BATIK IS NOT JUST A PIECE OF CLOTH. BATIK IS...EMILIA TAN: ....something that makes people happy! When I was exposed to batik at a very young age, the fine beauty and the process involved in the art kept me fascinated. It is a realisation that we can produce something so magnificent with our creativity and this joy is something that I want to share with the rest of the world.
WHY BATIK?I chose batik mainly to promote the Malaysian culture and it was love at first sight for me. In 2001, I was introduced to the art of batik during my textile and fashion design course at the Malaysian Institute of Art (M.I.A) by my guides, Fatimah Chik and Samsuddin. I guess you can say my timing was right as at the time TMS Art was started in 2003, the late Datin Seri Endon Mahmood was heavily promoting the use of Batik.
WOULD YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF AN ARTIST OR AN ENTREPRENEUR?I would say an entrepreneurial artist. While I started off as an artist, I created TMS Art as a stepping-stone to uphold my aim of promoting batik. To me, my company is a proof of concept for creative enterprises; an art project, a job creation programme and cooperative management system that bring together two distinct fields – fashion and art.
HOW DID YOU COME ABOUT STARTING UP TMS ART?We first started as a home-based outfit or should I say, my little batik workshop. From there, I would paint, sell and even conduct batik workshops from the front of my porch. My big break was when my first customer, MK Land approached me for a project with them.
In 2004, TMS Art Gallery was set up at AmpWalk, Jalan Ampang where we would organise exhibitions, batik events and also merchandise our products to the public. From there on, I knew that our products such as clothing, fashion accessories, home furnishings and traditional Malaysian crafts can be marketed to various buyers. Our corporate clients include KLCC, Cahaya SPK as well as renowned pewter brand, Royal Selangor.
Now, TMS Art has led to many spin off projects which include the publication of our own my- Batik magazine, an online batik shopping portal buyBatik.com.my, and TMS Art Charity just to name a few. One of our latest projects is experimenting with a new concept in selling batik art by opening The Art cafe in National Textile Museum Malaysia. A cafe that shows art by artists is nothing new; a museum space that has a cafe on one side and a full-service art gallery on the other hand is definitely something new.
Starting up the myBatik magazine was purely by chance when I first took up golf. As I was looking for reading materials on the subject, I was surprised to find something as niche as golf to have its own magazine and titles.
Hence, I thought to myself, why not for batik then? With myBatik, our aim was to be the first batik organisation in Malaysia to engage and connect all batik stakeholders together. By creating a formal system for craft development, team cooperative manufacturing, quality control and marketing to local and international audiences, we hope to ensure batik producers a fair price for their art.
Business wise, I realised that I have only a pair of hands and I required the help of others during the initial stages of the business.
Then again, one of the challenges we face right now is to break new ground in order to grow. I consider our batik industry to be a late bloomer as many batik producers are off doing their own things with little collaborations.
Via the magazine, I hope to change this and make our industry more transparent in our dealings. We as industry players; manufacturers, producers, suppliers and retailers need to work together to grow the industry forward. And that can only be done if we share a common platform.
WHAT INFLUENCES YOUR DESIGN?The six months I’ve spent in Australia learning about aboriginal art has been the biggest influence in my work. With its very fine lines and dots, I managed to form my own style with a mix of aboriginal art styles with batik techniques.
My work in the form of a painting mixes traditional impressionistic values with versatility - an honest interest in influences and symbols from many cultures in my work, rather than painting in a fixed traditional Malay batik style.
BATIK IS A BUSINESS FOR YOU THEN. SO WHAT’S NEXT FOR TMS ART?We are currently working on our my- BatikTour programme which focuses on tour packages for those who are keen to learn more about Malaysian aboriginal art specifically batik production. Unlike tour guides who take you around Central Market for a taste of Malaysian art, we will arrange for clients to visit the source of the art work such as Pulau Carey.