Batik Canting: A Unique, Hand-crafted Art Form
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Ibu Hartati Ongkosutjahjo learned about the beauty of batik early in life, but she went on to use the designs to create something totally new. Her shop in Pondok Indah shows beautiful, quilted wall hangings and other unique items using the timeless designs of antique batik.
Batik Canting had its roots in Hartati's childhood. As a child she would visit her grandmother in Pekalongan who sold the distinctive brightly colored Pekalongan batik from her home. Relatives and friends from throughout Java often came to Hartati's home in Jakarta to sell batik through her mother. Throughout her childhood she saw her grandmother, mother and other relatives wearing batik for everyday clothing.
These friends and relatives instilled in Hartati a love of the fabric with their many discussions about batik. She gained a deep knowledge of the traditional patterns and motifs distinctive of both the Chinese-influenced designs of the northern coastal cities of Pekalongan and Cirebon, and also the traditional darker colors and centuries-old designs of the sultanates of Solo and Yogyakarta in southern Central Java. Everyday exposure to the beauty of batik was a part of her childhood education.
Years later, after enjoying a career as a civil engineer, Hartati established a business with friends which allowed her to express her fascination with batik through the creation of intricate wall hangings utilizing the antique batik patterns she grew to love in her childhood.
Batik Canting is born
Hartati, together with her artistically inclined husband Bapak Johanes and two colleagues, Lila Noerhayati and Kirono Arundatie - all of whom were also engineers, established Batik Canting in 1998. Each partner specializes in different home accessories, with Hartati creating the wall hangings. The creative synergy of their collaborative efforts has resulted in a truly beautiful one-of-a-kind home accessories shop.
Batik tulis designsare painstakingly created by hand with a canting, the pen-like applicator which is used to apply the wax to the cloth to create the intricate designs. The name, Batik Canting, was taken from the fact that they only use batik tulis in their creations.
Products offered by the talented foursome include one-of-a-kind wall hangings, tablecloths, runners, cushion covers, rugs, bedcovers, place mats, framed designs, purses and curtains. Fabric allowing, various items can be coordinated to create an overall look for any room in your home.
Some of the best selling items are one-of-a-kind wall hangings and mini-jackets, which are hung by wooden rods through the armholes. Made of old batik, the designs are quilted and various accessories are attached to complete the artistic creation. These accessories include other types of traditional fabrics, antique coins, semi-precious gemstones and hammered or molded brass ornaments. Batik Canting also sells the poles and wall fixtures to hang both the mini jackets and other wall hangings. The ends of the poles are decorated with hammered brass fittings and tassels can be purchased to hang at the ends for added effect.
Wall hangings range in price from Rp 500,000 to Rp 2,000,000, depending on the value of the batik, the size and intricacy of the piece and the accessories used.
Batik Canting products have gained distinction through international exhibits in Berlin and Japan and closer to home at Jakarta bazaars and exhibitions in foreign embassies and handicraft shows. You'll be able to view Batik Canting products at upcoming Christmas bazaars organized by expatriate women's groups in Jakarta.
How the wall hangings are made
Hartati's creative process focuses first on the concept around each individual piece. As her concept gains form, she looks at the design of the fabric she'll use and begins to plan her creation. Drawing the pattern on paper, she chooses the sections of the fabrics to utilize, selects accessories and assembles the piece. One of the biggest challenges is the difficult task of lining up the intricate patterns within the fabric so that the design achieves the artistic effect she is seeking.
All hangings utilize batik kain, a 2 1/4-meter length of fabric, which is traditionally worn as a skirt-like item of clothing. In the traditional Javanese women's clothing ensemble called kain kebaya, the batik kain is wrapped from the waist around the hips and legs, and worn with a traditional kebaya top.
The value of old batik far surpasses the newer batik designs in Hartati's mind. The colors are faded and the fabric is soft. The use of these old patterns is a special mission for Hartati, as she strives to build appreciation for older batik motifs.
Old batik fabric is becoming increasingly difficult to find and the search for the distinctive timeless beauty of the faded batik reaches far into Java to find quality fabrics in good condition. Hartati uses both the traditional muted colors of batik from Yogyakarta and Solo, as well as the more colorful motifs of the Pesisir batik, from the northern Java coastal towns of Cirebon and Pekalongan.
Wall hangings and mini-jackets are complemented by the creative use of natural materials including shells, dried fruit, grasses, fibers, leaves, bone, coconut shell, wood and fish teeth which all add to the overall designs in unusual ways. The more complicated the design, the more challenged Hartati is by its creation. She says she is constantly pushing herself with new medium, new styles and new patterns.
Can you make special orders? Requests for particular patterns would be almost impossible to fill due to the difficulties in obtaining quality fabrics in sufficient quantity. Thus, Hartati prefers to sell her existing creations and does not accept special orders.
The Batik Canting Shop
Batik Canting products are showcased in Hartati's home, which is a treat in itself to visit. She and her talented husband have adorned their eclectic southwest-style stucco home in the residential area of Pondok Indah with distinctively Indonesian artifacts, antique ceramic plates, skulls of indigenous deer, paintings and crafts. The open patio at the rear of their home is the setting for the displays of exquisite wall hangings.
You'll be in for a truly special treat if you are allowed to see Hartati's own private collection of antique batik. She still cherishes the childhood memories of the special pagi-sore kain worn by her mother and grandmother. Lovingly preserved against the ravages of time, Hartati treasures these special heirlooms of her cultural heritage and her childhood in a batik trading family.
Batik Canting creations expand the uses and popularity of traditional textiles as their creators use their artistic genius to show us that batik can be so much more than just clothing.
by Danielle Surkatty
Photos by Jan Dekker
First published in Jakarta Kini, a publication of Indo Multi Media, December 2001
Batik Canting Quilt and Patchwork
Last updated December 18, 2012.
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