Tag Archives: World Craft Council

What to make of 2014

Master batik artist Tony Dyer with a young Japanese textile student at the Semarang International Batik Festival in May 2013

Master batik artist Tony Dyer with a young Japanese textile student at the Semarang International Batik Festival in May 2013

One of the major events of 2014 will be the Golden Jubilee of the World Crafts Council, which will be held in Dongyan, China, 18-22 October. It will be very interesting to see how the Chinese presidency of WCC uses this unique occasion to promote local craftsmanship. One day ‘Made in China’ may be something that actually adds value to a product.

The China event will be an important occasion to present the Code of Practice for Partnerships in Craft & Design, which has been developed over the past three years of discussions that were part of Sangam: Australia India Design Platform. We’ll be developing a platform based around those standards to promote fair partnerships between producers and developers. This year, the network will extend to Indonesia, with a workshop at Kampoeng Semarang looking particularly at commissioning of batik artists.

One of the important elements that draws me to craft is the way it engages with tradition. While the modern world encourages freedom, it is hard to conceive of a meaningful life without responsibility. Custodianship gives meaning to our otherwise fleeting lives. And craft traditions require skill and imagination if that are to be something we can pass on to future generations. This involves interpreting traditions through current concerns. As they say, we make it new, again.

This is something quite evident to indigenous peoples, whose own culture is vulnerable to colonisation. Retaining language and custom gives purpose and honour to individual lives in indigenous communities.

By contrast, the dominant white Anglo world seems to require little from us in order to flourish. It runs increasingly on automatic, sustained by machines and global corporations. But there are still buried traditions that we can uncover and pass on. Colonisation involved removing the social value from objects, otherwise considered the primitive domain of fetish or idol. The challenge is to recover social objects such as charms, crowns, garlands and heirlooms that offer a hard currency of interconnection.

Amulets from the Sonara Market in Mexico City - how to turn objects of destruction into agents of good?

Amulets from the Sonara Market in Mexico City - how to turn objects of destruction into agents of good?

The project Joyaviva: Live Jewellery across the Pacific travels to Latin America this year. It will be very interesting to see how these audiences respond to the challenge of designing a modern amulet. Can folk traditions transcend their nostalgia and become relevant elements of contemporary life?

The broader questions associated with this will be played out in a series of roundtables as part of the South Ways  project. This will seek to identify creative practices that are unique to the South. The first one in Wellington will look at the relevance of the Maori ‘power object’, or taonga, to Western art practices such as relational jewellery.

Other projects will help tie these threads together. The performance work Kwality Chai will explore what an Indianised Australia might be like. This relates to the utopia of Neverland, in which Australia becomes a haven for cultures that have no home in the world, such as Sri Lankan Tamils.

Craft keeps us alive to the debt we owe to previous generations. I’m very pleased to be involved with Wendy Ger’s Taiwan Ceramics Biennale where many artists have mastered clay as a language for the unique expression of ideas and values.

So there’s much to be made of 2014. Let’s hope this includes a future for 2015 and beyond.

Ruth Hadlow textile journey on 18 November

Unpacking my Library: Textile tales from West Timor

an illustrated lecture about textiles & culture in West Timor
by artist, writer & educator Dr Ruth Hadlow

The University of Melbourne
Harold White Theatre

757 Swanston St (near Gratton Street) – Rm:224 – Flr:2 (1st Floor) Enter via the external stairs next to the School of Graduate Studies or up the internal stairs at the back of the foyer. Theatre is on the right.
Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning
Monday 18 November, 6.00pm

Dr Ruth Hadlow went to West Timor, Indonesia, in 1999 to study innovations in the traditions of hand-woven textiles. She discovered an extraordinary wealth and variety of cloth, all woven on back-strap looms. In 2001 Ruth moved to Kupang, and has lived there for the last 11 years, doing research on textiles and bringing up a family with her Timorese husband Willy Kadati.

