Batik is a Javanese word, which has the same origin as the word tiktik, which means point. The origins of Batik go back more than 1,000 years: it is a technique of printing fabrics made by hand, and practiced in many countries such as China, India, Burkina Faso and of course Indonesia.
The Batik technique was widely promoted in the late 19th and early 20th centuries due to its strong presence in Art Nouveau. Today, many visual artists are updating this technique.
The Batik creation process uses a unique skill called “savings”. This practice involves protecting the parts of the fabric that you do not want to color with hot wax, then drawing the patterns or dipping the fabric in dye baths. Then repeat this operation as many times as there are colors present on the fabric. Then the wax is removed with an iron or by soaking in boiling water. We then obtain a patterned fabric where different colors blend.
The diversity of patterns is a reflection of the different influences that Indonesia has undergone. From Arabic calligraphy to Chinese motifs to European floral art, the art of Batik is an illustration of Indonesian culture and expresses the creativity and spirituality of its people.
Indonesian Batik was inscribed in 2009 on the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Javanese Batik (from Java Island) is the finest and most elaborate of all. It is thanks to the Javanese Batik that this style of textile painting reached its peak. Java still hosts today the highest places of traditional Batik manufacturing, where two main styles stand out depending on the region: that of the center of the island with the royal cities of Solo, Banyumas and Yogyakarta, that of the north coast represented by the cities of Pekalongan, Cirebon and Lasem. We also find the styles of Pelambang and Jambi, two regions of Indonesia that have been influenced by Javanese.
Batik is present throughout the life of Indonesians: we find Batik specially decorated for births, mourning or to attend special events such as weddings, theater, artistic performances. There are also Batiks for pregnant women, while there are much more sober Batiks with patterns suitable for everyday life, which are frequently worn in the professional or university thousands.
Indonesian batik today
Although there is still a very lively African “Batik”, the Javanese artisans are today the most skillful and refined regulators of this method from the depths of the ages. The secrets of manufacturing Indonesian batik have been taught there from generation to generation, and family workshops are becoming scarce. The finesse of the designs and the depth of the colors are exceptional.
Defense of Indonesian craft batik
The knowledge of batik, demanding rigor and patience, is unfortunately endangered today by the printing industry.
Preserving the original technique of Indonesian batik and Javanese culture.
- a square of white cotton fabric
- a wooden frame to stretch the fabric
- beeswax and paraffin
- a gas stove to melt them
- a “canting” (between the small spoon and the pen) to apply the wax
For the unique pieces of Indonesian batik, often made on silk, the drawing is traced with “canting” pencil with hot wax tank. This tool is also used in the production of Indonesian batiks to cover the parts to hide during the different dyeing passes. – baths of natural or chemical dyeing.
- cotton swabs to apply the dye
- soda to fix the dye
- a hell of a lot of patience …
The drawing. When choosing a pattern to make in batik, you must anticipate what will be represented in solid colors, and what will be represented by lines. And anticipate what you want to protect with wax (the light parts) and what you want to expose to the dye (the dark parts). We draw in pencil on the tight fabric.
Application of hot wax. We take the right dose of melted wax in its tank. We drain, we clean the end of the canting and … We draw directly on the fabric. The speed of the movement depends on the flow of wax, therefore the thickness of the line.
And there, it spoils … I have dexterity with a pencil, with a brush, with a pen … But there, you have to relearn EVERYTHING! I make spots everywhere, it drips, the line is irregular … It’s very frustrating! I think that it is necessary to train to make its ranges to master the handling of the tool, before launching for the first time on a large fabric. Otherwise, we pull our hair out.
I also used stamps, it is a copper stencil with spectacular patterns. They allow several patterns to be produced quickly on the surface of the fabric. For the batik artisanal series, always limited in quantities, the pattern is applied, printed with wax thanks to a copper pad, the design of which is made in fine and multiple strips worked and welded together. Some stamps are real works of art in themselves. The tincture of Indonesian batiks
The first coloring (with cotton swab or by soaking). We apply the pigments to the cotton swab, a little blind because the pigment solutions have a different color from the final rendering. Or we can proceed by dyeing the colors from the lightest to the darkest.
Again, you have to anticipate: Some colors can only be obtained by superimposing 2 dyes. Ex: Black is the result of a dark blue dye superimposed on a yellow dye!
Fourth phase (optional):
New reserves are placed in the wax or paraffin (double-sided on the fabric) to protect the colors which will remain as they are. Ex: Red, sky blue, some yellows.
Wax or paraffin. Cracks are obtained by making reserves with paraffin (more brittle) instead of wax. Once the paraffin has cooled, just crumple by hand to get the cracks. You will see on the end result.
Remove the wax, either with an iron, or by soaking in boiling water. The process is also called “in reserve of wax”, or “coloring by savings”. Complementary processes can be used: use of a hot iron (sometimes with a complex pattern: dragon for example) to remove the wax at the locations of a coloring (often to facilitate the copying of repetitive patterns) – simple breaking of the wax to obtain fine lines partial scraping to obtain gradations, etc.
Finally, we obtain a fabric in which different tones or contrasts are juxtaposed or superimposed, forming all kinds of patterns.