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BATIK ART BY JONATHAN S. EVANS
Confessions of an Itinerant Batik Artist

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2. TRAVELS WITH BATIK


I soon discovered that Chris' life was as strange and new as he'd described it and the island itself even more beautiful. I arrived at the tiny airport with a small holdall of possessions and a crude map that Chris had sent me. It showed the road from the airport to San Jose and a little dotted track off that road which curled round and lead to Chris' house which was marked with a cross and the word finca. It was a bright, very hot day, I remember and having jumped in a taxi to San Jose, I soon realized that my directions were pitifully inadequate. The turn-off at kilometer 8 on my map didn't exist and in fact the road was dotted with turn-offs in both directions. So, sweating in the intense sun, I set off to explore and to try and find the house myself.


Had it not been for a very kind Danish couple who rescued me in their Citroen car, my subsequent life in Ibiza might have existed only in a possible alternate dimension. They were really wonderful and spent the afternoon running me up and down dusty lanes and asking the local people for the house of Chris, the English musician. At dusk, they deposited me high on a hill at the end of a valley. It was well off the main road and I found myself standing in front of a huge crumbling old house which was quite empty but was said to belong to foreigners.


Inside the house was rather dirty and untidy with a sitar leaning against one wall in the entrada. I saw an apparently demented monkey tied to a long rope perched on the roof. The house had no electricity, I didn't know how to light the oil lamps that I found and by that time I was absolutely exhausted. So I fell down on the ramshackle sofa in the living room and soon went to sleep, trusting that somehow I had found the right house and that its owners would show up eventually. They did and came crashing into the house at three in the morning. My life in Ibiza had began.


My old friends, the Incredible String Band, whom I'd known since my early days in Edinburgh and who had gone on to great fame and fortune in America as the archetypal hippie rock band, came to stay with us with their huge entourage of wives, kids and fellow travelers. They had got some gigs in one of the big clubs in Barcelona. One day I cooked dinner for 18 people and the house began to resemble a loose communal circus. I was the band's Spanish translator and went on a short tour with them.




I even got into trouble for them when I was threatened by the heavies from one club when the band got a gig playing at a rival establishment. I felt like I lived a charmed life in those days, for the Incredibles, who welded quite considerable cosmic if not physical power, told the thugs that they'd come back and destroy them if anything happened to me. Nothing ever did and, in truth, so far nothing terrible has ever happened to me. Touch wood --for I'm very aware that life is extremely tenuous and may blow up in one's face in any moment.





WAXWORKS, BARCELONA
We were making new work contacts all over the place at this time and turning out a wide range of different batik fabrics for clothes, lamps, bedspreads and screens. We sold a bunch of designs to textile companies to be printed by the yard too and in 1974, we actually had the best selling fabric design of the year. I had drawn the dark silhouette of the trees by the house against a late evening sky.


We had been experimenting with gradation dyeing, dipping the cloth into a bucket of dye and then slowly drawing it out so that the cloth became progressively darker as time past. We could do it with several different coloured dyes too, putting the bottom of the cloth into yellow dye, the middle of the cloth into red dye and the top into dark blue dye for example. Where the dyes overlapped, green and purple gradations resulted. So my night sky was a subtly graded lilac to violet colour. It was immediately bought by a contemporary textile company for a few thousand pesetas.


That summer, my design, in several different shades of colour, was to be seen everywhere, on curtains, tablecloths, bedspreads and pillows. It was even voted "Design of the Year" by Art and Efficiency (or something of that nature) Magazine. That was the first time that I didn't quite make a million but it certainly wasn't to be the last.


Another such occasion was at the annual Alta Moda Exhibition in Barcelona where we met a suave Frenchman called Roger Leveder. He was young, handsome and very dashing. He had a stand there to show and get orders on his clothes and I showed him some photos of wrap-around skirts that we had made. He loved the work and asked if we could come up with twenty five skirts that he could show on his stand. Of course I said we could and that I'd drop them off the next day. It was too good a chance to miss and my energy level knew no bounds. Besides Michael and Gene were around to help. Luckily we had about twelve skirts half-finished back at the studio and started a non-stop twenty four work marathon to come up with all twenty five by the next morning.


Marie Luz sewed like a demon, the rest of us drew frantically and waxed right through the night using fans to dry the dyes and a lot of cafe con leches to stay awake. At nine, the next morning, I threw twenty five damp skirts into the back of the trusty Citroen and raced down the hill to see our faithful dry cleaner Antonio. He had been alerted, had cleared the dry-cleaning decks for us and cleaned the batiks while I waited, sitting in the car with the engine gunned up and running. Or am I making this part up completely?


Anyway we were back at the Exhibition by eleven and Roger was taking orders on our skirts by midday. That part turned out to be a great success and gave us steady work for a few months. But Roger wanted to do more, to go further, to make more money. He planned to present us in Paris, to put together a truly stunning show of one of a kind unique batik outfits, spectacular evening wear, sophisticated summer dresses, even swimwear and men's shirts, all to be sold with matching accessories. The sky was the limit, Chanel, St Lauren, Leveder, Diego and Evans !!


Anyway we were back at the Exhibition by eleven and Roger was taking orders on our skirts by midday. That part turned out to be a great success and gave us steady work for a few months. But Roger wanted to do more, to go further, to make more money. He planned to present us in Paris, to put together a truly stunning show of one of a kind unique batik outfits, spectacular evening wear, sophisticated summer dresses, even swimwear and men's shirts, all to be sold with matching accessories. The sky was the limit, Chanel, St Lauren, Leveder, Diego and Evans !!



But Roger was having trouble coming up with any money to pay for all the exotic silks and chiffons that he had us buying to batik for Paris. One day he just simply vanished, leaving his office, clothes business and a frantic wife. He apparently owed money all over town and still owes me money. I ran into him a few years later under a different name working as a d.j. at Amnesia Club in Ibiza.


Doing mindless work did leave us free to indulge in various fantasy projects. We had started to go to the Flea market every Sunday and would always find great stashes of old cut glass chandelier crystal. I strung together dozens of pieces to make an incredible ten feet by six feet curtain of flashing glass. We hung it in our living room window when nobody wanted to buy it. When the sun shone through it, the room seemed to disappear under water as rainbows spun, shivered and shattered across the walls.


Sadly these turned out to be our last days in Valvidrera although we kept the house on for another year to give Marie Luz a base in Barcelona. A long threatened plan to build a tunnel through Tibidabo hill to improve the road was finally put into action. Trucks began to roar up and down our little road all day, raising a dust storm and turning it into a busy highway. Trees were torn down to enlarge the access road, the nightingales moved out and it was time for us to do the same. Besides the children were growing older and were more able to take care of themselves and we were both dying to get back to the island.

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