Because he loves batik, Agung established his career and picked up his dream of success by learning to make batik.
Many people believe that you can find your soulmate anywhere. Just look at Agung Prasetyo’s experience related to where he is now. Agung was involved with Rumah Batik of PT Tower Bersama Infrastructure, Tbk (Rumah Batik TBIG) managed by Yayasan Cinta Anak Bangsa (YCAB), accidentally.
“One day I met Pak Pur on the street. At that time, Pak Pur was looking for students to learn to make batik. Then, he invited me to join in Rumah Batik TBIG,” Agung said. Pak Pur in question was Slamet Purwanto. Since 2014, Purwanto has been in charge of Rumah Belajar TBIG located in Wiradesa Village, Pekalongan. Living in a city famous for its Pesisir batik production, Agung was already familiar with batik since childhood. However, the fourth child of seven siblings was not interested in learning the process of making batik.
Like young people his age, Agung was more interested in being a factory worker, not a batik craftsman. After the education of Package C in Pokjar Tirto Jaya, Pekalongan, he worked as a laborer in a scarf making company. His job was coloring.
“I remembered once, Pak Pur said ‘There are more people who come to Pekalongan to look for batik than veils. Let’s learn in Rumah Batik,’”Agung recounted. “Pak Pur’s words immediately hit the heart,” he continued.
I am not successful yet, but I’m sure, someday, I’ll be a success.
Although Pekalongan and batik have long been inseparable, when the son of the now deceased father Kaelan, and Durotun decided to learn batik in RB TBIG, there was an objection. “My mother did not agree, because I had to quit my job,” said Agung. “Indeed, because I stopped working, I could no longer earn money. Though all this time I always gave my parents some money every week, although not much, because my wages were quite low. For every kodi I got eight thousand rupiah and I could finish 4-5 kodi per day,” he continued.
However, the objections of the mother did not discourage Agung to learn batik. “I wanted to be able to make batik, because I wanted to be a successful batik entrepreneur,” said Agung sincerely.
The SMP Negeri 1 Wonokerto Pekalongan graduate then enrolled in Rumah Belajar TBIG in 2015, as the first generation of students. “Since I first came to school, I was amazed. Why? Because I did not have to pay for school at all. All materials had been prepared,” said Agung. “And when I joined Package C, I had to pay Rp10.000 per month. Just for school only. There were no additional charges,” Agung added.
He was also keen to learn the design of batik, batik coloring, refinement, management, business, marketing management. He is now preparing for an exhibition that will run for four months in RB TBIG. “However, not all students learned the material, because there were a few who quit in the middle of the road. We started with 15 students, only 5 people made it through graduation,” said Agung. “I did not know what cause it. Possibly because they were not patient enough and more comfortable to be a laborer and they could earn money regularly,” said Agung.
The level of interest of young people to learn batik is still low today. According to Agung, RB TBIG students mostly came from boarding schools and orphanages. No friends and neighbors were interested. They preferred to work in factories. In fact, learning hours to make batik in RB TBIG was flexible, it could accommodate the schedule of students who worked. But, still rarely anyone was interested.
Admittedly, batik making is a process that requires a lot of patience. “The process nyanting is the most difficult process for me. Just imagine, the batik must be redrawn, meaning following the design that has been made, using hot wax with a different canting. (writing tool)
My dream is to be a successful entrepreneur, so I can make my mother and family happy.
If done carelessly, the shape of the motif will be imperfect,” said Agung. Besides nyanting, there is another process that was also no less challenging, namely coloring. “Especially using natural dyes. The result is somewhat difficult to predict. Those who do not understand must ask why the color is less ‘bright’,” Agung explained expressively, illustrating colors that came out not as bright.
The problem of natural dyes not only caused the colors to not appear as bright, but also on the application. “Indigo color is the most challenging color. The difficulty level to apply on cloth is more difficult than yellow or red,” said Agung. “And I’ve been using natural dyes that are ready to use. It’s unthinkable if I had to make my own natural dyes,” he laughed.
Embracing The Future
After mastering the making of batik, Agung is now accepting batik orders for dresses and shawls. “Clients or customers can personalize their batik; made out of silk fabric, mori cloth, primis cotton or others. They can also choose between natural dyes or chemical,” said Agung. “I can work on hand-made batik and printed batik,” he added. How about the price? “Depending on the complexity of the motifs and colors used. Of course, if the motif is difficult, with a lot of details, needing to go through the process of dyeing many times, then the price will be more expensive than the simple motif with fewer colors,” said Agung diplomatically.
Having to go through intricate process, it is only reasonable if the price of a piece of batik is expensive. For that matter, buyers or consumers understand that making a piece of batik cloth can take about a month, sometimes even up to half a year. Batik is like a work of art that needs a long process in the making. However, there is still a choice of batik for buyers who want batik with more affordable price, namely printed batik. “The price of printed batik, again depending on the complexity of the motif, especially if the motive is rather special. The more complicated the design of the motif, the price will be more expensive,” Agung explained. Of course the works of students of RB TBIG must also be marketed. So far, Agung has been marketing his batik through social media. “I will ask buyers to pay half of the price upfront, because now I have no capital at all,” said Agung.
He also promoted his batik by participating in exhibitions, including in Jakarta. Even today, Agung is preparing 10 pieces of batik cloth that YCAB ordered for TBIG guests. Although at a glance he looks independent, but Agung admits that he is not yet financially independent. His earnings are unpredictable, so he has not been able to help his unemployed mother financially.
As a novice entrepreneur, Agung still has a long way to go. A strong will and tremendous patience are needed to be successful. Agung is very hopeful that YCAB will always be willing to provide capital assistance. “I need some capital, at least until I am completely independent. And fortunately now YCAB cooperatives are willing to accept our works. This means the cooperative has helped to market our work,” he said eagerly.