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Obin

The meaning of «obin»

Obin, real name Josephine Komara, is a textile designer from Indonesia.[1] She is sometimes called a "national treasure" due to her passion for and promotion of traditional Indonesian batik techniques.[2] Her work has achieved worldwide recognition, with fellow Indonesian designers such as Edward Hutabarat (himself credited with the batik revival) and Ghea Panggabean describing her as the real authority and leader of the mid-2000s movement to update and modernise batik.[1][3] Despite this, Obin describes herself as simply a tukang kain, or vendor of cloth, stating that the genuine artists and designers are the craftsmen who make the textiles retailed through Bin House, her business.[1][4]

Born in Indonesia in 1955, Josephine Werratie Komara went to school in Hong Kong until she finished elementary school and then returned home, aged 14.[1][3][5] Until his death in 2013, Obin was married to an archaeologist and anthropologist named Roni Siswandi; they have one son, Erlangga (called 'Erlang').[6][1][4] She is a self-taught textile designer who has never formally studied the subject, but taught herself through collecting, handling and examining fabrics, and seeing them made.[1]

Obin started out in the 1970s, whilst Indonesia was a developing country, as a vendor of furnishing fabrics, selling raw silks for lampshades and upholstery.[1] In the early 1980s she began to sell ikat-woven textiles, including shirts, using her research and knowledge of traditional fabrics to promote local cloth industries.[1][4]

In 1985, while going over the antique batiks and textiles she had collected since the age of 17, Obin was inspired to explore the crafting techniques that had gone into them, and developed her own hand-weaving and printing methods to enable her to create her own original fabrics.[1][7] She also questioned why, despite her love for traditional textiles and cloths, there were no new patterns and designs.[4] Through combining brand new motifs with traditional weaving techniques and methods using softer threads to create fabrics that could be batiked, Obin created completely unique yet totally Indonesian fabrics that did not rely on imported cotton and chiffons.[1][4]

In 1986, Obin opened her first Bin House showroom in Menteng, an upper class area of Jakarta.[7] In 1989 she opened her first boutique in Japan.[1] By 2001, in addition to several Japanese outlets, there were Bin House galleries in Bali and Singapore along with the Menteng establishment.[4][7] There is also a retail outlet in the Netherlands.[8]

By 2012, Obin employed over 1,000 artisan workers to completely hand-create her fabrics, many of whom had passed their skills down through the generations.[7] In addition to Japan, Singapore and Bali, Obin textiles are bought by traders and resold in Europe, Australia, the Middle East, and the United States,[1] where her work is more desirable than equivalent pieces from Vietnam or Thailand.[7] Due to their handcrafted nature, no two Obin pieces are identical.[7]

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