banana and coconut trees outside Mufidah’s workshop.
Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
A selection of completed batiks by Mufidah, bottom three and three top left.

Cap making
We visited a cap making workshop and saw the lengthy and skilful process of cap construction, where copper strips are carefully bent into shapes and soldiered onto a framework, creating intricate patterns to print hot wax onto cotton. This home industry was hidden in a small village, down a back lane, a place we would never have found alone.

Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
A cap in the making; copper strips are bent into shapes with small pliers.
Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
Work table with copper canting in progress. The drawn out design is behind. I will write a more detailed post next time as I am having one made to my design.

Cap printing

Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
Cap printing by Rahmad.
Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
Rahmad printing a different cap design using a large cap, very skilful.

The next day Tatang took me to a friend’s cap stamping workshop to have a go at the cap printing process myself. I expected to have a few basic lessons first, but was ‘thrown in the deep end’. A two metre length of cotton was smoothed onto the printing pad, my instructor Rahmad folded it diagonanlly across one end to make a crease, then I was told to follow the fold with my cap. It was really quite difficult to keep the edge straight as well as lining up the cap design to repeat neatly.

Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
Trying to keep a straight line with the border design.
Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
Oops, did I go off line ?
Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
Rahmad helping me to print the border straight.
Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
Hot work, the cap is quite heavy and not easy to print in the right place !
Batik travels
Rahmad’s daughters playing in the workshop while he works.

Standing directly by the hot burner the heat was overwhelming, making my task even more challenging, but I did manage to fill my fabric with a Parang motif. I Really have to admire the skill and speed at which Rahmad and the other craftsmen work, never making a blotch, the repeated motif never out of line or offset, they show such expertise.

Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
Kawung cap design being printed a second time with resin based wax. It is perfectly aligned and done at amazing speed without drips.

Dyeing the batik

Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
My fabric printed with a parang cap design, not perfect but I am pleased.
Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
Tatang rubs green and blue naphthol dyes on to my cap batik.
Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
My Batik cap printed fabric completed, dyed blue and green with Naphthol dyes.
Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
Parang cap print dyed black. This batik has been de-waxed and will be dyed green with Naphthol dye, to make a green on black parang design.
Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
Black and white cap print being dyed green.
Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
Dyed green, wait for the chemical reaction.
Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
Batik print is dipped into acid water and the chemical reaction makes the red green.
Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
Batik is rinsed to clean off the chemicals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inspirational Batik travels by Marina Elphick, on The Batik Route.
Batik de waxing Javanese style, finished batik is immersed into boiling water and the wax instantly melts off. The batik is then washed in soapy water and all completed in 5-10 minutes !

Our days continued with visits to shadow puppet makers, a stone mason, a blacksmith and his wife, who forged a Parang machete for Richard. When he received it three days later the wooden handle had been beautifully carved into a dragon’s head.

Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
Husband and wife hammer at the steel blade to be, forging it into a curved Parang.
Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
A knife similar to Richard’s, only straight, called a Golok.

It seems the whole region is populated by highly accomplished and creative people, all proud of their hand making skills. It was a genuine treat to meet and talk with these resourceful craftsmen and women. It has been a fascinating privilege to be able to watch the different time consuming processes of their work and see the results.
All thanks to Tatang, a talented artist himself who knows a whole range of interesting experts, artists and makers in and around Tembi.

Batik travel adventures, by Marina on the Batik Route.
Batik by Widayani Koeswadji on exhibition at Leksa Ganesha.
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5 thoughts on “Batik at Tembi, Yogyakarta

  1. Dear Marina, It has been very interesting to read about and look at the super photos and then suddenly this week it is all so familiar! The work in progress, the colours, the smells, the sounds, the heat and trying to get comfortable all came flooding back. Meanwhile back here it is cold and wet and working in my studio and Stephen’s workshop demands fortitude! Thanks for keeping us in touch. We hope you continue to have great time. Our very best wishes, Jenn and Stephen

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear marina I am Danuri a Lecturer of Textile design at University Technology MARA in Malaysia.Your visit to tembi batik village was very interesting..If possible can you gave me the contact person such as Mr Tatang Elmy Wibowo. I plan a trip to their place which would be end of this coming Mei. Your co-operation is appreciated.
    Thank You.

    Regards.
    Danuri Sakijan

    Like

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