Wednesday, June 26, 2013


BATIK  (pronounced baa-teek)  is a process by which a wax-resist dyeing technique is implemented to decorate cloth.

Batik is popular world wide, taking on many forms.  Fabrics with traditional batik patterns can be found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, China, Azerbaijan, India, Sri Lanka, Egypt, Nigeria, Senegal, and Singapore.  The fabric not only adorns the body but also has found it's way into canvas wall hangings, upholstery fabric, table coverings, and household accessories.  Artists as well have used batik techniques to create beautiful paintings.

Egyptian discoveries from as far back as the 4th century BC show the existence of the wax-resist dyeing technique, where it was used in the wrapping of mummies.  The technique was also practiced in China during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) and likewise in the Nara period (645-974 AD) in Japan.  It is believed to have been introduced in Java during the 6th or 7th century from India or Sri Lanka.

It became know in Europe for the first time in 1817 through the publication of "The History of Java"  in London.  And at the same time the Dutch developed innovations and prints during their colonial era.  In the early 19th century, batiking took hold and soon reached it's golden era.

Batik has transformed over the decades with the advent of industrialization and automated techniques, however it was a fairly labor-intensive process.

The process involves applying wax to cloth prior to being immersed in dye. The areas where wax permiates the fabric, the dye will not.

The outline of a pattern is penciled onto the fabric, the cloth being almost always white or beige.  Areas that are to remain white/beige are covered with hot wax and then the piece is dyed with it's first color.  The dyeing begins with the lightest color progressing to the darkest.

After the first color is applied, wax is then used to cover all the areas to remain that color.  Then the next darkest shade is dyed.  This is repeated until all colors have been added to the fabric

The final step is to remove the wax.  A number of methods can be employed from hot ironing, to chemicals, and scraping.  The most effective way of removal is by boiling it off.  A large vat or pot is filled with water and a little liquid soap and brought to a simmer.  The batik fabric is submerged in the hot solution and stirred to loosen the wax.  As soon as all of the wax has floated to the surface, the fabric is weighted down and the pot is left to cool.  When the wax hardens it is peeled off the top and the fabric removed.

Batik patterns range from the very simplistic to the most elaborate and in some cultures clothing  with more numerous stripes or patterns signifies a persons station in the community.  The image above is a stunning example of the intricacy of design that can be found in Batik fabric.

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