Batak Textiles and Traditions

 

  

The island of Sumatra lies along the western side of the Strait of Malacca, which historically has been an important trade route in Southeast Asia. Nestled around Lake Toba of Northen Sumatra are the Batak people who are known, amongst other things, for the highly skilled textile pieces which are produced in the area. The best-known tribe of this region in Indonesia are the Toba Batak.

The Batak are notably infamous for a cannibalistic history before the arrival of European missionaries in the early twentieth century. While it was not a very common practice, the Batak ate the bodies of those convicted of certain crimes such as robbery, murder and adultery. The family of the condemned were obliged to provide the ingredients for the seasoning, such as hot peppers and lime, as a way to demonstrate their agreement with the sentence and that they would not show grievances and engage in revenge for their fallen family member. These records were written according to eyewitness accounts, the first one of which was recorded by Marco Polo.

  

Ulos is the traditional textile of the Batak people. The ulos is intricate in not only in technique but in its importance in the ritual and social context of Batak culture. Each design has a meaning, determining social status, spiritual power and the specific use for which it was created, such as whether the piece is to be  worn to a wedding or to a funeral. Colors are also symbolic: black and dark blue represent the underworld, red (which is used sparingly) the middle world and white for the highest realm of the world, ie mortality.



 

The Ulos Sibolang, pictured above, black or blue with white and blue, is often used in ceremonies to establish social bonds to attract good luck and protection. In a marriage, the bride and groom are wrapped in Ulos, believed to ensure the fertility of the marriage. Ulos are also given as a gift from the family of the bride to the groom's family. The Ulos Marompa, which features transversely colored brown triangular motifs, are presented by parents to their daughter at the birth of her first child. This cloth can then be used as a baby’s carrying cloth, or worn by men as a head cloth during special occasions.


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Celebrating Kuningan in Bali.

 

As a little background to this post, behind the team here at Dorotea Gale is Dewi Cristina and Saerah Dewi- we both share Balinese heritage and visit the island and our families whenever we get the chance. We’ll be showcasing our range at the Bali Jazz Markets by the Sea in August from the 14th to the 16th and decided to stretch out our stay over a month!

 

We made it to Bali just in time to catch the holy day of Kuningan, a peaceful time celebrated every 210 days. Kuningan marks the end of the Galungan holiday, which celebrates the victory of Dharma over Adharma. During this time, Balinese gods and ancestors descend and return to earth and the latter to their former family homes, where prayers and offerings are made to celebrate their return to earth. Offerings are busily made throughout the days of Galungan including nasi kuning, a type of yellow rice colored with tumeric. This special offering (also a delicious specialty dish!) represents the gratitude for a prosperous life. Other offerings can range from nuts and seeds to fish and fruit like apples and pears.

 

Temples, altars and symbolic statues are lavishly decorated with flowers, bantentamiang and endongan.

 

Flowers play a large part in prayer rituals, often placed between fingers, behind the ears and tucked into hair.


On the days leading up to and on Kuningan day tamiang  and endongan decorations hang around temples and homes, both beautiful and deep in meaning. The Tamiang (picture to the left) is a a rounded decoration representing protection, defense, and the continuous cycle of life and the world. The Tamiang is a deterrent, and its emblem is protective. In addition to the shield symbolism, it also symbolizes the turning of the wheel of nature, known as cakraning panggilingan. This touches on the laws of nature-  a powerful reminder that one should protect themselves from bad behavior and actions towards themselves, others, and their environment. 

 

Endongan  is made of coconut leaves and shaped like a bag or a pocket. The Balinese put different things like seeds, fruits and tubers inside the endongan. Some people see it as a symbol of food supply for the journey of the ancestors from earth to heaven. Throughout the festival almost every home, office, shop etc will have a penjor, a tall bamboo pole usually decorated with fruit, coconut leaves, and flowers, set up on the right of the entrance. One will also find small bamboo altars set up especially for the holiday, each one bearing woven palm-leaf offerings for the spirits.

 


While we didn't make it for the Galungan part of the festival, we were lucky enough to be here for last (certainly not the least) of to the ten day festival, Kuningan. It is believed that on this particular day, the supreme god Sang Hyang Widi descends to earth to give blessing for all the people. As closure to the series of Galungan rituals, Kuningan also marks the return of all the gods and ancestors to their own realm.

