Although better know for his prowess in the world of fashion, feted batik designer Iwan Tirta has lent his considerable talents to something that is probably better associated with the aristocracy of Europe: porcelain.
While most people are familiar with the traditional blue and white china, or the stately sets produced by famous international designers, an Indonesian company is aiming to bring an air of sophistication to the country’s dining tables with traditional, heritage-styled batik designs.
Late last month, PT Pusaka Iwan Tirta, a collaboration between the senior fashion designer and Lydia Kusuma Hendra, the chairwoman of the local ceramics company PT Tri Marga Jaya Hutama, relaunched its first line of ceramic dinnerware.
Called “ Pusaka Maha Karya (“Heritage Masterpieces”), the line consists of two collections — Modang and Hokokai — and is available at the Metro Department Store in Plaza Senayan, South Jakarta.
Priced at Rp 317 million ($34,000), the collections are each comprised of 258 pieces, including a range of plates and bowls, a tea, coffee and espresso set, salt and pepper shakers, as well as water goblets and wine glasses for 12 people. All pieces are plated with 22 carat gold along the rims.
The refined design of the Modang collection is set off by intricate and artistic motifs depicting blue tongues of fire that encircle each piece.
Modang batik was traditionally worn by the imperial and noble families of Yogyakarta as a symbol of their power and unbreakable spirit.
“I do think this [collection] is more beautiful than foreign products,” said Mien Uno, president director of public relations firm Duta Bangsa, at the relaunch.
“The design is very detailed and sophisticated, with Iwan Tirta’s name and a serial number inscribed underneath each piece. That makes it exclusive, like the Royal Doulton collection,” she added, referring to the British premium tableware brand.
By contrast, the Hokokai collection is lively and colorful with vibrant patterns of flowers and butterflies decorating the immaculate porcelain pieces.
Hokokai batik was created during the Japanese occupation in the 1940s, when traditional batik painters in Pekalongan, Central Java, were inspired by the colorful kimonos worn by Japanese women.
“It’s definitely a heritage collection,” Mien said. “These dinnerware pieces beautifully portray the intricate patterns of traditional batik. They would be perfect on my dining table at home. In fact, I think all Indonesians should have one.”
Only 25 sets of the Modang and Hokokai premium collections were produced. And just eight sets remain available for purchase at Metro.
At the relaunch, Iwan Tirta also launched a second line of dinnerware — the more affordable “ Pusaka Indonesia ” (“Indonesian Heritage”) line. This line consists of two collections — Tumpal Nanas and Pandai Sikat — priced at Rp 1.8 million per set. Each collection consist of plates, bowls, cups and saucers for four.
“I hope the Pusaka Indonesia collection can help to acquaint Indonesia’s young generation with our cultural heritage,” Iwan Tirta said.
“This is very important as Indonesian cultural heritage represents our nation to the international world.
“Our cultural heritage can also become a source of inspiration to create new innovative products that are highly competitive in the global market,” the 75-year-old said.
The Pandai Sikat collection was inspired by silk songket (hand-woven fabrics) from Bukittinggi in West Sumatra.
One of the key characteristics of Pandai Sikat is the balapak motif, in which the fabric is almost completely covered with geometrical patterns of gold and silver threads.
The Tumpal Nanas collection was inspired by the batik headpieces worn by servants of the old Javanese imperial courts. The motif consists of triangular patterns that symbolize the governmental hierarchy. For the tableware collection, this is translated into classic triangular motifs merged into the circles that enclose each piece.
The tableware is not just stylish, it is also produced with safety and sustainability in mind.
“Our china is environmentally-friendly,” Lydia said.
“It is produced at a low combustion: 1,000 degrees Celsius. The low combustion means that our production is energy-efficient and safe for the ozone.”
Ceramics are usually fired at about 1,300 to 1,500 degrees Celsius.
“The clay formula is also biodegradable,” Lydia added. “Once you drop the china and bury it in your backyard, the clay will easily merge with the soil. We also use colorings that are free from toxins underneath the glaze to make it safe for food.”
The batik motifs are ingrained by using decal transfer paper placed on top of the ceramics during the combustion process. All the motifs were designed by Iwan Tirta himself.
“Iwan Tirta’s designs have a strong batik soul,” Lydia said.
“It’s because all of his designs are based on original history and traditions.”
Pusaka Iwan Tirta plans to launch a third line, “Pusaka Nusantara” (“Heritage of the Archipelago”), in April.
“If Americans have Vera Wang and Italians have Armani, we shouldn’t forget that we have Iwan Tirta in Indonesia,” Lydia said.
“We should support our national products, especially when a son of the nation, like Iwan Tirta, can produce something of such excellent quality.”