Sejauh Mata Memandang Storytelling Through Indonesian Textiles. Chitra Subiyakto crafts and creates textiles to promote batik through her cradling label.

Many different attributes make up a nation; the way one dresses, the traditions and traditional customs all shape a country. In Indonesia, textiles play traditional roles that are passed down from generations to generations, including the hand-drawn-with-wax traditional batik. While craftsmanship and the artisanal process in batik may seem arduous, its intricacies and pride as a national identity remain strong, true and genuine up to this day.  

With that, Indonesians are paving way to preserve the rich cultures of batik. Chitra Subiyakto is one of these creative makers on a mission to promote batik through her cradling label, Sejauh Mata Memandang (SMM). While Chitra believes that Indonesian textiles are wonderfully crafted and made, she also believes in the power of storytelling its intricate process. “Indonesia is wonderfully made with its rich cultures and traditions. And we can always tell a story to educate everyone, especially the younger generations, with what [Indonesia] can do and offer.

Musim Rintik 2018: A Story of Timun Mas and Beauties of The East

Through SMM, Chitra crafts and creates textiles focusing with batik. And with several collections making a popular debut under her creative helm, Chitra’s latest collection, Musim Rintik 2018 promotes the beauties of Eastern Indonesia and old Indonesian folklores. “I wanted to tell a unique story about Indonesia. I had the opportunity to collaborate with like-minded people to show everyone the beauty of Sumba. At the same time, I also had a social mission with this collection and that is to educate and share knowledge to the younger ones about Indonesian culture – through the folklore Timun Mas (The Golden Cucumber).”

Sejauh Mata Memandang Storytelling Through Indonesian Textiles

Sejauh Mata Memandang Musim Rintik 2018 Collection. Photography Davy Linggar © Sejauh Mata Memandang

In Musim Rintik 2018, cucumber illustrations are imprinted across the clothes and textiles as a nod to the folklore Timun Mas. The simple illustrations and patterns used not only are appealing and dainty but they also share an anecdote closest to Indonesians. “[The younger generations] aren’t exposed with our folklore stories and I’ve head many not knowing what Timun Mas is. And so I thought, why not create a collection that represents that as well?”

A striking visual story of the folkore Timun Mas is showcased, which was made in conjunction to the Musim Rintik 2018 collection. The exhibition is comprised of a projected animated visual narrative of Timun Mas and an intricate display of the collection in series of wax-printed and embroidered clothing pieces, shoes, shawls and a hand-sewn Timun Mas book. To complete the exhibition space in Senayan City, Jakarta, a serene, cavernous-like ambiance with strips of fabric sheets hang meticulously at various lengths from the ceiling.

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To Chitra, the emotional and visual journey that her audience experience is important. It’s not mere see, like and purchase but audience are cherished with an intimate journey of the collection.

“It’s nice to have people come by and see your work. I don’t I speak my mind that well compared to presenting them visually. And so with I thought, while fashion shows last a day with its many limitations, I liked the idea of presenting my collection through an exhibition. I think it’s a great way of promoting and opening yourself to a larger audience. I like that sense of closeness that I have with them.”

What Textile Craftsmanship Really Means

Chitra’s identity as an Indonesian runs deep in her roots. Her mother’s appreciation and love for Indonesian textiles trickled. Through SMM, Chitra firmly believes that batik is beautiful and easy to wear. “I try to make something comfortable for everyone. Indonesian clothing silhouettes such as Lombok clothing or the Javanese kebaya inspires all of my pieces. Indonesian clothings inspire a lot of my work.”

Speaking out of her own personal love for textiles and batik, Chitra also admits that living in the busy metropolitan like Jakarta requires her to constantly adapt. “I don’t ever think beauty has to be painful – I don’t believe in that. I just love textiles and love how simple and effortless you can look while wearing them. You don’t have to compromise even when you have to commute around [Jakarta]!”

Sejauh Mata Memandang Storytelling Through Indonesian Textiles

Sejauh Mata Memandang Musim Rintik 2018. Photography Davy Linggar © Sejauh Mata Memandang

The relevance of batik does not stop there. While most prints and textiles are made bulk by large industries, Chitra appreciates the art of slow that go into the artisanal craft of textile making. “For me, SMM allowed me to embrace the slow and the imperfections. There’s beauty in the craft and work that go into the label because of this genuine and soul-induced human process.”

Sejauh Mata Memandang Storytelling Through Indonesian Textiles

Sejauh Mata Memandang Musim Rintik 2018. Photography Davy Linggar © Sejauh Mata Memandang

SMM also works together with local artisans and textile makers across Indonesia, including Sumba, Bali and Java. “I do a lot of trial and error and there’s a long and painstaking process. We work with the weather, we’re always surprised by how one day, dyeing results can be successful but sometimes it won’t. But [SMM] teaches me how to be human; it’s okay to have these balances and you can always achieve this in your business. I thought I had to be afraid about this but with careful planning, I think it can work.

Supporting Local Craftsmen and Small Businesses

While textile is something that Chitra embraces through SMM, the challenge now lies in the hand of the big businesses and sectors that run the market. “There are a lot of challenges, for sure. I mean I really hope the government could do more to embrace these small businesses. Many of these big businesses play it by the rules and I don’t think they have strict regulations that support the local industries that do not bulk purchase or produce textiles. I can’t imagine what it’s like for the even smaller businesses.”

Support is what matters for the small businesses flourishing in the country, admits Chitra. “It’s a good kind of challenge, every human being needs it – the only people that don’t need and have problems are the dead. I’m trying to make a healthy business and so is everyone else. But it’s a process; you can’t always demand but you can always push and challenge the people responsible so that the ecosystem becomes friendlier.”

Sejauh Mata Memandang Storytelling Through Indonesian Textiles

Sejauh Mata Memandang Musim Rintik 2018. Photography Julian Latif © Sejauh Mata Memandang

A mind juggling with creative ideas, Chitra readily takes on the challenges and moments ahead of her. With Sejauh Mata Memandang as one of her creative platform, Chitra tackles textile issues, social issues and traditional artisan one collection and creative thought at a time. Where will she go next? Her enthusiasm radiates and doesn’t seem to lie.

“I feel like I want to do so much and speak so much through my brand but if not us, then who? [Then speaking to the interviewer] Maybe you can start something one of your own too and join the movement with me!”

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