Given that we've decided textiles are one of the few items that we can still add to our overcrowded homes, it seemed a good idea to educate ourselves a bit more about what we'll be buying. As we drove up to Museum Tekstil in Tanah Abang, an area of Jakarta that's home to a huge wholesale fabric market, we both commented on what a classic Dutch colonial building it was. Wrong. It was originally a private dwelling built by a Frenchman in the early 19th century ("French Empire architectural style," according to The Jakarta Explorer). The house has gone through many incarnations, including being bought by the Turkish Council, taken over by rebel groups during Indonesia's post-WWII fight for independence, rented out as an institution for the elderly. A year after the government was handed the deed in 1975, Suharto's wife Ibu Tien opened the building as a textile museum.
Looking back toward the street
Because these open columns let in too much warm sunshine, the edifice used to be spoiled by various types of screens and awnings.
We were interested to see these saloon-style doors, which we had also noticed on Emerald Hill in Singapore.
The colors and patterns were mesmerizing, but we could only take a few very quick photos.
From Ibu Raharty's collection
Pattern reminiscent of Julia sets
Mosaic floors competed with the textiles. Unfortunately we don't have any photos of how stunningly different batik patterns (rather like the second two tile combinations here) were paired in outfits that unsurprisingly saw Ibu Raharty on the best-dressed list several times.
From Ibu Rahmi's collection
The permanent collection. This houses textiles dating back to the 18th century, but we didn't notice any that old.
Huge "cap" (fabric stamp, pronounced chop) on display in entry
Unusual pattern from Papua
A quiet corner
Stages of batik creation
Natural dyes and a bowl on floor with several "canting" — the small dipper used for dripping wax onto batik by hand
And the pièce de résistance for me: a gorgeous sample bedroom decorated in blue-and-white batik
The sign on the bed reveals that all the batiks are from Parang Kencana, the shop where Libby and I had both splurged on one very expensive contemporary silk batik each. I'll paste a few photos of my prized possession after this.
There was a third outpost, where you could buy textiles and/or try your hand at creating your own. We had never seen people working with canting and wax before.
This is the batik teacher, who sold us an old piece from Cirebon.
This was made by hand with a canting, without a pattern. Around fifty years old (i.e. younger than I am but still considered an antique).
Canting statue outside classroom
A typically lush and colorful Indonesian plant
Area at back of main museum, where we met two elegant and knowledgeable ladies sipping tea, who probably belonged to Himpunan Wastraprema, the Indonesian Traditional Textiles Society.
"Garden of Natural Dyes"
Despite appearances, this is actually new, crafted in West Kalimantan.
Great photo of textures on one of the less carefully maintained walls. Most pics in this post are c/o Michael.
I'll finish with this wonderfully expressive Indonesian cat that Michael caught at just the right moment. When I sent my friend Carol F., a crony from Lasmo days, a copy of these photos, she wrote, "Ah yes, it's so nice to know that some things never change. Obviously the pace of life in Indonesia still affords drifting off to a peaceful nap under a shady tree, and hours spent on the 'roosting' benches just watching the world go by. I think the Indonesians understand something about life that most Westerners don't understand or ignore, that inner urge to just 'idle' like a car at a red light, pausing, ticking over, going nowhere for the moment. Loved the kucing [Indonesian for cat] photos, so sweet, I'd forgotten how different the Asian cats look with their big ears."
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