Batik 101 at Trusmi, Cirebon

My mother loves batik so much. I would say too much. If you see her everyday, you would notice that she wears different batik outfits 5 days a week. She has a different set of batik for work and formal occasions with dozens of different colors. Her eyes would glimmer every time she shops for batik and by the time she’s done shopping, global warming would have ran out of things to melt.

This love for batik isn’t really passed down to me. I don’t blame her, she really tried to buy me tons of batik shirts. I would wear them on formal occasions, but not on a day to day basis.

When I heard that Cirebon is one of the best batik manufacturers, I wasn’t the most excited person in the car. Nevertheless, I was curious to see a batik production site and learn more about its making process. Off we went to Batik Trusmi!

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Located in the heart of Trusmi, villages full of batik artisans lived for years through batik production every day. These men and women, mostly women, had studied the art since they graduated from elementary school. With such dedication and time spent, it is no wonder, Cirebon is also well known for its batik.

After we parked our car on the side of the road, we walked deep into a housing complex for a few minutes. The location was kind of dodgy, without a local’s guidance, we wouldn’t know which place to go to.

There are 2 ways of batik production in Trusmi, by inking with your very hand or by stamping the fabric. Each of them are known as batik tulis and batik cap.

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Batik tulis artisan in action.

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Centingan.

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Washing of the fabric to wash away unused ink.

As easy as it looks, it takes years of practice to get such hand stability. It is totally different than kindergarten coloring activity. Trust me, I tried and failed miserably. My hands were shaking tremendously and the inks spread all over the fabric. I totally gave up after 15 minutes of trying while being laughed at by the local artisans.

As we moved on from places to places, batik is definitely a common sight. It seems that everyone in those villages were producing batik in different scales, home production or even bigger.

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Metal batik stamps on the wall.

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Stamping the fabrics with inks.

Each production houses are able to produce around 60 batik every month. A batik artisan, as skilled as they are, will be able to finish one batik fabric in around a week. The more idealist they are, the longer the process will take. Some of them sees it more as a form of art rather than work. Therefore, it could take them months just to create a perfect batik that suits their idea of perfection.

With that said, these artisans are normal human beings in their daily activities. They talk to us kindly and laughed at my failed inking attempt. More than that, they depend on this activity to support their day to day living. This gave me more reasons to appreciate batik and the people behind its production.

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Drying process.

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Cutting the fabric before the distribution.

You know what they say, perfection takes time. In fact, everything in this world takes time, take these batik artisans for an example. Malcolm Gladwell mentioned in one of his books that it takes 10,000 hours of practice for a person to be an expert at something. How many hours have you spent at something you are pursuing?

I am definitely not in pursuit of batik inking skills, but I am definitely willing to put in work and passion to become an expert at the things I love. Well, it turns out there is a lot to learn from a short visit to Batik Trusmi!

Keep exploring.

DR (@demasryan).

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