With a mixture of narrative storytelling and information Ruth will explore the beautiful textiles and fascinating culture of West Timor. The talk will be accompanied by a sale of hand-woven West Timorese textiles.  (NB. cash sales only)

Gold coin donation in support of YTP Training Young Weavers Program in West Timor
Presented by World Craft Council Asia Pacific Region

Batik Dreaming in Central Java

Dancers at opening of Semarang International Batik Festival

Dancers at opening of Semarang International Batik Festival

Batik is one of the world’s idiomatic crafts. Alongside techniques such as pottery, filigree, ikat, glass-blowing and wood-carving, it is a unique language of expression which has come to define a global cultural inheritance. In a rapidly dematerialising world, as more of life is conducted in the cloud, it is increasingly important that the gifts below that time has bestowed are maintained. Without space for innovation and creative exchange, skills such as batik will cease to play an active role in what we make of our world.

Within the craft canon, batik is particularly expressive. The flow of wax through the canting lends itself to a fluid graphic form, reflecting a sinuous natural world. The history of batik is the story of its surrounding culture: originating in Java, it has been influenced by the traffic of cultures in south-east Asia, including block-printed fabrics from Gujarat, Chinese jewellery and Dutch tastes.

Master Batik artist Abdul Syukur and Yogjakarta artist

Master Batik artist Abdul Syukur and Yogjakarta artist

Abdul Syukur 'Human Diplomatic Art' primishima cotton 105 x 105cm 2012

Abdul Syukur 'Human Diplomatic Art' primishima cotton 105 x 105cm 2012

But there’s also a subtle mystery in batik. Like darkroom photography, it works from the negative, beginning with an inverted version of its final outcome. Unlike more direct techniques such as painting, it requires a greater understanding of the interrelation between many phases of waxing, dyeing and watching. Maybe it’s that consideration of other processes that helps it reflect an interrelation of cultures.

A recent entrant to the calendar of batik events is the Semarang International Batik Festival. Semarang is a city of about 5 million on the north coast of Central Java. Founded by an Islamic missionary in the 15th century, Semarang soon fell under Dutch control and became an important trading centre, attracting Chinese merchants. Semarang shares with the other coastal batik centre Pekalongan a vibrant pesisir style featuring bright colours and graphic forms. Semarangan style batik patterns include the tamarind plant and historic features. However, the other batik towns of Central Java, such as Yogyakarta and Solo have a higher profile. But being overlooked provides the city with a powerful motive to raise its profile, particularly as the capital of Central Java.

Kampoeng Semarang is a hybrid cultural-commercial complex that has been developed by a young local entrepreneur, Miss Wenny. Miss Wenny is a new generation business woman with an interest in civic development. Her Semarang International Batik Craft Centre has transformed what was previously a dangerous area of the city into an active commercial hub. Only a year old, Kampoeng Semarang includes batik shops, restaurant, conference facilities and workshop space.

I’d been invited last year to visit Semarang wearing my World Crafts Council Asia Pacific hat. I noticed that although there seemed to be an active if small batik sector at work, there was little space for it to develop. There was no opportunity to experiment with new designs or products. A festival seemed an important step towards fostering skill development, innovation and increased exposure. To my surprise, KS quickly agreed and set a date in early May, leaving only five months for preparation. I had to credit them their confidence, but I was a little doubtful of what they could achieve in such a short time.

It was clear that we had to quickly mobilise international support for this venture if it was to succeed. The festival had to make the right impression on the local dignitaries if it was to be ongoing. And there was great promise in its future.

For the World Crafts Council, the batik festival was an important avenue for re-activating Indonesia’s presence in the region. While there is strong south-east Asian representation from Thailand and Malaysia, Indonesian participation had declined in recent years. It has been hard to activate the national and regional crafts councils.

Realising this opportunity, the newly appointed Senior Vice-President of the WCC Asia Pacific Dr Ghada Hijjawi-Qaddumi decided to attend with a mission to recruit new representatives. Her warmth and enthusiasm helped support the event greatly, and she even contributed $1,000 towards a prize for batik art in next year’s festival. Dr Ghada was joined by the President of the WCC, Mr Wang Shan, based in Beijing. China is hosting the 50th anniversary of the WCC next year across three cities, and it is important to have Indonesia as a significant part of this celebration of world craft. There was a very neat historical resonance in the WCC presence at this event, reflecting the importance of the Arab and Chinese influences in the development of the region.