 

No matter what you believe, it's certainly a beautiful time in Bali to be surrounded by such a rich culture and history. The Balinese really know how to decorate, too! Both of us here at Dorotea Gale feel incredibly lucky to share a heritage with an island so full of life, color and vibrancy. Most definitely experiencing this culture from a young age has influenced the creative path that we chose!


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Look of the Week: the Coffee Date.

The afternoon coffee date calls for a street smart and simply cool look. With a few key pieces to easily throw together, you can look and feel incredible without sacrificing comfort- just don’t forget a burst of colour for an added boost of confidence!


A great piece is this striped t-shirt dress by Beaumont Organic. Featuring slightly capped sleeves, a wide neck and a relaxed fit, this dress falls nicely on the body for a flattering yet no fuss look. This dress is made up of a linen and cotton blend, making it breathable and perfect as an everyday spring and summer dress. We love the classic stripe design, too! The material used makes the colours seem incredibly soft. Beaumont Organic are one of our favourite brands  that consistently offer classic and timeless design and shapes.

 

Pair this dress with a statement necklace from GraceMieloji. We love the philosophy behind her designs- 'I like to breathe new life into old materials in order to build something fresh and exciting, yet that still bears an aura of antiquity.' The thoughtfulness and care she puts into making her unique jewellery really shines through each one of her pieces. Our favourite, 'Jakarta' shown here is sold out, but check out her other works here.

Our Classic Black batik lined leather pouch is just the right size for your afternoon essentials. Throw in your mobile, keys and some change and just like that you're ready to head off! Our design philosophy is all about the ease and practicality of our products. Usability is key when designing accessories for the carefree, sustainable lifestyle.

 

Pop on a cute pair of pumps to elevate your outfit- we love the chunky heel in these Julianne Hough for Sole Society Mary Janes. In a gorgeous deep burgundy, these shoes add a little somethin' to your outfit without being too overbearing. Simple, chic and comfortable to wear. These shoes are best paired with an outfit with subtle pieces, as red shoes are at their best when they don’t have to share the spotlight!

 

Your chance to see the world in rose colored glasses. These Twiggy super round sunnies from Wildfox are a really fresh and modern approach to the classic style of frame.  The Twiggy frame is inspired by the ever iconic 60’s model and beutifully handmade with Italian acetate. There's a real dream-like quality to the Wildfox range, these glasses included!

 

Last but not least is that knock out colour. We love this one from Nars, in a deep 'Jungle' red. This is a color that really says 'go for it', to punch up your outfit and really make a statement. We adore this red, guaranteed to help make you feel feminine, flirty and confident.  

 

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These Summer Days.

Summer is here and we couldn't help but put together this look for those sunny days at the beach! Less is definitely more when you are heading out for a long day on the sand- let your bathing suit be the focus point of your beach look, then add a few other elements to tone it down like a neutral cover-up and easy to wear jewellery. We here at Dorotea Gale are all about that easy going lifestyle, so we hope you enjoy what we've put together for you!

 

First we have this Bona Drag Sea Vortex swim suit- it's one of the most flattering shapes we found on the market and has a cool, fresh print which will take your look to a whole new level. Turns out the term Bona Drag means 'nice outfit'- that's definitely something you'll be hearing when putting this gorgeous piece on!

 

Serrv is a brand that has been around since 1949, and was a founding member of both the World Fair Trade Organization and the Fair Trade Federation, Throughout their range you'll find soft cotton pieces like this gorgeous crocheted floral sweater which can be used as a  cover-up, an element great for adding a little extra something to your outfit while still being able to show off your swim-suit underneath! 

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Our latest addition: Ikat from Flores

The latest adition to our collection is a gorgeus ikat piece from Ende (Central Flores).  We love it not only for its beautifully detailed pattern, but because it also gives us the opportunity to know a little bit more about the area where it was woven. We don't know exactly who the weaver was as we found it through our local supplier in the area, but we'll share with you all we've learnt from it.

 

Ende and Lio are the largest regions in Central Flores, which in total forms a population of less than 300.000. The regions are separated by the mystical Mt. Kelimutu, and roads are incredibly mountainous and rocky throughout the whole island. Weaving habits are quite uneven in the area, as weaving it's not a custom for most of the Lio people. Some say it is banned for them to do so and only two tribes (Mbuli and Nggela) are allowed to weave  and consequently need to provide for the other Lio tribes. In contrast, all tribes in Ende are allowed to weave, but most of the population is not accustomed to weave so weaving it is mostly done in Ndona.

