Shopping for Surabaya's colorful batik

Shopping for Surabaya's colorful batik

Batik as the iconic fabric of Indonesia offers infinite possibilities for creative exploration. You can find an ever-expanding collection of this painted cloth being made in various ways all over the country - especially in Java.

Some of the household names for batik variants include batik Pekalongan, batik Solo, batik Jepara, batik Keratin, batik Cirebon and many more. These variants all have distinct design features that differentiate one from another, whether it's in the motif or the mode of production.

Surabaya in East Java looks to promote their relatively lesser-known batik to a wider clientele with the hope of being on par in popularity the with aforementioned batik variants.

"Quality-wise, the batik of Surabaya is not inferior to any of the other regions," said Putu Sulistiani Prabowo, owner of Batik Dewi Saraswati and head of the East-Java Batik Craftsmen Association (APBJ), to The Jakarta Post Travel during our recent visit.

However, Putu is aware that Surabaya has no authentic batik product - neither a motif nor method of production - so she decided to develop ones that could be identified as the city's own.

Putu started producing batik adorned with some known regalia like sawunggaling (fighting roosters), clover and Surabaya's famous shark and crocodile symbol. Most of her batik are hand-painted and she uses generous amounts of colour, as opposed to the monochromatic style of conventional batik designs.

Using styles like that, Putu explained how she wishes to bring batik into the modern day of fashion. She said that batik can be flexible; it does not have to be formal and dim-coloured.

Emphasising flexibility, she also takes orders from customers who wish to have batik made using their own designs at a starting price of Rp 2 million (S$216).

Despite having already found the desired design for her batik, Putu does not stop developing her batik business. She continues to travel around the region to learn more about batik.

Her workshop on Jl. Jemursari in Surabaya - despite it being on a home-industry scale - is equipped with an eco-friendly waste system; Putu avoids throwing her waste into the public sewers.

Every product in her workshop is handcrafted; you can see old ladies in the front yard of her workshop painting each and every line of the batik, as well as teenagers who colour the fabric.

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