Bio & CV

Short bio

Photo by Eliza Bordeaux

Sabine Bolk (1984) is a Dutch artist and Batik researcher. On her blog ’The journey to Batik’ she writes about her discoveries, journeys and research. In 2009 and 2016 Sabine went to Java, Indonesia, to document to process of Batik making. In October 2019 she went to Indonesia to launch her researchproject Retelling the History of the (Indo-)European Influence on Batik. From 2019 until December 2021 Sabine was a Research Associate at the Research Center for Material Culture in Leiden (NL) to research the batik collections in Dutch museums & archives. In her current research she focus not only on the maker, but also the wearer. September until November 2022 she was on Java to prepare her upcoming exhibition ‘Future of Batik’ that will be held in 2023 at Erasmushuis in Jakarta. Sabine writes for different platforms, organises events, gives talks, presentations and workshops. She not only gets inspiration from Batik, she also works on promoting, preserving and protecting Batik.

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Current projects

The meaning of the White Kebaya | De betekenis van de witte kebaya – with Dido Michielsen
September 2023 – September 2024
The Kebaya is nominated as Unesco intangible heritage from Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to research an interessant type of kebaya, the white one that was a typical type of dress in the former Dutch East Indies. It is never specifically researched in much depth. The white kebaya is in the sarong&kebaya duo a bit of an after thought, and we think it should be spotlighted. On 7 September 2023 during the Tong Tong Fair we launch our project ‘The meaning of the White Kebaya’.

Research project Fabrics of Leiden, online-zone for Things That Talk
June 2021 – ongoing
A zone of the on the ‘Leidsche katoenmaatschappij’. Commissioned by Things That talk, University Leiden and the city of Leiden, I am guiding 4 students to create stories on objects found in the collections of a.o. NMvW, Stadserfgoed Leiden, Textielmuseum Tilburg.

Research project Driessen collection with Textielmuseum Tilburg
January 2024 – ongoing
We are making the Driessen collection accessible. This collection was the first acquisition the Textielmuseum in Tilburg made at the end of the 1950’s. The collection was brought together by Louis André Driessen (1890-1954), the last of the Driessen family to run the Leidse Katoenmaatschappij (LKM). We are making the Driessen collection accessible by making the notebooks digital available, but also by transcribing them. With the help of volunteers & Transkribus textile terms, dates, company names, persons are being indexed.

Past Projects

The first ‘journey to Batik’
October 2009
In 2009 I received a grant from the Fonds BKVB (now Mondriaan Fonds) to explore the Art of Batik and to find out how to give more meaning to the patterns I already used in my work. I went in October that year for a month to Java. I visited Yogyakarta, Solo, Lasem, Pekalongan and Semarang to meet pembatiks and other artists. I used my blog The journey to Batik to write daily on my meets & adventures. I followed two Batiks courses, both in Yogyakarta, on at Batik Winotosatro and one at Pak Hadjir near Taman Sari. From my first journey I made a photo-book ‘The journey to Batik, a forgotten industry’.

Dance in a ricecarpet
October 2009 – 2011
On Java I started working together with flamenco dancer Barbara van Kooten. In the Netherlands during a 3 month residency in 2010 I developed the project Dance in a ricecarpet further with her, Chester L. Brandes (classical guitar), Koen de Wit (clarinet), Dirk Elst (percussion) and Berk Aarts (light).
For the ricecarpet I got my inspiration directly from batik motifs. For the dance & music we explored Gamelan music and traditional Javanese dance. Watch ‘Dance in a ricearpet’ here online.

Work and exhibition Pagi-Sore Batik ‘Difficult Time’
2011 – 2019
In 2011 I designed a Pagi-Sore Batik. I painted it the size of an actual Batik Tulis. I wanted to explore how motif develop over time and how they are transformed into batik motifs by pembatiks. I based my design on typical European art, mainly the Sunflowers paintings by Vincent van Gogh. I send the design transferred onto tracing paper to Jakarta, where Pak William Kwan, a batik expert, gave the design to batik makers in Desa Jeruk, near Lasem. They turned my batik design into two pieces of Batik Tulis.
From 13 December 2018 till 20 January 2019 I made an exhibition with/about this work ‘The journey to Batik – Day and Night’ at Nieuwe Veste in Breda as part of the ‘Indische winter’ in collaboration with Stedelijk Museum Breda.