Lio people believe Kelimutu Crater Lakes are the soul’s final resting place, a place where we all return once our lives’ journeys come to an end. Pati Ka Du’a Bapu Ata Mata is an event where the Lionese sacrifice various type of food offering to the ancestors, known as Konde and Ratu. It is to show their gratitude for the past year and hold prayers for blessings in favor of prosperity, health, and good life for the upcoming year.

 

Ende, being located on Flores's southern coast by the Savu Sea was a convenient port for trade, and was influenced artistically by the patola trade-cloths the Dutch used to appease local rulers. The 'royal' label on this type of textile caused them to be popular in Ende and surrounding regions including Ndona and Lio, rendering the styles of the regions to be quite similar, and cloths can be hard to differentiate.

 

One of the eerily beautiful Kelimutu Crater lakes, which lies roughly halfway between Lio and Ende.

One of the eerily beautiful Kelimutu Crater lakes, which lies roughly halfway between Lio and Ende.


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Look of the Week- Casual Chic.

To us here at Dorotea Gale, casual chic means putting together incredibly comfortable pieces together for a casual yet stylish look. A look perfect for coffee dates with friends, errand days and of course, casual strolls in exotic destinations. This look can take you anywhere. This is a kind of 'yes, yes I did just roll out of bed looking this amazing' kind of vibe. Pull this look off with a few classic wardrobe staples and  a couple of unique, statement pieces. Of course, top it off with confidence! 

 

Here's our list of brands and pieces we're loving lately:


1. Mud Jeans are a dutch brand revitalising the denim industry. They up-cycle denim by turning an old pair of jeans into a new pair, made completely from sustainable materials. All of their pieces are one of a kind, and beyond repair items are recycled into other pieces such as a sweater or t-shirt. We love this versatile pair, which combines such an  effortless mix of comfort and style. 

 

2.  We love Modo initiatives such as producing frames with recycled content, planting tress for every frame sold, and giving free spectacles to those in need in their buy a frame, give a frame campaign. We love the vintage feel to these Dubai frames, our pick from their Eco brand- the only eyewear brand made of 95% recycled content and 63% biobased material.


3. The soft grey and relaxed fit of this oversized Kowtow top is perfect for that weekend brunch or casual coffee date. While over-sized, Kowtow uses detailing such as short sleeves, twisted side seams and an undulated hem line to keep the shape feminine. Kowtow uses certified fair trade organic cotton in all their pieces, which makes us love this brand even more than for just their clean cut, classic pieces.

 

4. Dorotea Gale Tote - our Hunter Green Dorotea Tote was designed to be your handy everyday bag, using high quality durable fabrics and handy clasp closured to create a bag forever reliable. The handwoven Ikat fabric gives the bag its extra piece of uniqueness, as it is not possible to make more than two the same. 

 

5. These Mont Blanc Sandals by Free People is the casual chic dream pair. Hand crafted in Spain, these simple and versatile sandals have just the amount of quirk to add a bit of personality to an outfit.

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WHAT TO PACK WHEN TRAVELING TO INDONESIA (especially if you are a woman)

What you should pack obviously depends on where you are going to travel. Indonesia is a huge country comprising of many different islands, cultures and religions (although Indonesia is predominantly Muslim), so you should consider all these things when you are about to pack. Whatever your destinations are in Indonesia, you’ll probably end up in Bali at one point, which is one of the easiest holiday destinations. Bali is Indonesia lite, so you need to focus on the others destinations while packing.

 

The climate in Indonesia is almost entirely tropical with humidity between 70% and 90%. So be prepared, you are going to sweat. A lot. The country has wet and dry seasons instead of four seasons, so bear that in mind when you are booking your holidays.

 

Before packaging, you should decide between a backpack and a wheeled suitcase. Maybe it has something to do with age but, in my opinion, unless you are going to travel to very remote areas and walk a lot with all your belongings (which most of us don’t do), a wheeled suitcase is much more comfortable to use. Just bring a medium-sized backpack so you can do a short trips without having to carry all your stuff.

