Written by Linda Hoffman
Jogja visitors may have noticed the handsome striped jackets worn by the palace soldiers at the Keraton but may not have thought much more about them except how elegantly Javanese they are. The simple, hand-woven fabric that the jackets are made from is called lurik. Not particularly well known to the outside world, lurik is one of the many Indonesian traditional weavings in danger of disappearing unless people notice and begin to demand them.
Originating in ancient Java, lurik motifs are always a combination of stripes or checks. Like all things Javanese, each design is rich in symbolism and superstition. For example, a broken, scattered striped pattern called udan liris (gentle rain; drizzle; sprinkle) symbolizes fertility and prosperity. A man in authority might wear this cloth hoping to receive God’s blessings, thus bringing prosperity to his followers. Another striped motif called tuluh watu (glittering or shining stones) is believed to protect the wearer from evil or bad luck.
The weaving process itself entails endless patience, dedication and skill. First there’s the painstaking dying and sizing of the yarns, making sure each thread of all colors in the weaving achieves exactly the right hue. Next the dyed yarns are spun to untangle and twist them. The thought of then setting up over 2,700 individual threads on the peddle- (non-mechanical) loom in the correct order to achieve the desired motif, then assuring that they all have precisely the same tension is mind-boggling. All this accomplished, at last the weaving begins.
In Jogja, only one shop still makes hand-woven lurik cloths, Kurnia Lurik Hand Weaving Company. All others were either out-produced or under-priced by mechanized looms years ago. For nearly 40 years Pak Dubyo, Kurnia’s owner, and his weavers have produced lurik textiles, passing motifs and techniques from one generation to another. Sadly, during the May 27 earthquake, one of Kurnia’s 45 weavers died, one was injured and is still in hospital, the workshop, all 27 looms, a myriad of other weaving tools, plus the homes of all 45 employees were either damaged or destroyed. Now Pak Dubyo and his surviving weavers struggle to rebuild.
Enter House of Lawe, a small business founded by five ladies pre-earthquake who wanted to save the fading lurik culture while simultaneously empowering women. Lawe’s strategy for reviving lurik is to fashion it into home and office furnishings, women’s accessories and kids wear suited to modern tastes. As one of Kurnia Lurik Hand Weaving Company’s major customers and staunchest supporters, Lawe has pledged to help Kurnia and its weavers recover.
House of Lawe’s fundraising project “Weaving Hope” benefiting Kurnia Lurik Hand Weaving Company offers five programs designed to help Kurnia’s weavers return to work and to preserve the lurik weaving culture in Jogja: (1) Providing temporary shelters for Kuria’s remaining 44 weavers; (2) Helping Mr. Dibyo pay minimum salaries to weavers until the shop returns to full production; (3) Buying existing lurik cloths; (4) Buying House of Lawe products (70% of all sales will be returned to Kurnia); and (5) Donating advertising space and funds and exhibition venues to promote project “Weaving Hope” exhibitions and events.