World of YeoMama / Our Craft / What is Batik?

Our Craft

What is Batik?

The origins of batik

The origins of batik are widely debated, but batik truly evolved and became deeply rooted in the cultural fabric of Java, rocketing to wild popularity between the 18th and 20th centuries.

In the most simple terms, batik is a traditional craft that creates intricate patterns on cloth using a combination of dyes and wax. Wax is applied to specific areas to create detailed designs, followed by hand-dyeing the surrounding fabric. The cloth is then typically immersed in boiling water to dissolve the wax. This meticulous process is repeated until the piece is finished in -- a stunning, complex, and utterly enchanting batik fabric.

Batik-making is a diverse and vibrant craft, encompassing a variety of techniques to produce fabrics rich in colours and patterns. The magic is in the details, and artisans need to wield their creativity and plethora of skills to craft unique and intricate designs…

... So let’s talk techniques! 

Handdrawn Batik

Batik Tulis; The Written Batik
The Technique of Patience and Perseverance

Considered one of the oldest and most refined waxing and dyeing methods, this technique is a labour of love and painstakingly time-consuming. Each stroke? Hand drawn. Each design? One of a kind.

It begins with an artisan, a blank canvas, and bold creativity. The artisan first sketches beautiful patterns FREEHAND directly onto the cloth then uses a tool called a canting where wax meets fabric, forming elegant outlines that are later filled with vibrant colours.

Colour arrives in two ways: Dipping the fabric in dye to achieve uniformity (Celup), or using brushes for a multi-hued masterpiece (Colet).

Finally, the wax is melted by boiling the fabric in hot water (Melorot), and voila – a one-of-a-kind batik fabric.

Did You Know?

The canting is tiny, measuring just 0.35cm to 0.50cm in size, demanding exceptional precision, skill and a generous dose of patience! Some pieces can take up to a year to complete :O

Why This Method?

Each piece is truly unique as all designs are “written” in by hand. No two patterns are identical, and because of the time, artistry and skill invested, it commands a higher price tag than other methods. 

Handstamped Batik

Batik Cap; The Stamped Batik
The Technique for Perfect Repetition 

Out with the hands (sort of), and in with the stamps!

Instead of drawing the designs by hand, stamps (Cap) made from wood or metal are used. These bear intricate patterns that are etched into 20 x 20cm blocks and dipped into hot wax nestled in a flat metal pan (Layang) that consists of a folded piece of cloth (which absorbs the wax) – just like a stamp pad.

The liquid wax is then pressed onto a piece of fabric on a long, sprawling table. Once it’s stamped out, it takes a dunk in a dye-filled bucket, and another hot plunge where the wax is boiled off and the cloth is hung to dry.

Did You Know?

The Batik Cap technique drew inspiration from an Indian wood-stamping method. The latter travelled via trade routes to Sumatra before rocking up on Java Island. Traditionally, men were tasked with Batik Cap, but we’re all about inclusivity and would rather dub it an art form that demands muscle to lift and stamp!

Why This Method?

Hyper-speed, for starters – this process adds rocket fuel to the batik production time and cuts it down to days or weeks, depending on the motif’s intricacy. Plus, with contemporary fashion on the rise, this method serves up those repetitive patterns that modern fashionistas rave about. 

Photo Credit: Maria Malo

Handprint Batik

Batik Printing; The Printed Batik
The Technique of Artistic Strength

Handprint batik combines both hand-drawn and hand-stamped techniques, and is a heavyweight process – both figuratively and literally!

Think of it as a grand-scale version of silkscreen printing. In handprint batik, a special screen printing tool takes the spotlight. Featuring an oversized frame usually crafted from wood or metal, it houses a stretched fabric screen. The batik design meets hot wax on this screen, setting the stage for the pattern's transfer onto the cloth.

A lengthy piece of cloth is rolled out on an equally lengthy table, and picture this: The screen hits the cloth; the dye flows through; the screen lifts – and this repeats till the end of time the cloth. These screens are relatively hefty in size and weigh a fair bit, thus requiring a power duo to carry the load (ha!).

Did You Know?

While renowned more for its speed, handprint batik still holds artistic allure. Material choices matter more here, and while cotton reigns for its cosy coolness in tropical climates, handprint batik can also get glamorous with upscale alternatives like silk and high-quality cotton.

Why This Method?

The beauty of this technique lies in its direct batik and colouring application, cutting down the production time considerably.

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