Batik is a fascinating craft but one that many people hesitate to try because the old process is tedious and
time consuming. Batik may be used for pillow tops, wall hangings, place mats or scarves. Big, bold designs
in bright colours are most striking.
The word batik (pronounced Bateek) means "wax written" and this is basically what batik is. It is a way of
decorating cloth by covering part of it with a coat of wax and then dyeing the cloth. The waxed area keeps its
original colour and when the wax is removed the contrast between the dyed and undyed area makes the
Batik History and Background
Batik's true origin is still a mystery. The word 'batik' has been translated to mean 'to dot'. Some translated it
as 'wax writing' or 'drawing with a broken line'.
It is a very old form of art, as evidence of early batik has been found in the Middle East, Egypt, Peru, Japan,
East Turkistan, Europe, as well as Central Asia (India and China) as far back as 2000 years ago. Despite its
uncertain origins, batik has reached its highest artistic expression in South East Asia, particularly in
Indonesia and Malaysia.
Batik was first introduced to Europe in the 17th century when the Dutch, who colonised Java, Indonesia,
introduced this art form to that part of the world.
What Make Batik So Unique?
Batik is a crafted fabric that needs to undergo the delicate and repeated process of waxing, dyeing and
Wax is used as a mean of colour blocking in the colouring process. Every part of the fabric that remains
untouched by a certain colour has to be covered with wax. There are also several sub-processes like
preparing the cloth, tracing the designs, stretching the cloth on the frame, waxing the area of the cloth that
does not need dyeing, preparing the dye, dipping the cloth in dye, boiling the cloth to remove wax and
washing the cloth in soap.
The more colours a batik fabric has, the more times it has been through the process of applying wax, dyeing,
and drying, then removing the wax. The process has to happen in a precise order that will produce the
pattern or figures that are desired. Additionally, the order of which colours to apply also has to be followed.
Batik cloth can be made into garments, paintings, scarves, bags, table-cloths, bedspreads, curtains, and
other decorative items.
Traditional batik is synonymous with silk or cotton. The re-introduction of natural dyes and technique has
expanded the scope to include unexpected fabrics like chiffon, velvet, georgette, cheesecloth and voile
mostly for fashion apparel. As for batik painting, the most commonly used fabrics are cotton and silk. There
are various types of fabrics under these two categories such as poplin, voile, rayon, Habotai silk, crepe de
chine (cdc), jacquard and satin.
Batik Production Techniques
It can generally be divided into 3 types:
CANTING (TJANTING OR TULIS)
It involves outlining the designs using a canting, a metal pen tool filled with hot wax. Colours are then painted
on the cloth and the process of the waxing, dyeing and boiling will be followed till the desired result is
obtained. The process can take up to weeks depending on the intricacy of the pattern, which is why hand
painted batik is so highly valued.
CAP (BLOCK PRINTING)
It involves the application of wax directly onto the cloth using soldered tin or copper!
strips block impressed with certain designs. The block, or "chop", is placed into hot wax and then hand
stamped onto the fabric. When the wax is dry the fabric is dyed. Then the wax is removed and the pattern is
SILK SCREENING (SCREEN PRINTING)
Different screens are used according to the colors and patterns desired. The wax is applied onto the cloth
using these screens. This printing method is usually used in the mass production of batik for commercial use.
Batik as An Art
From a handicraft, batik has acquired the status of an art. Batik is a versatile medium that can become an
ideal hobby for an amateur or a medium of expression for an artist. Batik as an art form is quite spontaneous
and one can open up new vistas of creative form. Until recently batik was made for dresses and tailored
garments only but modern batik is livelier and brighter in the form of murals, wall hangings, paintings,
household linen, and scarves. If used properly, batik can make your house or office unique and inviting. Batik
shall be kept in clean, tidy, neat, and regularly swept environment in the process of collection and
Batik painting has gained popularity in recent years in the West. This painting is usually produced using the
Canting technique. It has become a highly accomplished art form. Like oil painting, each Batik painting is a
unique distinctive work of art.
As it is used as a wall decorative item for home and office, these batik paintings can be further enhanced by
- Frames made of wood and rattan
- Wood-crafted hangers!
- Light boxes
- Decorative sheets made of perspex or glass
Batik as An Art
The exact origins of batik are unknown, but they are almost certainly in the Orient where the technique was
used, long before printing, to enhance the appearance of fine garments. Batik became most deeply rooted in
Indonesia, particularly the island of Java, where it was a highly developed art by the 13th century.
Batik was considered a fitting occupation for aristocratic ladies whose delicately painted designs, based on
bird and flower motifs, were a sign of cultivation and refinement, just as fine needlework was for European
ladies of a similar position.
Java is still famous for batik and the traditional patterns, developed over centuries, are still part of Javanese
dress, although very few are made by the traditional method of wax painting. This, instead, has been
rediscovered and put to use by craftsman all over the world who find the freedom of working with liquid was,
and the control of colour possible through dyeing, makes batik an exciting and uniquely expressive medium
to work in. Increasingly, the all-over patterns of Oriental batiks are being replaced by imaginative pictures
and designs of all sorts, which are sued to make wall hangings and soft sculpture as well as decorations for
clothing and household items.
Part of the attraction of batik is its simplicity and the fact that you don't have to be artistic in the conventional
sense to produce beautiful results. Some of the best effects in batik are in fact the work of chance. This is
particularly true of the way in which the wax cracks to let small quantities of dye through, adding an
unexpected and interesting effect to any design. This hairline detail, or "crackling", is a special characteristic
of most batik work.
Batik as An Art
Because batik wax is applied hot it is necessary to work fairly rapidly and this can produce a freedom (or loss
of self-consciousness) that makes many people who think they cannot draw find, to their amazement, that
they can. Of course, designs can be worked out beforehand and for many things, such as borders and
trimmings, this is necessary; but designs drawn spontaneously in wax, or according to the briefest sketch,
can bring surprising rewards.
Combined with the pleasure of drawing freehand is the fascination of working creatively with dyes-blending
and mixing different colors-to get as vivid or as subtle as you want.