 

So here's the list of things you should and shouldn’t bring when traveling to Indonesia:

 

What to pack:

GADGETS

  • Compact power strip: Depending on where you travel to, many hotels only offer one electricity socket. So, for those cases when you only have one socket and many items that need to be charged, you can charge all at once.
  • Power plug adapter: depending on the kind of plugs you have at home. Indonesia uses a two-pin type power plug, 220 volts, similar to European countries. 
  • Light-weight torch (a LED headband torch is my favorite): you won’t always have your phone lantern available.
  • Smartphone/tablet: to access the internet at free WiFi spots. If you want to stay connected and you are travelling outside the big cities or tourist destinations, you can also buy a cheap local SIM card for your unlocked phone and buy internet data. This is a good option if you are travelling, for example, to Flores, Sulawesi or Moluccas.
  • Kindle (or other e-reader): if you are going for a long trip and/or you don’t want to carry a couple of books. Bear in mind too that is quite easy to buy or exchange second hand books in touristic places.
  • Don’t forget your chargers!


You'll need a small torch if you want to go up to Mount Kelimutu (Flores) early in the morning to catch the sunrise.


It's quite cool so bring some warm clothes and a pair of shoes to do some light trekking, especially if you want to take the shortcuts on your way down!



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MOUNT BROMO ADVENTURES

By Saerah Dewi

The Indonesian archipelago is studded with all sorts of amazing places to visit. One of my favourites is the epic Mount Bromo (Gunung Bromo in bahasa Indonesia) an active volcano and popular tourist attraction in East Java, part of the Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park. Isn’t it funny how we somehow find ourselves attracted to giant mountains that may erupt at any given moment?

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PARANG: A ROYAL PATTERN

by Dewi Cristina

One of our best-selling cushion covers is the Parang. There are a few variations of this pattern, but this one represents the Parang Rusak Barong, a kind of batik once prohibited for the ordinary people and reserved exclusively for the royal courts of Yogyakarta and Surakarta in Central Java.


It is a quite simple pattern, but its origin has a much more profound meaning, which is the reason why it was banned for the common people to use. Batik patterns are not just beautiful patterns (although they are!). Specific batik patterns deliver a profound non-verbal communication, especially stemming from cultures and religions. Traditionally, they showed the social status and area of origin of the person who wore it.


In the Parang pattern, the main motif is a representation of Garuda, the bird-like creature who served as the vehicle of Vishnu, the god responsible for preserving the cosmic order in the Hinduism. Garuda appears in many traditions and stories, especially in Java and Bali. In many stories Garuda symbolizes the virtue of knowledge, power, bravery, loyalty, and discipline. Balinese tradition venerated Garuda as 'the lord of all flying creatures', and  'the majestic king of birds'.

 

The important and noble position of Garuda in Indonesian tradition since ancient times, has venerated Garuda as the national symbol of the country.

The transformation of Garuda into the Parang pattern.

Vishnu and Lakshmi riding Garuda.


 The Parang pattern symbolizes human appetite towards the achievement of noble character and also symbolizes grandeur, not only with the depiction of Garuda, but in many other small motifs:

  1. Waves: symbolizing the never ending trials of life.
  2.  Diamonds: symbolizing the prize one can get in the circle of life with the proper wisdom and patience.
  3. Garuda's head: symbolizing intellect.
  4. Body: symbolizing physical strength, health.
  5. Wings: symbolizing the movement and activism needed by a strong leader.
  6. Beak of fire: symbolizing the mouth of the bird as fire, or the ability of the tongue of the leader to metaphorically burn many people.
  7. Hand or pointing device: symbolizing the power of a leader to determine the fate of others.

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ICE AND... HUH? My favourite Balinese Dessert.

By Saerah Dewi

So, this one gets mixed reactions.

 

In my experience you either love it, hate it, or you have no idea whatsoever what I'm talking about, but this dessert is truly one of my absolute favourites to enjoy while I'm in Bali. It's icy and refreshing on hot, humid days (which is, let's face it, basically everyday), and its kick of sweetness really gives you a burst of energy for the rest of the day. Es Buah, which literally translates to 'ice fruit' is a bowl of shaved ice and cut tropical fruit then covered in a sweet syrup and condensed milk... have I got your attention? The fruits can range from banana, papaya and strawberries to the slightly harder to digest (mentally) tomato and avocado.

 

While this dessert has its varieties throughout Indonesia, in my experience it's the ones you find scattered along street food stalls in Bali that are well and truly the best, and most full of fruit- am not at all biased, I swear! If you ever find yourself on the island a) do look me up and b) make sure to get yourself a refreshing bowl of this unique and incredibly refreshing dessert. 

