Indonesian Ikat and Batik at Charley Hafen Jewelers-Gallery
One of the many forms of human expression is that of textiles. They represent a peoples aesthetics, technology and social order. And they are also an individual's expression within that group. Ikat is an age-old method of decorating or patterning a textile. Since the effort and time it takes to produce a textile is considerable, the ikat is often imbued with a kind of magical quality. Such a textile is an item of great value.
The word ikat is from the Indonesian or Malay mengikat which means "to tie, to bind". The term ikat is used for both the technique and the textile and uses a tie-dye process to apply a pattern on the warp or the weft threads before weaving. It is the weaving that makes the pattern then emerge. In rare forms of ikat both the warp and the weft are patterned and are then woven so that both patterns interlock. This is called double ikat.
The term ikat also describes the technique that developed independently in other parts of the world. It is known from pre-Columbian Central and South American cultures, from 19th Century Turkistan, to India, Japan, South East Asia and the Phillipines. "Ancient trading routes linked India and South-East Asia and also linked Central Asia with India. Because woven fabric rarely survives for more than a few centuries it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to determine where the technique of Ikat originated." (wikipedia)
Ikats vary widely and are often symbols of social status, power and prestige. There may be ritual meaning in the way they are used, such as the occasions they are displayed, or given as offerings or gifts. Gujarat, India produced the extraordinarily fine double ikat cloth that was traded to the islands of Indonesia for use by royalty. During the Dutch East Indies period, these fabled cloths would be brought in and given to rulers in the islands as goodwill for trade privileges. The pattern of these Patola cloths has probably influenced textile designs in Sumatra, Bali and islands such as Sumba.
Textiles first developed in Indonesian pre-history from the techniques of weaving baskets from grass, palm leaves and bamboo. At about the 7th Century BCE, a bronze age culture called Dongson spread from what is now Viet Nam throughout the Indonesian archipelago. They brought bronze kettledrums and ceremonial weapons ornamented with unique geometric decoration: spirals, meanders, straight lines, triangles, circles, etc. These had an influence on decoration throughout the Indonesian archipelago, but an especially strong influence on textiles.
Nature was supernatural to neolithic man, particularly the sun, stars, certain flowers and animals. The ancestors, too, were attributed special powers. These subjects, abstracted, simplified and geometrically rendered, then became the ornamentation of special textiles. Crocodiles, lizards, birds, and the tree of life describe a cosmology. The ornamentation may have been decoration or may have been symbolic, the meaning sometimes lost with the passage of time. The meaning could also change as different influences dominated an area: animist, Hindu-Buddhist (4th Century), Islam (15t Century), and European colonization.
In ikat all tying and subsequent dyeing takes place before the weaving. In Indonesian ikat there are three types: warp ikat, weft ikat and double ikat. Being one of the oldest known fibers, cotton was an early choice for ikat. The fluff was cleaned of seeds and spun into thread. This was divided into vertical thread (the warp) and the horizontal thread (the weft). Based on the ikat type, the thread is arranged on two parallel bars. Per the design or motif the bundles of thread are tightly tied with some fiber at those spots where the dye is not wanted. The bundles are then repeatedly dyed and dried. These bundles may be re-tied and dyed for additional colors.
In warp ikat the dyed vertical strands are arranged on the warp and cloth beams of the loom. At this point the weaver can see the pattern and make final adjustments with the threads to line up the ikat precisely. This takes some expertise. There are usually repeating patterns in ikat design but also non-repeating figurative designs, which are more difficult. These complex ikat patterns are handed down from generation to generation in the same family or clan. (wikipedia)
Weft ikat is generally more demanding. The patterned weft thread is wound around a bobbin and then inserted crosswise over and under the warp threads on the loom. The warp is undecorated. Precisely arranging the weft threads to line up with each other is very tedious. The places that have weft ikat seem to be the Indonesian islands that had a significant Hindu-Buddhist influence and use brighter, livelier colors. Sumatra, Java and Bali would be among these. Warp ikat techniques were practiced in the islands east of Bali, places having no significant interaction with Indian Hindu-Buddhist influence such as Savu, Sumba, Timor, Flores, Alor, etc. Traditionally, the cotton would be heavier and hand-spun, using indigenous vegetable dyes obtained from roots, bark and leaves. The Indian Patola motif would influence the weaving design, however.
In valuing a particular piece of warp ikat which uses the more muted colors of vegetable dyes, the richness and saturation of those very colors is of key importance. The rarity and desirability of a color is also a consideration. In Sumba, for example, the amount of, and the saturation of the kombu red in an ikat textile, gave it great value and prestige. Such a piece might require many months of repeated dyeing, perhaps even a couple of years. By its nature this ikat would belong to royalty.
Distribution of Ikat
Indonesia consists of over 13000 islands and many cultural groups. These have all been exposed in varying amounts to the larger influences of the Dongson culture, India, China, Islam and European traders. They have all mixed somehow with the pre-existing animism and created cultural expressions through their textiles. Ikat is distributed through Sumatra, Kalimantan (Borneo), Java, Celebes (Sulawesi), Bali, Lombok, Savu, Rote, Sumba, Flores, Timor, Alor, Tanimbar, Maluku and more. Many islands, sometimes even the smallest, have more than one distinct cultural group. This would seem to lead to a profusion and perhaps a confusion of ikat styles. Curiously, with just a modest exposure to many of these textiles and some good reference material, a person can recognize some major styles very quickly.
