Oey Soe Tjoen Batik: The Price of a Perseverance

“It took 3 years to make a piece of our batik cloth,” said Widianti Widjaja from Oey Soe Tjoen’s batik while stretching out some of her unfinished work. His statement seemed to explain why Oey Soe Tjoen’s batik was so expensive.

Yes, the development of the batik art and industry in Pekalongan cannot be separated from the participation of its batik artisans. Oey Soe Tjoen is one of them. Starting his batik business in 1925, Oey Soe Tjoen is famous for his typical Peranakan batik motifs such as buketan (bouquet), pagi-sore (two different motifs in one piece of cloth) and hokokai.

Picture belong to Widianti Widjaja

OST, as Oey Soe Tjoen’s name is usually abbreviated, has elevated the name of Pekalongan with his batik masterpieces in the global stage. The beauty of OST batik is clearly visible from its neatly drawn lines and carefully-painted sections.

“In a year, we can only produce 25 pieces of batik cloth, ” said Widianti, the third generation of OST family, who is now running the business.

For Widianti, taking orders is like taking a debt that must be repaid.

“Yes, I broke 13 pieces of cloth that were almost ready,” she recalled, remembering the beginning of her career; taking over from her father who passed away in October 2002. “Yes, I had to replace those batik clothes. What else could I do? Debt needs to be repaid, a promise must be kept,” she laughed.

Picture belong to Widianti Widjaja

A piece of batik cloth that took 3 years to produce does talk about tenacity and patience; about preserving a process that should not be rushed. The pinned price is nothing more than an appreciation for diligence, perseverance, and dedication to maintain the knowledge being inherited.

“It sounds ‘wow’, but when you calculate everything, it’s not that much. I need to feed 15 of my workers, too, right?” said Widianti with a smile.