Lolet and I traveled to Java to meet with batik artists working with Threads of Life. We made a detour to visit Hadi Wiyono in Yogjakarta. Hadi is one of the few remaining well-known stamp makers in Java. These stamps are used in the production of batiks and were introduced by the Dutch to speed up production.
The face of this 76-year-old man lights up with enthusiasm when talking about batik. He is animated, never ceasing to move while discussing his profession since 1950. His face, lips, hands and body are dynamic, and full of spirit while he explains the process of crafting batik stamps from copper sheeting.
Hadi Wiyono, known to his family as Hadi Walid, lives in Mergangsan, Yogyakarta. He works from home in simple surroundings. His workshop, where he completes his few orders, is sparsely equipped with antique tools and equipment. Hadi’s needs are met by his wood-fired stove and clay pots. The old table where he welds the batik stamps is still sturdy and strong, just like his old partner Tugiyo, who has been with Hadi since it all began.
Hadi Wiyono started making batik stamps as a teenager. “It is a tradition and a significant part of my life”, he says. He followed a steep learning curve in the beginnning, until he reached the point where he felt ready to open his own business making. Initially his customers were scattered across a handful of regions in Java, but as business improved, he received orders from areas further afield such as Sulawesi, Bali, and Malaysia.
The business was at its peak in 1965. The workshop employed twenty workers. However, Hadi’s good fortune took a turn for the worse due to the political upheaval in the following five years. The market collapsed but Hadi was not the type to give in easily. Although not one of his ten children chose to follow in their father’s footsteps, he stubbornly continued to turn copper sheeting into stamps in the face of competition from modern printing.
But in early 1980, when new orders for the batik industry were slow, Hadi began to revamp and frame old and damaged stamps for sale as decorative artworks in their own right. Hadi values these creations, and thinks of each stamp as a testament to the batik industry, as each stamp had been used in the creation of thousands of batik pieces.
The Indonesian Institute of the Arts (Institut Seni Indonesia) in Yogyakarta invited Hadi to lecture. He has also made himself available to the general public to teach and keep the art of batik stamp making alive, provided the student has sufficient desire, spirit, and determination. “They will be able to do it if they truly want to,” he says.
With support form his partner Tugiyo, he continues to receive orders for new stamps. There are not many other stamp makers like Hadi still working. In fact there are no more than four other stamp-makers, due to the decline in the printing of traditional batiks. Hadi and Tugiyo hope the art does not disappear. They are of the firm conviction that there will be a revival of traditional batik sometime in the next half century. Threads of Life now selling stamps made by Hadi and Tugiyo in hopes of helping to support this art.