In Penatih, one designer infuses ‘tenun’ with architectural motifs
It is no surprise that Bali is home to myriad textiles with richly woven and intricate patterns. However, one local fashion designer, I Gusti Made Arsawan, has been fusing architecture and fabric with amazing results.
Arsawan said he has been intrigued by the patra flourishes that typically adorn Balinese architecture and carbings. He has incorporated patra patterns into his woven tenun silk designs, which he calls tenun patra.
To introduce his creations, Arsawan will launch his signature fabric at his garden restaurant, Rumah Makan Bale Timbang, in Penatih, north Denpasar, on Thursday evening.
In his creations, Arsawan uses traditional patra architectural elements typically found in temples, houses, wooden panels. “At first, I was so concerned over the monotonous geometric designs and patterns of traditional endek weft textile,” Arsawan said.
He said he had always been interested in patra, which he described as unique and classical.
“I thought it would be wonderful to fill in woven cloths with patra motifs,” he said.
To make the architectural designs more colorful and dynamic, Arsawan has married patra designs with floral and animal motifs.
Through a laborious and intricate work, Arsawan has created nine new designs under his Patra Tenun label: a Jatayu mythical bird motif; a Maksika bee motif; a Wanara pattern, portraying monkeys; Kalandaka, depicting squirrels; Citrapataga, or butterflies; Sumanaka, or flowers; Panaga, or dragons; Upadika, or ants; and Nagamaksikha, or dragonflies.
Arsawan, who graduated with a degree in textile design from Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB), said that incorporating plants and animals into his tenun designs had a profoundly moral message: get close to the nature and maintain a harmonious balance with nature.
“The complexity of tenun patra lies in its weaving and coloring techniques. Unlike the quite simple process of weaving geometrical patterns by dyeing and weaving the threads, tenun patra requires more elaborate efforts.”
Arsawan said that he improvised his weaving and coloring techniques by brushing the colors onto individual threads.
“It is like creating a painting. You can create innovative and improvise with motifs and color palettes,” he said.
Arsawan said he used non-toxic chemical dyes for his initial production run, although that would change in the future. “We will gradually change into natural-dyeing techniques using herbal and plant materials.”
Another important part of crafting tenun patra was choosing the best spun-silk thread to produce high-quality weft fabrics with the best colors, Arsawan said.
“My utmost dream is to produce extraordinary weft textiles. Consumers will appreciate our laborious endeavors and distinguished designs,” Aswan said, although he added that he was not an artist and not a businessman.
Arsawan said he would not create mass-market products. “We employ eight weavers and five artists.”
Arsawan has pledged to produce between 100 and 125 pieces of tenun patra a month for quality reasons.
As professional textile designer, Arsawan plans to train traditional weavers living near his workshop in Penatih.
Despite his innovations and creativity in incorporating classical motifs to create new designs, Arsawan said he has no plans to secure the intellectual property rights for his works.
“I only registered the brand Tenun Patra as a trademark, but I will not try to obtain the copyright of the patra motifs.”
Obtaining a copyright of a design is an expensive process, according to Arsawan. But money was not the point, he added.
Furthermore, Arsawan knows that his creativity will spawn new motifs at a pace that will make the legal process, including registering copyrights, nothing but a distraction.