Film ‘The journey to Batik – Tari Batik’
2016 – 2019
During my second ‘journey to Batik’ I spend 3 months on Java (Indonesia) to capture the creative proces of Batik on film. In the film I show how creativity comes to live through the hands of the Batik makers. There is a big role for Tari Batik, the new traditional dance, in the film that visualises the proces of making of a Batik. The dancer and Batik makers show how Batik is still being made today, under pressure from the outside world but far from forgotten.
My film has been screened in the Netherlands, Indonesia and the USA and has been shared online on my Youtube channel on 1 December 2019.

Research Associate at Research Center for Material Culture (RCMC)
June 2019 – December 2021
My researchproject is focused on batiks made between 1840-1890 that are either attributed to an Indo-European Batikentrepreneur or are seen as having an Indo-European style or influence. I am trying to re-tell this history by determine what we can actually view as ‘European’ or ‘Indo-European’ influence. To re-tell the history of the (Indo-)European influence on Batik, I use as a starting point the story and batiks attributed to Carolina Josephina von Franquemont (1815-1867).
In 2019 I also launched my research project in Indonesia. On Java I did a tour with talks and workshops. I was a speaker at Symposium 10th Hari Batik Museum Tekstil in Jakarta, gave talks at Museum Batik and the Batik Week in Pekalongan, at IPPI event in Batang and at Rumah Merah in Lasem.
For the publication Provenance #4 by Wereldmuseum I wrote an essay on the provenance of all batiks attributed {at one point in time} to Von Franquemont in the Wereldmuseum collection (former NMvW collection). The research done in collaboration with Rijksdienst voor het Cultureel Erfgoed (RCE) on the colours allegedly created by Von Franquemont can be viewed in the report ‘Carolina Josephina von Franquemont (1817-1867) Prankemon green : research into the chemical composition of organic dyes in 19th century sarongs’ published by RCE. Read here more on the report

Storytelling concertfilm ‘Shishani & Sisterhood’
For SHISHANI & SISTERHOOD singer-songwriter and musicologist Shishani Vranckx dives into the various art forms in Indonesia, Java, Sumatra, the Moluccas and Papua and creates a personal interpretation of the works that inspires her with the help of her team of female artists.
Shishani brings together a diverse line-up of multi-disciplinary performers centralising female artists. With: spoken word artist Tieka Masfar, tifa Tiga Batang Rumah, musician Wulan Dumatubun, dancer Asih Sungkono, batik expert Sabine Bolk and bass player Jaimie van Hek.
SHISHANI & SISTERHOOD is a storytelling concertfilm by Shishani Vranckx in collab with Erasmushuis Jakarta, Beyond Walls and

Misleiden’ exhibition and publication by Things That Talk
2021 – 2022
An online and offline exhibition ‘Misleiden – Fakes from art and science’ made by Things That Talk. Offline at Museum Lakenhal in Leiden (NL) from 17 December 2021 till 12 June 2022. Publication with the same title was published in 2022. For the exhibition I was invited to be one of the storytellers. I share about the Leidsche Katoenmaatschappij and the imitations, the fake batiks, they made for the Southeast Asian market.

The Batik Stand: A Stand for Batik
2019 – 2023
During the 11 days of the Tong Tong Fair in Den Haag we, me and Myrthe Groot and Romée Mulder of Guave, had a stand for everything Batik in 2019. We had every day a special guest, a scholar or artist who worked with batik, one of these special guests was Renske Heringa. With the stand we wanted to promote handmade Batik and make a stand against the imitation printed textiles.
Because of the pandemic the Tong Tong Fair was postponed twice. We organised an online Batik Stand for 11 days in May 2020 with daily insta stories on Batik at the Tong Tong Fair through the years and Batik consultations.
During the 62 edition of TTF in 2022 we returned with a Batik-island as part of the main program with an exhibition ‘Batik maakt de man’ co-curated by me and the Batik Stand with a shop, reading corner, Batik consultations and daily guests including Dido Michielsen. In 2023 Alessa Joseph of Atelier Istimewa joined the Batik Stand. I gave batik consultations together with Laurens Tan.

