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Canvasses of Limitless Imagination

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"Sikem could not sleep that night. Her fifth child was running a fever again – for the fourth time this month. She’s special, Sikem said. A little more sickly than the rest, all seven siblings in total. Times are tough. There was not much money to go around. What should a mother do? But Sikem already knew the answer. Waiting in the cabinet was her beloved batik piece. And like many other pieces, she knew. She would not see them again.”

Not too long ago in 1950s Singapore, batik was considered a valuable commodity that could be pawned. We have heard of similar accounts on how this became a way out for families to survive dry spells and desperate days, but the anecdote above is based on a true account of my maternal grandmother.

There have been many stories about this Siam-Javanese lady, including how she wore batik every day of her life. It is a strange coincidence that we are intrisically linked by one thing in common: A deep longing for a sense of identity, a love for batik. Gypsied Canvas has very much been inspired by a shared chemistry and heritage with a woman whom I never met. I hope you enjoy the stories of Gypsied Canvas, the significance behind their motifs and colours as much as I have enjoyed writing them. 

 Dewi, Coming Forth

Butterflies fill this entire batik piece. Classically, these insects are synonymous with purity. A butterfly emerging from its cocoon. A state of being reborn. The colour white symbolises the Javanese’s spiritual nature and the qualities they take to heart: honesty, love and forgiveness. 

Raden, The Magnificent

The mythical and powerful Rajawali (Phoenix) needs no introduction. Across ancient empires from Majapahit to the Qin dynasty, the phoenix is an emblem for the mighty and valorous. In traditional Javanese batik, deep blue and brown earthy hues is synonymous with a humble, calm and sentimental trait.

Wahyu, New Beginnings

The Wahyu Tumurun dates back to the 1400s in the courts of the royal Javanese palace. Wahyu, meaning inspiration, is a promise of harmonious beginnings for newlyweds or any new milestones in this life. 

Cenderawasih, The Magical

In the easternmost province of the Indonesian archipelago lies an untouched and thriving island full of magical flora and fauna called Papua. Here too lies Cenderawasih (the Bird of Paradise), once thought to be a mythical animal from the heavens for its unspeakable beauty and colour. Eight birds – drawn with careful detail and precision – fill the entire span of thise batik. This is one for the ages.

See the complete collection of batik canvases here. Proudly made with batik tulis, the original form of hand drawn batik and natural dyes from the leaves, barks and roots of tropical plants in the archipelago. 

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