The ikats in the collection will be described individually as information exists. Some pieces will have much information, and on some unusual or very old pieces such little information as could be obtained. They are all treasured pieces of a quickly disappearing textile art form.
Wax resist dyeing technique in fabric has existed a long time. Beginning in Egypt about 300 BCE, then in 7th Century China, in India, Japan and several African countries. In Indonesia, batik became a major cultural and artistic expression, especially in Java. Perhaps the technique came from South Asia starting in the 6th Century, or perhaps Indonesian batik is an old tradition actually native to regions such as Celebes, Lesser Sunda, and Papua. It has been proposed that a batik tool, the canting, was invented in Java around the 12th Century.
Hand drawn batik was first to develop and is known today as batik tulis ("written"). Increased demand in recent times brought about a hand block-printing method known as batik cap by the invention of the copper block cap developed by the Javanese in the 20th century. There is also batik that uses a cap and then finishes detailing the piece with the tulis technique. By the late 20th Century commercial methods for batik print had developed.
Batik is in its essence painting or drawing. The instrument used to create the picture is the canting which is a small copper container that can be filled with wax, with a handle and a spout. This painted design or motif is influenced by its geographical location, the way of life in that region, the religion, customs and traditions in that region, the natural environment, contact with other batik-making areas. Batik can be viewed from several vantages: the process, the quality of the batik, the different motifs and the colors.(N.S,Djoemena, 1990). The individual Batik descriptions will attempt to describe these.
Traditional Batik cloth uses the manual wax-resist dyeing technique. In old Javanese batik, especially from Central Java, the motifs of traditional court batik had symbolic meanings. Some designs were restricted so that certain motifs could only be worn by royalty and others had different proscriptions. In contrast, the colors of pesisir batik, from the north coast of Java, is especially vibrant, and it shows a strong influence of the Coastal Chinese as well the Arabs and the Dutch.
The batik process applies melted wax to cloth before being dipped in dye. A mixture of beeswax and paraffin wax is common, allowing for the characteristic cracking effect of batik. The wax acts as a resist and where the wax has seeped through the fabric, the dye will not take. The fabric is then dried and the wax removed. More colors in the batik require additional steps of dyeing, drying and waxing. After the last dyeing it is boiled in water to dissolve the wax, or ironed between newspapers to absorb the wax and reveal the deep rich colors and the fine crinkle lines that give batik its character.
In the finest work, batik tulis, the application of wax with a canting is still done with great care and takes a long time. Depending on the quality of the art work, dyes, and fabric, the finest batik tulis halus cloth can cost several thousand dollars, reflecting the fact that it probably took several months to make.
By block printing the wax onto the fabric, it becomes possible to more quickly produce designs and intricate patterns than one could possibly do by using a canting. It also becomes more affordable to many people.
Javanese keraton ("court") Batik, also called inland batik, is the oldest batik tradition known in Java. This batik has earth colors such as black, brown, and dark yellow. Usually Yogya Batik has white as the background color. The two keratonan in central Java are actively preserving and fostering their batik traditions: Batik in the city of Solo, previously called Surakarta; and traditional Yogya batik by the Yogyakarta court.
North Coast Batik or Pesisir Batik is created and produced by several areas on the northern coast of Java. Because of trading, the North Coast batik tradition was more open to foreign influences in textile design, coloring, and motifs, in contrast to inland batik which was relatively independent of outside influences. Hence, North Coast batik uses such Chinese and European motifs as clouds and birds, and floral patterns. Significant centers are Pekalongan, Cirebon, Lasem, Tuban and Madura. (wiki)
Jambi Batik was influenced by the northern coastal areas of Java: Cirebon, Lasem, Tuban, and Madura. Garut Batik is produced by Sundanese people in the Garut district of West Java. Balinese Batik is more recent being stimulated by the 20th Century tourism. In addition to the traditional techniques such as 'tulis and 'cap', batik painting is often combined with tie-dye technique.
In Indonesia, traditionally, batik was sold in 2.25-meter lengths used for kain panjang or sarong for kebaya dress. It can also be worn by wrapping it around the body, or made into a hat known as blangkon. Infants are carried in batik slings decorated with symbols designed to bring the child luck. Certain batik designs are reserved for brides and bridegrooms, as well as their families. The dead are shrouded in funerary batik. Other designs are reserved for royalty. In the past a person's rank could be determined by the pattern of the batik he or she wore.
Batik garments play a central role in certain rituals, such as the ceremonial casting of royal batik into a volcano. In the Javanese naloni mitoni "first pregnancy" ceremony, the mother-to-be is wrapped in seven layers of batik, wishing her good things. Batik is also prominent in the tedak siten ceremony when a child touches the earth for the first time. Batik is also part of the labuhan ceremony when people gather at a beach to throw their problems away into the sea. (wikipedia).
Other Indonesian textiles
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