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Saturday, October 4, 2008

BATIK: Indonesian Art of Textile

pic from trulyjogja

Batik refers to textile that dyed several times with a specific technique called batik. Although the process of decorating cloth through the process of batik is found in several regions in Africa or India and even in some South East Asian countries, the batik of Indonesia is unique and unequaled. Batik is generally thought of as the most quintessentially Indonesian textile. Indonesian Batik is made in several regions, but the center of the art is Central Java, in cities like Yogyakarta, Solo, Cirebon, Pekalongan and Indramayu.

Motifs of flowers, twinning plants, leaves buds, flowers, birds, butterflies, fish, insects and geometric forms are rich in symbolic association and variety; there are about three thousand recorded batik patterns. Batik motifs recall characters from the Hindu epics, plants, animals, sea creatures and gamelan melodies.

pic from

In the 19th century, the application of waxed patterns with a large copper stamp or stenciled saved the batik industry from competition with cheap printed European cloth. The semi-industrial nature of stenciled work allows it to be performed by men. Stenciled batik is much cheaper than hand made. Stenciled usually produced by men while hand made batik usually made by women. So based on the process there are 2 types of batik, hand written batik (batik tulis) and stenciled batik (batik cap).
pic from gavirosenthal

The art of "batiking" is similar to the one of drawing or painting on a piece of cloth. The main tool - the canting (read:tjahn-thing)- is a small copper container with a long slender spout, is used instead of a pencil or brush, and liquid wax instead of paint.
pic from murnis

Finely detailed designs are first drawn freehand with a pencil on the textile. Then hot liquid wax is applied. From time to time the tip of the canting must be blown to secure an easy flow of the wax. Areas not slated for coloring are filed with the wax.
pic from trulyjogja

The cloth is then passed through a vat of dye. The wax is removed with hot water, scraped from the portions of the dried material still to be dyed. The parts that were covered by the wax did not absorb the dye and thus remain white (or whatever color the original cloth was previously dyied). Since the wax behave as a resisting medium, this process is called resist-dye process.
Next, other areas are waxed over. this is repeated during each phase of the coloring process, up to four or more times, until the overall pattern and effect are achieved.

pic from tjokrosuharto

A traditional recipe for batik wax is a mix of beeswax and paraffin, about 60:40. Beeswax is soft, pliable, and blocks completely: no cracking. Paraffin is more brittle, and lets dye penetrate wherever cracks form. Crackle is a characteristic batik effect, a scatter of thin dark wavy lines, a batik hallmark. Some dyers seek crackle, freezing and crumpling the cloth to make more. Others avoid, if they can, any effect that seems uncontrolled. For more crackle, more paraffin. Any clean, low-oil paraffin, melting from 130 - 150° F will work. Beeswax should be light yellow or tan and clear of debris. But most batik today is done with synthetic micro-crystalline waxes. They’re more consistent, more often reusable, penetrate better, can be heated (safely) to higher temperatures. They usually fall between beeswax and paraffin in price and in working properties. They can be blended with other waxes for intermediate effects.
Article source discover-indo
Klick here to know more about batik at Pekalongan batik museum.
This web have a complete story of Yogyakartan batik.

Today batik is not only applied in fabrics but also for wooden crafts like this mask below.
pic from baliartwares

Old picture of women wears batik and kebaya
pic from indonesiamedia

Modern batik inspired dress
pic from planet


John said...

Very good article - if you want to see some wonderful batiks - go to Murni's on line shop -


mita said...

thank you for your information

synthpaintann said...

A fascinating read... on the traditional Javanese batik techniques. Thank you

synthpaintann said...

sharing traditional creative knowledge across the world

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