The fabrics of Indonesia have long held an allure. They have now won universal popularity, so much so that local names for techniques of dying and weaving - batik, ikat, tritik - have been adopted internationally as generic terms.
The reverence accorded to textile art on the islands is reflected in every area of production; precision of weave and exquisite patterning are testimony to superlative craftsmanship. Lying at the heart of a vast network of trading routes, Indonesia has absorbed a wealth of foreign influences that have spawned an eclectic culture uniquely mirrored in its textile art.
Beautiful cloud shapes characteristic of Chinese painting reappear in Javanese batik, while Ming porcelain and Chinese embroideries have provided inspiration for many wonderful patterns. Indian symbols - the tree of life, the naga snake, the sacred mountain, the lotus - have all been rendered as textile motifs. Geometric forms, human and animal figures and even Dutch Art Deco designs can also be found.
John Gillow has spent over three decades studying, collecting, and lecturing on textiles. His other books include Textiles of the Islamic World and Indian Textiles.