NOW! JAKARTA | Batik Fractal : Technology Meets Tradition
Batik Fractal : Technology Meets Tradition
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A Bandung trio merged cutting-edge technology with the art of batik and took the meaning of innovation to a whole new level. 

Batik Sriwedari. Photo courtesy of Batik Fractal/NOW!JAKARTA

Developing batik motifs using mathematical formula may sound unconventional. But if we look beneath the surface, there are similarities between batik patterns and recurrences in mathematics or physics through concepts such as repetition, dimension, literacy and fraction. 

That was a revelation uncovered by Pixel People Project, a creative group made up of Nancy Margried, Muhammad Lukman and Yun Hariadi back in 2006. The three had met while working together in an arts project that combines mathematics with architecture. 

Lukman, an architect from Bandung Technology Institute, had first examined the fractal formula as part of his graduate thesis. The word ‘fractal’ itself is a mathematics term that means fractions, repetition or self-replication and the concept is widely used in science, technology and computer-generated art. 

Upon realisation that the illustration Lukman created actually looked like batik motifs, his peers felt intrigued. Together they continued to do research on 300 of Indonesia’s most well-known batik motifs using fractal dimension with process, Fourier transformation and box-counting method. 

One way to measure fractal is by using a dimension ruler that requires a new geometry capable of receiving objects with fractional dimensions. Euclidean geometry, on the other hand, can only group objects into integer dimensions, not fractions. Deeper studies of regularity and characteristics then followed, leading to the confirmation that there are repetitions in batik motifs and that batik was indeed fractal. 

Photo courtesy of Batik Fractal/NOW!JAKARTA

Thus began the creation of their own batik motif, aptly named Batik Fractal. 

By using the L System language, the fractal mathematics formula motifs were then created and further modified by varying their parameters to produce even more complex formulas and to discover new variants without losing special characters of any given motifs. 

The formula was then processed by jBatik, an application they created using open-source software. By employing the software, batik processes 10 times faster, leading to higher productivity. 

This breakthrough brought Pixel People Project to the 10th Generative Art International Conference in Milan in 2007. In October 2008, UNESCO awarded them with the Seal of Excellence. A year later, the UN cultural agency inscribed Indonesian batik on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. 

The formula was then processed by jBatik, an application they created using open-source software. By employing the software, batik processes 10 times faster, leading to higher productivity. 

In November 2009, the trio established Piksel Indonesia, an innovative company that blends science, technology and traditional art while focusing on research and technology development. One of its missions is to create technological innovations to develop traditional culture through deployment and training to both traditional crafters and professionals.

So far, Batik Fractal has been marketed to all regions of Indonesia and in other countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Canada and France. So far, market responses have been positive. Demands for their products – especially uniforms – have increased, from both local and foreign companies operating in Indonesia. 

As part of its strategy to expand overseas, the company is focusing on merchandise and fashion accessories as well as home decorations, such as bedding, cushion, throws, tableware and tablecloth. Piksel Indonesia has also strived to create strong partnerships with buyers abroad. 

“In the last three years, we have been doing promotions in Malaysia and Singapore. Three years ago, we held an exhibition in Brazil to promote Batik Fractal. In England, where I’m currently living, I’m also active in seminars as a speaker for Batik Fractal,” said Nancy Margried, CEO of Piksel Indonesia. 

Nancy Margried, CEO of Piksel Indonesia. Photo courtesy of Batik Fractal/NOW!JAKARTA

Compared with traditional batik, the motifs of Batik Fractal are more edgy and contemporary, given its digital design and target market of urban dwellers within the age range of 20 to 40. Among the most popular variants of Batik Fractal are those sourced from Javanese and Cirebon origins. 

“The motifs of Batik Fractal can be well accepted by the public because they give a new nuance to the batik treasure. They can also be used for both hand application and wax screen print, so as not to hurt the hand-drawn tradition in the batik industry,” explained Nancy Margried. 

Batik Fractal is also environmentally friendly. By using natural dyes, the company seeks to reduce waste. It also produces patchworks and accessories using leftover materials. The strategy has led to an increase in revenue and has proven effective in creating more jobs.

The motifs of Batik Fractal can be well accepted by the public because they give a new nuance to the batik treasure. They can also be used for both hand application and wax screen print, so as not to hurt the hand-drawn tradition in the batik industry.

-Nancy Margried, CEO of Piksel Indonesia. 

Piksel Indonesia is now developing a new version of its software and providing training for artisans and students. 

At the moment, the number of Batik Fractal software users has reached 3,000 people. The company also has a cooperation with five well-known universities in Indonesia through the Batik Fractal Training Centre. In some universities, jBatik software has been incorporated into the curricula and is being offered as a course. 

Both Lukman and Yun continue to play an active role in developing research for a new version of Batik Fractal software, with the help of Dimas Danurwenda as Chief of Technology. 

“Our next target is to launch the new software and to reach 5,000 software users. We have built market networks in England and Holland and we’re going to launch the software for mobile version in 2018,” said Nancy Margri


SARI WIDIATI

Sari Widiati is Feature Writer at NOW!JAKARTA

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