2020 has been a tumultuous year, to say the least. But as doors closed and plans were thrown out windows, it was the perfect time to look inward.
People were forced to take a hard look in the mirror. Nomads who travelled on a religious basis suddenly had their wings clipped. Lockdowns across the globe put a screeching halt to movement-- of our bodies, minds, and resources. Like a new dawn, this era flipped its pages into a state of reflection and necessary reform.
Perhaps one of the experiences that SSEK Jewelry valued the most, was our collaboration with Gypsied. Founder Aqilah and I crossed paths many years back during a local trade fair, and had each other on the radar ever since. As small local brands, we agreed that authenticity was a quality to insist with high regard, and this was the cardinal thread that connected us from the beginning.
It’s easy to see the ways we complement each other, and equally simple to pick out our differences. Not just in our mediums of work-- textiles vs jewelry, but also in our cultural backgrounds. To this we say: then what better way to learn from each other than sharing our stories through our work?
The Bethari Wristlet and Palm Jewelry Set, August 2020.
Every piece of art has a story to be told, but wherein do the stories lie?
The Impressionist movement’s premise seemed to be simply painting environments, but under that surface it evoked a depth of emotions and tales about each artist’s state of mind. In traditional batik, one can explore elements native to the artisans via the motifs they illustrate-- for example orchids and peacocks, or dive into ancient folklore and mythology with canvases much more intricate.
The stories that Gypsied documents, the textiles carefully chosen and carried over oceans, are altogether a tremendous undertaking. To hold a story in something so tactile, feels like a treasure to be passed onto future generations to come.
However, my role in the Bethari collaboration was not of a writer. A translator or an interpreter, perhaps, but first I had to participate as an audience.
To understand the story of Bethari through its motifs: a unique combination of old world and new world. Modern flowers, very likely orchids, seen floating on a background of mega mendung, a classical batik motif dating back to the 1800s. Resembling clouds, they represent fertility and life. Put together, these two motifs may come to signify a rich and abundant life.
From the Bethari canvas there was much to pick up on: the colours from its natural dyes, the elements represented by its motifs, the shapes and forms that mirrored the story’s elegance.
The process of collaboration was at times arduous, but honourably distilling a story was a compulsory rite of passage. And yet all the labour was inconsequential, when it was shadowed by the satisfaction of a complete body of work. When the Bethari collection was finally released, our roles shifted from creators to letting go, and letting the work receive its own interpretations and translations from its observers.
As I finish writing this with a struggle to find a conclusion, maybe there is no need for an ending.
Stories are meant to be told, over and over again, in different languages and different seasons. And when we take care of our stories, perhaps the hope is that we’ll create a larger space to cherish; to slow down for a finer appreciation of the objects, people and environments we delight in.
The complete Galia earring collection, the Bethari Wristlet, and a collection of batik open jackets are available for viewing now.