Australia is a relatively newer visitor to Indonesia, though now the relationship is particularly strong with growing ties of economy and tourism. There has been a particularly rich history of batik exchange between the two countries. This has included connections with Aboriginal communities such as Ernabella and Utopia, where the batik has been particularly suitable for the fluid nature of art making. And in textile art, the influence of Indonesian batik has been important, reflected in the touring exhibition in Contemporary Australian Batik in 1989.

Now there is scope to extend this partnership to include design. Already there are fashion designers like the Queenslanders Easton Pearson who work with Indonesian batik, but there are many other possibilities for product development. Sangam: Australia India Design Platform has been growing a network of designers and craftspersons interested to collaborate. There is many prospects in expanding this network to include Indonesia.

Here we were fortunate to receive assistance from the Australian Embassy to bring two textile masters. Tony Dyer has been successful in establishing a career in batik art, sustained by overseas collectors. Dyer had last been in Indonesia nearly 40 years ago, when he was just starting his career in batik. We were able to show his work and Tony provided a hands on engagement with participating artists, swapping techniques and discussing the finer points.

Director of Pekalongan Batik Centre Pak Zahir and Tony Dyer

Director of Pekalongan Batik Centre Pak Zahir and Tony Dyer

Tony Dyer swapping ideas with local batik artists

Tony Dyer swapping ideas with local batik artists

Dyer was joined by Liz Williamson, Associate Professor at College of Fine Art, University of New South Wales and a designated Living Treasure of Australian craft .Williamson teaches a unit Cultural Textiles, where students have been traveling to India in order to engage rich living traditions of embroidery and dyeing. The hope was that she would find the right kinds of people and places to bring a contingent of next generation designers to Central Java. She presented her range of Woven in Asia which gave a taste of what a craft-design partnership might entail.

Liz Williamson talking wtih local batik artists

Liz Williamson talking wtih local batik artists

Liz Williamson talking with Chinese and Indonesians

Liz Williamson talking with Chinese and Indonesians

There were some key international players, then, for the all-important Simbolisasi (Gunting pita) opening of the inaugural Semarang International Batik Festival. Around 9am, the dignitaries started to arrive. This included the Governor of Central Java Bibit Waluyo, whose wife heads up the Crafts Council of Central Java. He was joined by the Dr Prasetyo Aribowo, Head of Culture and Tourism, Central Java, Professsor Ahman Sya, Director General of Creative Economy and Esthy Reko Astuty, Director General of Tourism Marketing. It was clear this was an event of national significance.

Professor Ahman, Kevin Murray, Ms Wenny, Ms Wuloyo, Bibi Wuloyo, Dr Ghada, Wang Shan

Professor Ahman, Kevin Murray, Ms Wenny, Ms Wuloyo, Bibi Wuloyo, Dr Ghada, Wang Shan

It was fascinating to witness the graceful nature of a Javanese opening ceremony. As with every occasion, this included elegant young women performing traditional dances. There was a fashion parade of both men and women showing colourful if demure garments by designers Anne Avantie and Ira Priyono. I was particularly surprised to see group prizes for best batik technique—it doesn’t seem the way here to single an individual out for attention. The event was officially opened by the Governor banging the traditional drum, which he did with a trill on the side before heaving into the drum proper. More significantly, he then went to the workshop to sign his name in hot wax, so it could be dyed into a commemorative batik afterwards.

Fashion model for Semarang International Batik Festival

Fashion model for Semarang International Batik Festival

For the next three days there were stalls selling batik and craft products, which helped create a buzz. The live music was particularly good, including some languorous Keroncong, a Latin inspired Indonesian music. As word of the festival spread, high profile batik artists started to appear from the elsewhere region, showing how important such a forum might be beyond Semarang city.

The Governor of Central Java, Bibit Wuloyo checking on the wax before signing his name.