 

I took the initiave to start your google image search for you:

Enjoy!


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JAKARTA TEXTILE MUSEUM: Batik Workshop

By Saerah Dewi

We're very lucky here in Jakarta to live so close to our very own (well, unfortunately not literally ours- it just feels like our very own) open batik craft workshop, nestled nicely in the garden at the back of the Museum Tekstil.  We find it to be one of the more quiet and peaceful spots you can find here in this city, where people can come and enjoy the garden, the textiles, and simply just be. The museum is quite small, but the garden is  luscious, and the batik area very well equipped and well accustomed to giving guidance to newcomers and those with more experience. A LOT of experience- we've seen some pretty great works in the making here, not by professionals, but just very committed enthusiasts.


While the workshops are very often quite busy, the work at hand requires a lot of concentration and focus, adding to the tranquility. Minds and hands are buzzing with activity, but the intense concentration has a very calming effect on the whole room. Dewi Cristina and I made a Saturday trip there last weekend for some crafty times, and we both agreed upon the calming, meditative effects of focusing on one thing, just one thing. Working with a melted pot of hot wax definitely forces you to be in the moment!


While we definitely need to work on a more complete post about the textile museum here, let me share with you now this fantastic infographic Dewi Cristina was nice enough to make for all of us, with some photos we took on the day. We got a little creative with the Dorotea Gale logo, as you can see. Mine's the slightly messier one, which may or may not be indicative of our personality types...


Hope you enjoy guys!




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INACRAFT 2015

By Saerah Dewi

It’s no secret that our lives here at Dorotea Gale revolve around textiles morning, afternoon, and night. If it were meant to be a secret, we certainly would not be able to keep it for very long! The word ‘obsessed’ comes to mind, but we prefer to stick to ‘passionate’. With any type of obsessi-um, passion, it’s incredibly easy to get swept up in the moment and lose track of time so, Dewi Cristina and I effortlessly spent most of Thursday happily roaming the halls of the quite magical Inacraft 2015, the 17th Jakarta National International Handicraft Trade Fair.

 

Located smack bang in the middle of the bustling city, Inacraft was a mini haven of beautiful products from wooden goods, to textiles, and to modern, innovative products showcasing the resurge of creativity within the archipelago of Indonesia. The talent pool was huge, and the energy electric- while it was of course as busy and bustling as one would expect, I truly did not see one unhappy or bored face throughout the course of the (many) hours we spent there. It was great to spend time in the company of like minds, with people just as enthusiastic about the creative diversity of Indonesia as we are.

It’s always obvious before walking into one of these things how overwhelming the crowd will be, but it’s a whole ‘nother thing to prepare oneself for the never ending rainbow of colours and patterns which hit you right upon arrival. The piles of fabric, the gently cascading fall of pieces which have been elegantly draped, the mannequins strapped into their respective fashion piece for the day…yep, it’s a lot.


It’s a complete mental overload, trying to decide which way to go next. I’ve always been the kind of person to get distracted very easily by something I see in the distance and will head there right away instead of sticking to the planned path. Luckily I was with Dewi Cristina though, who has a very regimented, ‘this way then that way’ strategic approach to make sure we saw everything. Really, looking at the floor plan map before entering was like making a tactical battle manoeuvre. 


Pattern and colour aside, I think well orchestrated events like Inacraft are an amazing way to showcase the crafts of Indonesia to a whole new level, and for small businesses to platform their work to an audience who they may not have the opportunity to approach otherwise. We're looking forward to showcasing some of the fashion and brands that we saw on the day, so keep a watch out for that!


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HOW TO TAKE CARE OF EVERY FABRIC

By Dewi Cristina

 

What makes our products unique are the handmade textiles we use for each design. Being hand dyed or hand woven, they have the unique imperfections which characterise objects which have not been mass made or machine produced.

 

It’s, as we like to call it, the perfection of the imperfection. For example, it’s more than normal to find a small knot or lump in many (if not all) of hand woven fabrics. As a piece of thread is not infinite, at some point the weaver must link one piece to another. So, while some people may see a lump or an out of place knot, we see the delicate way that a weaver has tied two tiny, barely visible pieces of string together to continue to create a beautiful textile piece. That tiny, barely there knot, however seemingly insignificant, actually powerfully holds the piece together.

