In February I had the privilege of assisting Rudolf Smend again with his collection of extraordinary antique Javanese batik exhibited at the annual Textile and Tribal arts Show at For Mason in San Francisco. Mr. Smend is the owner of Galerie Smend, a textile gallery in Cologne, Germany, and is the author of several books on batik.
This rare batik portrait of a young woman dressed in western clothing is dated 1933, from Banyuwangi. It’s origin was the subject of much speculation during the exhibition. It was one of many rare and beauitful batik cloths presented in February of this year at Fort Mason in San Francisco.
This year’s shop was successful beyond my wildest dreams. Each year I meet friendly new textile lovers referred by loyal friends and past customers. I love having the opportunity to talk about my travels and the textiles I bring back, and there was a steady stream of eager listeners even in the rain!
Here are a few photos from this year’s offering.
I recently spent a week in and around the town of Sapa, in the far northwestern part of Vietnam.
Besides the spectacular scenery of mountains and ricefield valleys, the area has much to offer anyone who is interested in textiles, because it is home to around 8 different ethnic groups that still make and wear their traditional clothing. I had visited Sapa 17 years ago and was curious to see what it would be like now, and how much of the textile traditions were still being practiced. I had been there once before 17 years ago and it was interesting to see the changes that have taken place since then. Tourism has developed substantially during that time and it was clear to see that it benefitted the H’mong in many ways. However it is also clear to see that they are still very poor and their life is not easy. It was sad to see that even though they still cling to their traditional ways, consumerism has taken a toll on the way the H’mong people make their traditional clothing. I had hoped to find indigo batik-making on hemp, but unfortunately cheap cotton imported from China, printed in blue ink with the H’mong patterns has all but replaced the beautiful hand-made wax resist designs on indigo-dyed, hand woven hemp used for the bottoms of skirts. The purses these Black H’mong women are carrying are mass-produced by machine in China. They used to embellish these by hand with meticulous and beautiful embroidery.
Yogyakarta has always been one of my favorite cities in Indonesia. Every trip to Indonesia I’ve made over the past 20 years it seems a must do city. It’s a cultural center, educational center, and one of Indonesia’s culinary capitals. Besides all of these features it’s a wonderful place to live, full of youthful energy, and the creative input of many artists. It’s proximity to Borobudur, Prambanan, and many other ancient temples makes it an ideal place for tourists and cultural research.
I recently decided to make it my base for the continued research of Javanese culture, especially with regard to Indonesia’s cultural treasure, batik. Yogyakarta has an active keraton (sultan’s palace) and batik-making continues to be a major point of interest here.
My life is much different here from what I am used to in San Francisco. Each day is a new experience and often a new challenge in acknowledging and accepting cultural differences. My attitude has become one of openness as a result. I learn everyday that I have so much more to learn. Here are a few photos from my neighborhood.