The Governor of Central Java, Bibit Wuloyo checking on the wax before signing his name.

On Saturday night, the reason for the timing of the festival became apparent with the Semarang Night Carnival. This was worth a trip to Semarang on its own. The costuming was inventive and exuberant. An other-worldly blend of traditional and modern music brought it to life. At the final concert, Semarang was sea of colour and movement, undulating to the rhythms of Indo-pop. Who knows what might happen if the batik festival were to form a partnership with the carnival, where it could feature the craft of making costumes.

Semarang Night Carnival

Semarang Night Carnival

On the final day, the organisers met with the international visitors to discuss how their event might develop. It was heartening that they able to accept the shortcomings and see this as a trial run. Much could be achieved quickly by establishing a database of batik artists and creating events like workshops where they could participate. It was clear that there wasn’t a media network that could assist organisations like Kampoeng Semarang to get word out.

Now that the first Semarang International Batik Festival is over, we can start dreaming of how it might develop. Would a prize be important, or is competition against the more collective nature of Javanese culture? Is there scope for individuals to develop pathways into batik as an art form? Would there be interest in collaborations with foreign designers?

One issue that did come up in the discussion was the depth of meaning attached to batik. Traditionally, it is a textile that gives meaning to life, with different patterns reflecting various rites of passage, such as pregnancy. I personally am interested in the labuhan ceremony, where people gather on the beach to throw their troubles in to the sea.

A challenging space has been opened up between the Semarang International Batik Festival and the Semarang Night Carnival—between batik as a product and the rituals that bring people together. There is much life in that space between.

Semarang has shown it is willing and capable of holding an international batik festival. It’s up to us all now to work together and help make the next one realise this promise.

If you have any comments or suggestions for the next Semarang International Batik Festival, please leave them in the comments below.

To stay in touch with future activities of the World Crafts Council Asia Pacific, subscribe to the newsletter at www.australasiancraftnetwork.net.

Thanks to the Australian Embassy, Jakarta, for supporting the Australian contingent, as well as Liz Williamson and Tony Dyer for giving themselves to the event. Pungki Purwito and Riza Radyanto organised the initial tour through Semarang, December 2012. Thanks for Wenny Sulistiowaty and Teguh Imam Prasetyo at Kampoeng Semarang for their commitment to batik. James Bennett and Jan Nealie provided much useful advice on the history of Australian-Indonesian batik exchange. Peter Craven helped greatly with the Indonesian connections. Malcolm Smith offered a warm welcome to Yogyakarta. And special thanks to World Crafts Council colleagues Dr Ghada Hijjawi-Qaddumi and Mr Wang Shan for giving their time to this precious event.

Australasian Craft Network calling

The Australasian Craft Network has been established as a bridge down-under with the World Craft Council.

The World Craft Council is the umbrella organisation of five regional associations (Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and North America), within which are various sub-regions. Historically, Australia and New Zealand have been in the South Pacific sub-region of the Asia Pacific region.  The WCC General Assembly meets every four years. Regional groups meet annually.

The WCC has two main goals:

  • To disseminate knowledge, to help craftspersons and revive languishing crafts in these regions and to provide a network and fellowship among craftspersons of the various nations, and to ensure that they are in communication with each other.
  • To bring crafts and craftspersons into the mainstream of life, connecting with the past through maintaining inherited traditions and looking into the future through the use of modern technology to experiment, innovate and reach out to new markets.

In 2008, the Pacific Craft Network was established as a means of disseminating information from the World Craft Council to the island communities, as well as providing a platform for development of projects particularly in association with the Pacific arts festivals.
To complement that, the Australasian Craft Network provides those non-islanders of the South Pacific with a similar conduit to the World Craft Council and also a means of organising activities to the broader benefit of craft culture.
In particular, there is interest in a future conference to consider the relevance of craft today in our region. Initial questions include:

  • Should craft, as a form of tactile literacy, be an essential part of education?
  • How does craft contribute to a healthier society?
  • Could the Global Financial Crisis lay the ground for a craft renaissance?
  • How does craft related to emerging practices such as ethical design?
  • How is a professional craft practice viable when there are no more collectors?
  • What are positive models for the relationship between craft and design?

