Widji Astuti, a painted batik artist with a disability, has succeeded in proving that her work is able to compete with the works of other artists through its distinctive characteristics.
Who would have thought that school holidays would turn someone's life? Widji Astuti did not even think about it. However, it was this holiday moment that brought her together with mask craftsmen and introduced her to art in general. From there, Widji was determined to learn batik and now she is a painted batik artist.
"What I saw were mask craftsmen, but my instincts spoke of batik," recalled Widji at the moment eleven years ago. Having worked odd job as a laundry keeper to a tailor for six years, Widji's dream of becoming a painted batik artist remained firm. Widji set aside to save income from odd job as capital to become an independent painted batik artist.
"When I did the odd job, I actually started to make batik because there was an order," said Widji. The order came from a batik customer when she was taking a course at the Yakkum Foundation. Widji learned the painted batik skill professionally through the course in 2011, after graduating from senior high school.
"Initially, the batik course class failed to be implemented because the only participant who registered was me," recalls Widji. Thanks to negotiation with her teacher with the capital of being able to invite one friend, Widji got what she wanted. The course went beyond plan, from the initial plan of nine months, Widji was able to complete it in just six months.
After the course, Widji got a final assignment to market the results of her skill. Optimism arose in Widji when her painted batik works attracted buyers until they were sold out. Unfortunately, this optimism was collided with nil access to develop her skills.
Until finally in 2017, Widji decided to independently develop her painted batik skill after the capital was collected. "At that time, what made it hard to decide to pursue painted batik seriously was that I was already comfortable to work odd jobs," she explained. Learning from the fettered comfort zone, now Widji doesn't want to be trapped twice.
"In working, I don't want to feel satisfied just yet," she said. Even though she already has many customers and has successfully participated in various exhibitions with various titles, Widji does not want to be complacent. Widji continues to explore various things in her work.
Now, she is exploring the types of fabrics used in her painted batik medium. "I explored the combination of batik with Rusdi, Sibori, and even Ecoprint fabrics," she explained. Exploration that she did aimed to make her works not monotonous.
The reason is, according to Widji, without adjusting to the times, the works produced cannot respond to the needs of the situation. Also, creativity in work will decrease drastically. So that in the end, it will be abandoned by the wider community.
Widji's choice of medium exploration is intended so that batik is not always connoted with the past. In fact, it is important to bring batik to be continuously actual and in demand by the wider community so that it does not become extinct, let alone claimed as a culture of another country.
"I chose Rusdi and Sibori fabrics because these two fabrics are trending and their textures also allow them to be a medium for the painted batik," she explained.
Widji has proven that the choice the two fabrics are able to lift batik through the increasing demand she gets. "Because many people were bored with the type of batik with monotonous fabric, it possibly made many more people interested in my batik,” she guessed with a laugh.
Widji has had the spirit of exploring since 2017 when she started to be independent in the painted batik. The exploration is Widji's way of making her work widely accepted by the public. "At the beginning, I tried to explore what characteristics I wanted to have in my work," she said.
The character began to emerge when Widji decided to dominantly use purple, red, and blue colors in her painted batik. According to her, through the combination of the three colors, the character appears and can be easily recognized by the public. In addition, the three colors dominantly describe the form of her emotions in her works.
The red color symbolizes the form of discomfort, annoyance, and other forms of negative emotions that Widji feels. While blue is a symbol of the opposite, then purple is a symbol of transition between the two opposites. Widji chose these three colors because these colors are intertwined with each other, making it easy to express ideas in her work.