Field Notes | Welcome to Jlamprang!

Jlamprang is the very first of our SukkhaCitta villages, where our Field to Fabric Initiative has already been running for six months. Our founder, Denica, has done a great job working with the community there, building trust and learning about the local needs and challenges. Just a few weeks back, I finally got the chance to visit Jlamprang myself and in the following I would like to share my experiences in this beautiful place and introduce you to our community there.

After a two hour car ride from Semarang, leading through scenic valleys filled with rice fields and going up and down tiny mountain roads surrounded by forest, we finally arrived at the home of our Masterdyer, Mas Iful. He is the head of our cooperative and also hosts the women who prefer to not batik from home.

I am amazed by the warmth and sincerity of the welcome and the beauty of the place. Just a bit beyond Mas Iful’s backyard, there is an enormous rice field, followed by dense rain forst. The air is so incredibly clean and fresh and you can see little chicks running around in the garden. We are treated to an amazing lunch, all cooked from local, fresh ingredients. It may well be one of the best Indonesian meals I have ever had!

Throughout the next days, I was fortunate enough to see the entire process of our Field to Fabric initiative that is behind our Living Indigo collection. Our dyers grow, harvest and process their own indigo as well as other natural dyes and then use them to dye the other artisans’ batik fabrics. Together with Mas Iful, I learnt how to harvest and process the Indigo leaves in mountain spring water and finally, how to dye one of our beautiful KUPU scarves

My 'office-hands' (as the villagers jokingly nick-named them) were quickly bruised during the harvest. My muscles became sore from the repeated dips, lifting the heavy, soaked fabrics in and out of the dying vat, again and again. After the first dip, the white hand-loomed fabric actually turns green, but as it reacts with the oxygen in the air transforms into a light blue. With every dip, the shade becomes darker. To get to the beautiful dark blue of our collection between five to ten dips are required, depending on the Indigo quality. But it is not just muscle: Making sure the color comes our evenly is a big challenge and requires experience.

This experience gave me an entirely new appreciation of this slow craft and  what goes into creating something so beautiful with your hands. 

After 3 days of living with them, we feel incredibly happy to see the impact of the initiative. The community is already very comfortable with us, as we can tell by the level of noise from our batik ladies who – while timid at first – now readily share the latest village gossip, crack jokes and seem to be laughing most of the time.

Soon, we will add even more women to our initiative, allowing them to earn a higher and more stable income than from their current work in farming. Clearly, what Denica and the community decided a few months earlier is working: Instead of relying on Indigo paste production, our artisans now focus primarily on batik fabrics and use their Indigo themselves. 

After my first visit, I cannot wait to come back to this beautiful, scenic village and its generous, sincere and kind people. I will miss the walks in the forests, the sounds of frogs, birds and crickets at night, the wonderful food – and most of all our artisans.

Stay tuned for more updates!