Are there questions that you would add to this list? Please feel free to reply with your suggestions.

Members of the Australasian Craft Network will:

  • Receive emails of World Craft Council activities, including upcoming workshops and forums
  • Contribute to shaping events in the Australasian region that connect with the international craft world

To be part of this network, please submit your details here. You can also ‘like’ the Facebook page here.

ACN coordinators:

Dr Kevin Murray, vice-president, World Craft Council Asia Pacific Region
Lindy Joubert, Australian national entity, UNESCO Observatory
email australasiancraftnetwork@gmail.com
website: www.australasiancraftnetwork.net





Grass to Gold – Delhi Feb 2011



“Grass to Gold”

WCC—International Jewellery Convention, February 2011

Jewellery through the ages has mirrored society. How jewellery is worn, the reasons for wearing it, and the material it is made of—all are reflections of the societal values, and prevalent beliefs of the times. From Sumerian queens, Egyptian pharaohs, and Indian royalty, to the Cleopatras, Princess Dianas, and Grace Kellys of the world—the annals of history are replete with stories and pictures of ornaments used to adorn the human form.

Grass to Gold is intended to capture this diversity, symbolism, and artistic form. Last held in 2004, the convention is to be held again in 2011 in New Delhi, India. Featuring tribal, traditional, and contemporary jewellery, this event is to be sponsored by the World Crafts Council. The idea is to bring together artisans and jewellers from various parts of the world, and to encourage an open exchange of ideas, methodologies, and technologies. Above all, the forum is intended to provide a platform to learn about changing consumer trends.

The convention will explore how common, everyday material (grass) can be transformed into artistic masterpieces (gold) through the skills of the craftsperson/designer. Metal, wood, bone, shells, gems…these are just some of the raw materials that offer the potential to be transformed into exquisite pieces of jewellery.

A collaboration

Grass to Gold is intended to be a collaboration—a collaboration of artists, artisans, and designers; a collaboration of ideas; a collaboration of the traditional and the modern; a collaboration of the functional and the aesthetic. It is, above all, a coming together of skills under one roof.

Why India?

Enthused by the success of the Grass to Gold Convention in India in 2004, New Delhi has been chosen as the venue because of the consumer profile and the mindset of the consumer. Delhi offers promise as a lucrative and international market for diverse ranges of jewellery.


All five regions of the WCC will be represented in the convention, with jewellers and designers participating in the events.


The convention features the following:

  • Seminars covering tribal, traditional, and contemporary jewellery—A forum that allows people to understand innovations in the field of jewellery, materials, design, and fashion as they adapt to changing consumer trends.
  • Exhibition—A special International event having 5 participants from each region i.e. Asia Pacific, Europe, Africa, North America and Latin America.
  • Sales of Jewellery—Ranging from traditional, tribal, and contemporary using materials as diverse as fibre, metal, and recycled material. All will be specially designed for the event.
  • Workshops—On the design and finishing techniques in jewellery; made from fibre, metal, and recycled material; interactive with craftspeople from all the regions.

About the World Crafts Council

The World Crafts Council (WCC) is a non-government; non-profit organization founded by Mrs.Aileen Webb and co-founded by Ms. Margaret Patch and Smt. Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay in 1964, in New York. What began as a single entity in the United States eventually got structured in to five regions—Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, North America and Latin America. WCC is the only international NGO working in the crafts sector and is affiliated to UNESCO in a consultative status.

As a unique honour, India from the APR Region was elected to take over the Presidency of the WCC in November, 2008 with Mrs. Usha Krishna of the Crafts Council of India (CCI) at the helm.

The objectives of WCC are threefold:

  • To strengthen the status of crafts as a vital element of cultural and economic life
  • To promote a sense of fellowship among the craftspeople of the world
  • To encourage, advise, and nurture the crafts communities

Email: wcc.sect.in@gmail.com; Web: www.worldcraftscouncil.org