Ever since I visited Indonesia a while ago, I fell in love with this beautiful fabric. Batik cloths are widely produced in Southeast Asia and I started collecting a few bits and pieces in my travels but never had the chance to see the dyeing process, non the less making it myself. Suddenly, life brought me to Malaysia so I decided this was my chance. And I did it!
I spent some time with a couple of batik artists in Kuala Lumpur, learning how to make a hand drawn batik piece using the canting technique. As a result I ended up appreciating batik even more and came back home with two silk 90x90cm scarfs made by myself!
Silk in fabric frame, hot wax, copper cantings, natural dyes and brushes
Canting technique process:
1. A piece of white satin silk is stretched in a specially prepared frame. Optionally, the design can be drawn onto the fabric with a colour pencil but these step if often omitted. A mix of wax and resin are heated before the hand-drawing process begins.
2. Using a canting filled with hot wax, the design is carefully drawn onto the fabric.
3. Once the canting has been completed, the colouring process begins. Motifs are painted first, followed by the background.
4. The fabric is left to dry completely and then removed from the frame to be submerged in a sodium silicate solution. This is made to fix the colouring and reduce fading afterwards.
5. The cloth is then soaked in a tank and rinsed several times until is clear from any sodium silicate.
6. The fabric is submerged in boiling water with a bit of sodium carbonate (known as soda ash or washing soda) to melt and remove the wax from the fabric and reveal the outlines.
7. Finally the fabric is rinsed again and left to dry. After the process is finished the batik fabric is ironed and ready to use.
Making of my first handmade scarf
Making of my second handmade scarf
Big thanks to the people from Jadi Batek Gallery for this experience!
Find photos of the finished scarfs here: FLOWER PATTERNS
A bit of Batik Knowledge:
Primitive samples of batik have been found in ancient Persia, Egypt, China and Japan. Other samples were found later on the 17th century, when people who migrated from Southeast China into Thailand and Indochina used cotton, indigo dye and a rice paste (as a resist element) to create simple monochromatic designs. But the most varied patterns and colour ranges originated from the Southeast Asia, specially in Java, Indonesia. The date of origin is uncertain but there are records that date back to the 14th century.
Batik goes beyond boundaries of social status, it has been worn by nobility and villagers alike, and continues to be employed in ceremonial rituals as well as daily life to this date. These textiles are more than a form of decoration, they represent symbols of local identities or religious inscriptions and are mostly use in sarung (worn in Singapore and Malaysia) and kain panjang (worn in Java).
There are various types of batik methods: block printing, tie and dye and canting technique. They all use the same principle of dye resist but vary slightly in the process and tools. In all of them though, the wax patterned fabric can be dyed by immersing it in a dye bath or by adding dye with a brush.
Even though the patterns are pretty much endless, they can be categorized in the following styles:
- Classical Javanese
- Calligraphy style
- Encim or Chinese
If you wish to find more information, check on your local bookstore or search online. There are tons of info around. But if you really really love this stuff then I would say you should save some money and travel to Indonesia, you’ll absolutely love it!*References: Lin, L. Ch. 2007. Batik, Creating an Identity. Singapore. National Museum of Singapore & Editions Didier Millet. National Textile Museum. Kuala Lumpur. Permanent exhibition. Islamic Arts Museum. Kuala Lumpur. Tradition and Continuity: Woven and decorated textiles of the Malay Peninsula exhibition (01/03/2013-30/06/2013)