Language of Cloth: Behind the Scenes

cap from Asi's collection

When someone mentions Bali and Java, what do you see?  Some speak of impossibly verdant jungle broken by blue expanses of sea and sky, sharp-toothed deities in wood and stone, dancers dripping with gold ornament, the press of tourists.

Perhaps because I have never visited Indonesia, I tend to think of its art and craft, the dislocated souvenirs of Paradise.  Like the pieces on view in the galleries, they’re my link to places I may never visit, and so become microcosms of a word-of-mouth world.  But there’s one thing I don’t need imagination for, and that’s batik.

One begins by drawing on silk or cotton with wax, and then dying the fabric.  You draw again, and dye again, creating another layer of ornament and color, picking up where the last design left off, incorporating new motifs and textures.
Like a lot of us around here, I like to DIY (or rather, Do It Myself), and I taught myself how to batik with both cap and tulis.  The block that you see above is a cap, or batik stamp.  This contrasts with the technique of tulis, literally meaning “written.”

Of course, saying I’ve done batik is a little like saying “I know how to cook,” which should not imply that I’m French Laundry caliber.  Although it was fun (and messy), I never got anywhere near the level of skill of the Language of Cloth artists, whose work will be available for purchase at the Museum Store’s July 15th & 16th trunk show.

Although ostensibly the owner of Language of Cloth, Daniel Gundlach is an artist in his own right, collaborating with batik artists, innovating and riffing on traditional techniques and blurring the line between craft and art.  We received word that he’s put together what he considers his finest collection of batik for the trunk show, including both cap-printed and tulis cloth.

A substantial component of the work we do with artists and vendors involves translating the stories of people, places, and art; with the pictures that Daniel has sent us, we can show you another facet of this world.


"With Asif in Pekalongan, I collaborated on a series of scarf designs that use his extensive collection of cap on habutai silk. I hope these can be offered at a price that will make them especially attractive."

Bowo sea life batik in progress

"Bowo in Cirebon specializes in batik dongeng (story batik) and is working on a batik depicting the plight of the oceans."

Hartono workshop

" Hartono, whose work you have in the store already, has produced a number of beautiful shawls on a lovely raw silk from Cambodia, and is still working on another collection of new scarf designs."

To learn the full story, you won’t want to miss this event.  And for those who prefer silver to silk, Joshua Smith will be in attendance with his Indiri Colection of modern Balinese jewelry.

Trunk Show and Sale: Hand-Drawn Batik from Java, Sterling Silver Jewelry from Bali
Friday, July 15 & Saturday, July 16
10:00 am – 5:00 pm
Free admission

For more information and to get a sneak peek at additional images, visit the Museum Store’s events page.

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