Yogyakarta: Yabbiekayu

A romantic four-poster bed complete with mosquito netting.

Beautiful outdoor bathroom

Front gardens and porch

Private garden area

Leave it to Jeremiah to find the most exceptionally beautiful place to stay during our trip to Yogyakarta. Settled in a quaint little Indonesian village with stunning views of the rice fields, our own private bungalow at Yabbiekayu Homestay offered the perfect escape from the crowded city. Each morning we awoke to the peaceful sounds of birds and the distant call to prayer, followed by a delicious homemade breakfast served on the front porch.

Jeremiah and I could tell right away that we were back in the company of an artist. We admired and appreciated the balance of traditional and contemporary design and materials. Handmade tile floors, antique furniture, recycled plantation timber, organic lemongrass soap, quality linens, mosquito netting, outdoor bathroom, elegant gardens… everything in perfect harmony with nature.

Part of being an artist, for me, is surrounding myself with beautiful things. They may be rocks collected from an afternoon walk, beautifully crafted pieces of odd furniture, artwork gifted from a friend, boldly colored or patterned pillows, and handicrafts from our adventures around the world. I find that this setting allows me to be continually inspired and to feel at ease. Surrounded by the beauty at Yabbiekayu… our stay was purely bliss.

Yogyakarta: narrowing our focus

I hope the pictures that Jeremiah and I choose to post on this blog aren’t all blurring together. It has been quite a challenge to achieve solid, simple, beautiful images when we are inundated by the complexity of our surroundings. Despite having been here for over two months, touring Indonesia remains to be an overwhelming experience for the senses. “Texture overload” is what Jeremiah and I call it. As a result, we’ve narrowed our focus to expose some exquisite details.

Some of the most remarkably beautiful things in life are found in the most ordinary places. Chaotic surroundings keep these things hidden in plain view. In order to truly appreciate the beauty of a wall like this, one must remove it from its busy environment, and place it in the simple context of a white background. Fortunately, we have done the capturing, exposing, sorting, selecting, editing, and arranging of dozens of pictures for our viewers to sit back and delight in one final composed image.

Making this blog has been a lot like making a painting for me. It’s all about careful consideration of the words, images, and format to make something that quietly draws the attention of a viewer, holds them near for a moment, and leaves them with something worthwhile: a new thought, a compelling feeling, and above all a desire for more.

Yogyakarta: batik

Walking into another artist’s studio, envy surges within me accompanied by a strangely familiar sense of home. My muscles yearn to use the tools and the wave of inspiration hits hard. Forget saving up for an apartment when I get home - I need studio space. I can hardly describe the pleasure I get from a room with bare white walls, a dusty floor, a paint-splattered sink, and a wide wooden table. Bliss? That’s about right.

Here in the batik studio we were treated to a demonstration by our friend Tatang, an artist/ filmmaker/ environmental activist. He showed us each step of the process, from melting the wax and painting with the tjanting tools, to dyeing and making the natural dyes, and finally boiling the fabric to remove the wax. It takes Tatang one full day to hand make a silk scarf with an abstract design. The traditional patterns take even longer due to the intricacy of the design. I could have spent an entire week in that studio making batik, but there was so much to do and see in Yogyakarta. For a video of the process and to see some of the other artist’s work, visit the gallery’s website.

Melting waxes and tjanting tools

Tacking silk onto wooden frame

Paraffin allows some dye to bleed through while beeswax blocks the color completely.

Tubs of dye

Tubs of dye

Natural mahogany dye.

Fixing mahogany dye with a mineral

Batik detail

Boiling to remove wax.

A final wash before hanging to dry.

Jakarta: sketchbook

Yesterday I began a drawing based on photographs I took while flying over Singapore. I’ve been thinking about this drawing for weeks and I was envisioning something amazing. My approach was slow and concentrated, but something just wasn’t working. I wasn’t feeling it.

It had no life.

Frustrated, I sat back in my chair, reached for my coffee and looked up. Through the glass double doors leading out to the back patio, I watched the giant banana plant leaves sway in the breeze. The sunlight from above edged the leaves with the most incredible golden halos and transformed a boring medium green into a luminous chartreuse. As the overlapping leaves swept past each other, shapes of bluish green shadow appeared and disappeared.

Don’t adhere to a preconceived idea. Work from life.

Jakarta: unconcealed

Life is dirty. Life is rough. Life is growth and decay. Blame it on hygiene, health codes, or “civility,” modern societies prefer to hide the ugly truths of life. In some sense, I feel as though I’ve been living in a fantasy world where garbage disappears overnight, cuts of meat disguise the semblance of a dead animal, and lawns are meticulously trimmed to tame natural growth. We live in a world of facades.

Indonesians have a genuine acceptance of the unpleasant aspects of life. Visit the local market to buy fish and they will be swimming in a tank, not filleted and packaged on a styrofoam tray. Walk down the street and a tree will be growing through the iron gate of a front patio. Why uproot the tree when you can rebuild the patio around it? Complain to the taxi driver about sitting in traffic for over an hour, and his response will be a patient smile and a shrug, “It’s Jakarta.” Sure, some improvements could be made to ease everyone’s lives, but it’s been a worthwhile opportunity to embrace raw, unpolished society.

There is tremendous beauty in decay. Uninhibited, nature weathers surfaces with infinite textures and the elements sculpt alluring forms. Metal rusts. Collaged advertisements peel off concrete walls. There are no veneers in Jakarta; life is real, unrestrained, unconcealed.

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