 So, every loose thread you find in a hand woven fabric is connected to another, holding the piece strongly together. That's why you should never pull them out. Simply cut the threads with a pair of scissors instead.

 

The batik we use for the cushion covers and some bag linings are also a good example. In the batik cap technique, the pattern is made using a copper stamp to apply hot wax above the cotton cloth. Then, the whole cloth is submerged in the dye so only the areas covered with wax keep the original colour of the cloth. Every step is done manually, so it's quite common to find a slight blemish that represents an imperfection in a perfect handmade fabric.

 

Every kind of fabric is different and needs to be cared for in a different way. A deeper level of understanding of fabrics and their characteristics is, believe us, quite interesting but even more, it will prolong the life span of your belongings.

 

There’s an endless amount of information out there, too much for any one person to go through in their free time. With that in mind we'd like to share this great info-graphic we came across called "How to take care of every fabric in your closet". It's great to have a quick look at when you are not very sure about how to wash certain clothes or household items. We would definitely print and laminate it, but fortunately we can just Pin it! 

Courtesy of: Alight
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SPAIN + MY TRAVEL NECESSITIES 

 By Saerah Dewi


First, let me say a huuuge public thank you to Dewi Cristina for holding up the fort here in Jakarta while I consumed my weight in bread, wine and cheese in Spain for three weeks. It was my first time travelling to that part of the world, and was lucky enough to see a little bit of Portugal, too. It was an absolute whirlwind, and am so very grateful I had the chance to go! From the magical streets of Barcelona to the hills of the medieval town of Toledo, every second was an adventure.

 

Travelling from Jakarta meant plane hopping across 4 countries, with 2 short and 2 long haul flights- and, the same on my way back! Lucky I like flying- I mean, what other time is it perfectly acceptable to sit back and relax for 10+ hours with an endless supply of movies while food is delivered to your seat? 

With a travelling time for over 72 hours though, a survival kit was necessary. My go-to travel bag is the Dorotea Tote, hands down.

 

Not only is it light, practical and durable, the bag is super spacious and fits everything I could want easily inside, while still being able to fit under the seat in front me with all my travel goodies easily within reach.

 

←   Here's my 'could not live without' tote bag- the Dorotea tote.

 

I travel pretty heavy, too- always with a laptop (how else will I catch up on House of Cards?), and recently I've taken command of the boyfriend's Canon Camera, too. These are also two things that I wouldn't, couldn't ever put into checked baggage- it's bad enough worrying about the state of my travel shampoo in there.

 

 Then of course, there's the toiletry kit. After all, facing 72 hours without access to a shower means having to be prepared. Very prepared.  A toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant seem like a no-brainer but they're way too important not to mention. These guys are a lifeline. That with little things like  a hairbrush, lip-balm and a little tube of moisturiser, the flight's a breeze. Not a super refreshing one, but you know what I mean.

 


A cardigan and a cute pair of socks are essential for me to get comfortable, too. Tell me, do you guys keep your shoes on during a flight? I see people do that for an 8+ hour duration and I'll never be able to understand how. For me it's shoes off, plane socks on, sit back and relax.  I'm all about comfort, so travel for me means a slouchy pair of jeans and a baggy shirt, essentially a pair of pyjamas deemed acceptable to be seen in, in public. Luckily, the messy 'I woke up like this' plane hair pairs quite perfectly with said outfit of choice.


Being unable to live without my laptop aside, for me travel survival means having to haul the absolute minimum. I only ever bring one carry-on bag and one checked in suitcase- I choose a bag that's big enough for travel, but not so big it's a chore to lug around during everyday activity once I reach my destination. 

 

Well, that's it for me today folks, but will hopefully get the time soon to share more Spain + Portugal photos! Here's one on top of a look-out in the medieval town of Toledo. A sight worth travelling for, no doubt.

 

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"NEW" VINTAGE FABRIC

By Dewi Cristina



We have been working a lot this month. Well, not all of us. Saerah Dewi spent the month travelling through Spain and she spent more time eating, drinking and visiting wonderful people and places than actually working. But what can we say!! That´s what you are supposed to do when you are travelling, isn't? And here we are, waiting for her to come back and tell us all about her adventures in Europe and, of course, all the amazing food she'll be bringing! :)

  

Well, all of that is just to say that the work here in Jakarta has been a little bit overwhelming so I didn't have the time to write this post earlier. And I really wanted to do it to introduce you to this beautiful vintage fabric I bought visiting Flores.