Exhibition Masa Depan Batik/Future of Batik – at Erasmus Huis in Jakarta, Indonesia
21 October 2023 – 20 January 2024
In the exhibition ‘Future of Batik’ Sabine Bolk of The journey to Batik will display the road Batik is taking, which dangers lie ahead and how we can avoid these threats to this heritage.
Bolk has been exploring Batik since 2009, right from the moment Batik became the official UNESCO intangible heritage of Indonesia. When she first came to Java the idea was to study Batik, to learn the craft herself. Meeting Batikmakers and learning about the hardships they endured to keep this craft alive, Bolk returned home inspired to learn all about Batik and its makers. Now after 14 years Bolk reflects back on her journey to Batik and the journey of Batik.
In three themes Bolk will address the progress of Sustainability in Batik. Through the work of 6 pembatiks and their Batikworkshops, observations on Sustainability are made and shared. The work, the batiks, are commissioned for this exhibition. With the exhibition Bolk would like to give the makers the stage and freedom to address their worries, showcase their abilities and celebrate their Art. Next to the Batiks, the makers will be shown through photos and videos made by Bolk in 2009, 2016, 2019 and 2022.
The journey of Batik is also shown through Sabine Bolk’s journey to batik. Showcasing the projects she works on and the collaborations she did, in both the Netherlands and Indonesia and of course online.


Blog The journey to Batik
April 2009 – ongoing
On my blog De reis naar Batik you can read about my journeys to Batik (2009, 2016, 2019, 2022), my upcoming plans, my inspirations and research of Batik, Dutch (colonial) history, folk-art, Temporary Art, Sustainable Fashion and much more! My blog gets between 3000-5000 Pageviews per month.

Writing for Modemuze, platform for online textile collection of Dutch museums
April 2017 – ongoing
As a Batikblogger I write for my own blog, but also for others. Since 2017 I write articles for Modemuze. The focus is on Batiks in the collections of Dutch museums.

Selection of recent articles & publications
Curated the textiles for the book ‘Bijbel van de Indonesische keuken’ by Maureen Tan
Article on Batik and its history in the 19th century in 3 parts in the magazine ‘Tribale Kunst.
‘Interpreting Batik from the Van Rijckevorsel collection’ for the Textile Asia Journal
‘Batik, tien jaar immaterieel erfgoed van Indonesië’ for Studies in Textiel, published by the Textielcommissie
BATIK! Magazine, glossy about Batik for Stichting Tong Tong
Two Wereldverhalen for the NMvW/Wereldmuseum
‘Batik in de negentiende eeuw’ & ‘Batik is Indonesisch immaterieel erfgoed’ in the Wbooks publication ‘Atlas van Indonesië

Lectures & talks
2010 – ongoing
After my first ‘journey to Batik’ in 2009 I started to give lectures and talks about Batik, her history and future. Currently I give lectures on- and offline. In 2022 I gave talks in The Netherlands, The Weltmuseum in Vienna (AT), for The Dress Association in Edinburgh (UK), at the ACM in Singapore. In 2023 I gave talks in The Netherlands, Indonesia and Singapore.

2019 – ongoing
I gave batikworkshops at the Kunsthal in Rotterdam, at De Katoendrukkerij in Amersfoort, in Amsterdam, Alphen a/d Rijn, Middelburg, but also recently in Jakarta (Indonesia) as part of my exhibition ‘Masa depan Batik’ at Erasmus Huis. The workshop is a introduction on Batik in which participants make a small batik during a day. Currently I am setting up workshops in Utrecht, read more here

I also give workshops in other techniques and inspired by the stories & motifs in batiks. I am a workshop-host at De Vrolijkheid in Oisterwijk. I also give workshops on research with exercises for the participants.

Updated on 13 February 2024