Batik : Indonesian Art of Textile (PART I)

Even if the batik is found in several regions of the world, like India, Malaysia or some Middle East countries, the Indonesians have raised this textile process to its quintessence by their very artistic approach.
The pride of Indonesians to wear batik till the present days has preserved this art of textile
In addition they have continued the manufacturing with traditional designs but also young Indonesian artists are creating new motif.
Young Indonesian woman drawings batik motifs with hot wax
 The beauty of Batik is a tribute to the patience, creativity of the woman of Java, the main island of Indonesia. Credit should be also given to men who prepare the cloth and handle the dyeing and finishing process. 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.

Example of Indonesian Batik pattern made in Yogyakarta, which includes flowers and butterflies
 Batik is generally thought of as the most quintessentially Indonesian textile. 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.

Origins of Indonesian Batik
Indonesian Batik has a worldwide recognition.
The word "batik" is Indonesian in origin, even if the concept was known by Egyptians and Indians. It is known to be more than a millenium old, and there are evidences that cloth decorated through some form of resist technique was in use in the early centuries AD in several West African, Middle-Eastern and Asian communities.
The word Batik is originally an Indonesian-Malay word and derives propbably from 'titik' which means to dot .This art of textile is well spread in the hindu and malay world, but Indonesia is certainly the heart of the Batik.This way of painting and coloring on textile cloth has reached its higher degree of excellence in the Island of Java , in cities like Solo, Yogyakarta, Pekalongan or Cirebon. From Java this 'batik' cloth was exported to other islands of the archipelago and to the Malay peninsula.
Young Indonesian woman wearing traditional batik clothes.
On the 17th century, the Javanese sultanate of Mataram accorded important ceremonial functions to the Batik clothes. Sultan Agung of Mataram is known to have dressed in white cotton decorated with Indigo blue, and his court dancers wore kain kembangan colored with a red organic dye. He could be considered as a pioneer in the usage of the the batik clothes in the Javanese Courts.
During the past two or three centuries batik has become one of the principal means of expression of the spiritual and cultural values of Indonesia, but also this was spread around the Southeast Asia region.

Batik Techniques : Painting on Cloth
 The art of "batiking" is similar to the one of drawing or painting on a piece of cloth.
The main tool, the canting ('tjanting'), is used in stead of a pencil or a brush, and liquid wax (see paragraph here below)in stead of paint.
Indonesian woman drawings batik motifs with liquide wax.
Finely detailed designs are first drawn freehand with a pencil on the textile. Then hot liquid wax is applied.
Here above, a Javanese woman applying wax in the intricately involved patterns with a canting (tjanting), a small copper container with a long slender spout. From time to time she blows on the tip of the canting to secure an easy flow of the wax. Areas not slated for coloring are filed with the wax.
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.
Different models and size of cantings used for drawing motif on batik

A canting with more than a spout (it can be up to seven) is used for patterns with dot forms. Basically, as an art, batiking is painting. The canting is used to produce the picture; its size depending on the type and degree of fineness of the lines or points desired.

The Wax 
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.

to be continued.....


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