Meraki is a Greek word that means to do something with soul, creativity or love, leaving something of yourself in what you are doing. The three Jakarta craftswomen, Lita Jonathans, Wiwik Winarni, and Wien Wardana, chose the name Meraki Sisterhood for themselves, because it expresses the heart of their mission: to generate public interest in Jakarta’s 39 public museums while creating public space where those interested in handicrafts can meet, exchange and learn. 

Photo courtesy of The Indonesian Heritage Society Library/NOW!JAKARTA

The Meraki Sisterhood’s first event was an outdoor gathering of quilting friends at the Museum Layang-Layang (Kite Museum) in February 2017. The quilters brought their quilts, took pictures and laid plans for a kite-related exhibition at the museum in 2018. 

The Meraki Sisterhood then turned their attention to Museum Tekstil (Textile Museum), where they organized their second event in August 2017, the spectacularly successful Merah Putih (red-white) handicraft exhibition to celebrate Indonesia’s Independence Day. Red and white are the colors of the Indonesian flag, and a wide variety of handicrafters, including knitters, tatters, embroiderers, crocheters, weavers, lace-makers, clothing designers, batikers, and quilters went all out to demonstrate their love of Indonesia through their handicrafts. 

Museum Tekstil was transformed into a dazzling sea of red and white by 58 red and white quilts made by Ibu Wiwik and Ibu Wien’s quilting groups. The large friendship quilt greeting visitors at the Museum’s entrance consisted of 72 blocks made by 72 different Indonesian quilters from Medan, Pekanbaru, Bandung, Jakarta, Bekasi, Tangerang, Surabaya, Doha, and Melbourne and is now part of Museum Tekstil’s collection. 

Photo courtesy of The Indonesian Heritage Society Library/NOW!JAKARTA

The Merah Putih exhibition was a joint venture of the Meraki Sisterhood and Wastra Indonesia, a new Indonesian association of textile artisans, collectors, researchers, and motivators that is working to preserve traditional textiles, educate the public about those textiles, and support the welfare of textile artisans. During the entire Merah Putih exhibition, Wastra Indonesia ran a series of talk shows covering the entire range of traditional Indonesian textiles, from Batak Ulos in North Sumatra and batik made in Jambi and Java to traditional weaving on the islands of Tanimbar, Sulawesi, Adonara, and Lembata. The Meraki Sisterhood, in turn, organized a wide variety of handicraft workshops, including Shibori dyeing, inkle weaving, quilting, and embroidery, on the museum’s premises. 

Of the three Meraki sisters, the senior craftswoman, Ibu Lita, has been involved in handicrafts the longest. Largely self-taught, she set up La Lita Art&Craft in Surabaya in 1995, but moved it to Bogor 15 years ago. People come from all over Java to attend her embroidery, glass painting, egg painting, beading, cross stitch and weaving classes. 

Photo courtesy of The Indonesian Heritage Society Library/NOW!JAKARTA

Ibu Wiwik and Ibu Wien, who are real-life sisters as well as Meraki sisters, were born in Riau. Their father worked for the Caltex oil company (Chevron) in Riau, and their mother, Sri Halimah, a seamstress, learned to quilt from a group of ex-pat quilters, wives of Caltex employees. Sri Halimah then taught many of her friends to quilt, especially the double wedding ring quilt, her personal favorite. Her daughters did not begin quilting until well after they were married, but quilting then quickly became the defining passion of their lives. 

Ibu Wien began taking classes with an instructor from the Japanese Handicraft Instructors Association (JHIA) and became a certified JHIA quilting instructor, with particular expertise in hand appliqué techniques. She opened a small workshop in Tangerang, where she teaches quilting. 

Photo courtesy of The Indonesian Heritage Society Library/NOW!JAKARTA

In contrast, Ibu Wiwik is more interested in paper piecing and scrap quilting. She is completing her teaching certification in Australia from Judy Niemeyer’s Quiltworx and runs a quilting shop from her home in Bekasi, where she also offers classes. 

Together with their mother, Sri Halimah, who now lives in Garut, Ibu Wien and Ibu Wiwik began a project to teach local Garut women to do hand quilting – joining finished quilt tops to backing with batting in between using intricate hand-stitching patterns. They now have an active group of 12 women, who also take hand quilting orders from outsiders.

For information on handicraft classes in Ibu Lita Jonathans’ Bogor workshop, WhatsApp her at 0811 9694568.

For quilting classes or to commission hand quilting, WhatsApp Ibu Wien Wardana at 0816 1668 569 or Ibu Wiwik Winarni at 0877 76014572.

Text by Marianne Scholte.This article is originally from paper. Read NOW!Jakarta Magazine February 2018 issue “Season of Love”. Available at selected bookstore or SUBSCRIBE here.

The Indonesian Heritage Society Library

The Indonesian Heritage Society Library

The Indonesian Heritage Society Jakarta is a non-profit organisation offering the opportunity to learn more about the rich cultural heritage of Indonesia. The varied activities of the society, including tours, lectures and study groups, provide a stepping stone to discovering the culture, life, history & art of this vast archipelago.