I make this post as a follow-up of Taylor’s comments on my previous article that was published in a black-and-white photo challenge. so today I decided to load images colored version with a little article about batik.
Batik is a fascinating craft but one that many people hesitate to try because the old process is tedious and time consuming. Batik may be used for pillow tops, wall hangings, place mats or scarves. Big, bold designs in bright colors are most striking. The word batik (pronounced Bateek) means “wax written” and this is basically what batik is. It is a way of decorating cloth by covering part of it with a coat of wax and then dyeing the cloth. The waxed area keeps its original color and when the wax is removed the contrast between the dyed and undyed area makes the pattern.
The exact origins of batik are unknown, but they are almost certainly in the Orient where the technique was used, long before printing, to enhance the appearance of fine garments. Batik became most deeply rooted in Indonesia, particularly the island of Java, where it was a highly developed art by the 13th century. Batik was considered a fitting occupation for aristocratic ladies whose delicately painted designs, based on bird and flower motifs, were a sign of cultivation and refinement, just as fine needlework was for European ladies of a similar position.
Java is still famous for batik and the traditional patterns, developed over centuries, are still part of Javanese dress, although very few are made by the traditional method of wax painting. This, instead, has been rediscovered and put to use by craftsman all over the world who find the freedom of working with liquid was, and the control of color possible through dyeing, makes batik an exciting and uniquely expressive medium to work in. Increasingly, the all-over patterns of Oriental batiks are being replaced by imaginative pictures and designs of all sorts, which are sued to make wall hangings and soft sculpture as well as decorations for clothing and household items.
Part of the attraction of batik is its simplicity and the fact that you don’t have to be artistic in the conventional sense to produce beautiful results. Some of the best effects in batik are in fact the work of chance. This is particularly true of the way in which the wax cracks to let small quantities of dye through, adding an unexpected and interesting effect to any design. This hairline detail, or “crackling”, is a special characteristic of most batik work.
Because batik wax is applied hot, it is necessary to work fairly rapidly and this can produce a freedom (or loss of self-consciousness) that makes many people who think they cannot draw find, to their amazement, that they can. Of course, designs can be worked out beforehand and for many things, such as borders and trimmings, this is necessary; but designs drawn spontaneously in wax, or according to the briefest sketch, can bring surprising rewards.