 

We bought it in Ende, a city that feels more like a town. Ende is the second biggest city on the island of Flores, but its population is only around 60.000. There is an ikat street market close to the sea port, full of vibrant new and vintage ikat fabrics.

 

After looking around for a while, I couldn’t resist falling in love with this one. The colours, the pattern and the texture were perfect. It was originally a sarong, so its shape is like a large tube worn by women wrapped around their waists. In fact, I was pretty amazed at how  the sarong is still commonly used by people in Flores. And I saw a way of wearing it that was completely new for me: instead of being wrapped around the waist and worn as a skirt, many men and women wrapped it around their shoulders, wearing it as a dress, leaving just an arm uncovered.

 

This ikat is about 75 years old, so the  motifs are pretty rare nowadays. You can see the detailed pattern and the small motifs that show just how  intrincate the design is.

 

It was dyed with natural colours, using indigo leaves for the blue/black colours and morinda roots for the red palette.

 

It was quite difficult to take a picture of the whole fabric (it is almost 2 meters long), so the quality is not great. But you can see in the close up above the expertise of the weaver who made it a few decades ago.


We already have a few bags featuring this beautiful fabric, though the photos are not ready yet. But I can tell you, they are beyond beautiful. I am already using one of them and I really love it. Hopefully we will be uploading the photos next week so you can see them and see it for yourself.

 

Have a nice week!

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LEARNING ABOUT IKAT

By Dewi Cristina

 

Last month I travelled to the island of Flores to attend an Ikat workshop. I arrived at the tiny airport of Maumere and, the next day, I was ready to learn everything about the ikat process and, especially, the process of natural dyeing.

 

The traditional technique of dyeing fibers with natural dyes is very complicated and time consuming, so it is disappearing in favour of the easier and faster process involving synthetic dyes. However, there is always someone who is willing to fight to keep the traditions alive, and in Flores, that person is Alfonsa Horeng. She is no doubt a warrior. She has created a weaver´s cooperative in her own backyard: Lepo Lorung, which literally means "weaver´s home". And she has travelled to many countries in collaboration with different Indonesian embassies in order to promote her art.

 Weaving has a long tradition in Indonesia. For centuries women have been harvesting cotton, spinning it, dying the threads with natural dyes and weaving them with a back strap loom. It is, literally, the creation of a piece of usable art from the resources they have around them. Indonesia is a huge archipelago with more than 17.000 islands and 700 different ethnic groups, and the textiles women create are hugely varied. The patterns created are distinctive of the region they come from, each of them representing an aspect of their creators’ beliefs, traditions and surroundings.


This workshop was particularly interesting for me. Not only because I saw firsthand all of the stages involved in the creation of a new textile, but because the participants were, except for me, women from a small fishing village very rich in maritime resources but, it seemed to me, lacking in others. So I was very excited to be part of that, and they were very excited too because a bule (a foreigner, that’s me), was also there.


They already knew everything about the dyeing and weaving processes. They weren’t there to learn the techniques like me, but to learn how to use all their knowledge to organize their own workshops and guided tours in order to have another source of much-needed income. It was also very nice to see the mayor of the village there taking notes on everything. Corruption in Indonesia is quite common, so it is always very nice to see a real politician working for the development of the whole village. And he got really involved.


Indonesia is still a developing country, but it is incredibly rich in natural resources, traditions and expert craftsmanship. And this is where Dorotea Gale is focusing the efforts: promoting the best of the country. And in doing this, these two half Indonesians who want to see their country of origin prosper are hoping to do their part.


After a couple of hours learning about how to run a workshop, including setting up accommodation, providing food and many other little details, the proper ikat workshop started. We began by picking the raw cotton from the garden and then moved onto to the different steps of manually processing the cotton to convert it into threads. From here we learned about picking the indigo leaves from the bushes, collecting tree bark and roots and preparing the dyes and using them to colour the cotton threads. This was followed by spreading the threads and tying them to create the pattern that will be dyed after. After collecting the dyed threads, they were carefully put in the back strap loom and finally, the weaving could begin

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Obviously it is impossible to carry out all of these steps in their entirety, but seeing parts of all the processes involved really gives you an idea of the work and time involved in the creation of a single piece of fabric. AND IT IS A LOT. REALLY. A LOT.

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