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Making Batik


Batik is an ancient art and a complex one. Batik, defined by the use of wax as a resist, was developed in many places around the world.  A wax resist acts as a barrier preventing the uncontrolled spread of color.  A resist is like a line in a coloring book. The Russians in Czarist times used wax as resist to produce their spectacular Easter eggs, the West Africans and Japanese used indigo dye and wax resist to create elegant fabrics. But nowhere was the batik art more developed than in Java, the largest of the Indonesian islands.


Making Traditional Batik in Java


Traditional batik in Java was made with a copper stamp or drawn on cloth by hand using a tool called a chanting. A chanting is a little copper bowl with a spout attached to a wood or bamboo handle. The chanting is dipped into hot wax. The artist draws with the chanting by using the law of gravity. The wax  pours out of the spout and penetrates the fabric.



Modern Batik Painting in Ubud, Bali


Traditional batik, either tulis (hand drawn) or stamped, requires many application of wax and dye, but in modern times the process has been simplified. Joanie draws directly on white rayon with washable markers. The original lines disappear once the piece is waxed.


After wax has been applied to the line drawing, creating a resist, the fabric is stretched flat on a wooden frame. Then the piece is painted with dye, The fiber reactive dyes Joanie uses to apply color spread easily, too easily. The art is in controlling where the color goes, and how each color interacts with others, when to use a lot of water and when to use none at all.


The batik now must be made permanent by applying fixative and boiling out the wax. Until a piece of batik is processed the colors are water soluable and can be destroyed easily. The fixative used to fix Joanie,s work is known as waterglass, sodiium silicate., used in ceramics as a slip. 




Joanie has worked for 17 years in the workshop of master batik artist, Ketut Sujana.  Ketut's studio is located in Lunsiakan, a village outside of Ubud, Bali.  Ketut helps Joanie with the technical aspects of the batik process .In the many years they have worked together, a great bond has been formed between Joanie and Ketut, his small staff, and his family, 


Batik and the Enviornment




The batik process, especially commercial application, does have adverse effects on the environment. These photos were made in Solo, Java, where batik is all processed by hand, boiled in a forty four gallon drum, and washed out in the river.

This way of processing batik in many Javanese and some Balinese communities is not kind to the environment especially if large amounts of batik are produced for clothing or cheap sarongs. In the village where these photos were taken, sometimes as many as two thousand sarongs are produced per week, often using beach and other harmful chemicals. Think of this when you buy cheap sarongs or rayon batik clothing. The real cost to the earth for producing this fabric is very high.




At Ketut's workshop, a simple system for filtering dye waste has been developed. The dye waste water is passed through filters. When the water has gone through all the filters, the end product becomes safe. Other problems like better air circulation in the studio still need still to be mproved. To this end, major renovations to the studio are planned for next year.


Commerical Batik


Batik can be mass produced by the use of batik stamps.  Once made of wood, these are now made out copper. The stamps are dipped in wax and applied to the white fabric. In Solo, Java, sarongs are hand drawn or stamped, hand painted, boiled out in 44 gallon drums to remove wax, rinsed out in the river, and dried on the grass in the local soccor field. All these 'cheap' sarongs are still entirely hand made.


Traditional batik designs are often printed, bringing down the price. Turn a batik over, and if it is the same on both sides, it is real batik.

About Batik, an Ancient Art

The chanting, a tool for waxing

Joanie paints batik with Barbara 

Ketut Sujana with Baby Ketut

Making a copper batik stamp in Solo, Java 

IBaeik sarongs laid out to dry in a soccor field in Solo, Java

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