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What is Batik | How to Batik

Batik is one way of making fabric. It refers to the technique of coloring cloth using wax that is heated to prevent staining part of the fabric. In the international literature, this technique is known as a wax-resist dyeing.

Handmade batik is a craft that has high artistic value and has become part of Indonesian culture (especially Java) since long time ago. In the past, batik making skills was a source of income for many women in Java, so that the batik work was exclusively women's work until the invention of "Batik Cap" that allows the involvement of men in this field. There are some exceptions to this phenomenon, namely the coastal batik which has a line of masculine as can be seen in the style of "Megamendung", which in some coastal areas, batik work is common for men.

Making batik was originally a hereditary tradition, so that sometimes a batik motif can be recognized from certain families. Some batik may indicate the status of a person. Even today, some traditional batik motifs are only used by the family palace of Yogyakarta and Surakarta.

Variety of styles and colors of Batik are affected by various foreign influences. Originally, batik has limited variety of styles and colors and some patterns may only be worn by a certain class of society. However, coastal batik absorbed various external influences, mostly from foreign traders and also from the colonial rulers at the time. Bright colors like red popularized by Chinese traders, who also popularized the phoenix style. European colonial nations also interested to batiks and the result were style of unknown flowers in Java (such as tulips) and also objects brought by the colonizer (buildings or train a horse), including their favorite colors like blue.

Indonesian batik has been designated as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO since October 2, 2009.

Batik Technique

Batik material originally made from white fabric. This material is made of cotton but in its development today batik is also made with other materials, such as silk, polyester, rayon and other synthetic materials. Batik motifs depicted on the fabric with a liquid wax that is heated in order to be absorbed into the cloth fibers. Subtle motifs drawn by using a tool called a canting and brushes are used for large sized motifs. Fabrics that have been painted with liquid wax dipped further in the desired color. Usually starts from the soft colors and dyeing process is carried out for the other motifs with darker colors. After the coloring process is repeated several times, batik cloth dipped in chemicals to dissolve the wax.

Cotton currently used in Indonesia for batik making is divided into four types. The best quality, smooth, soft muslin is called primissima, and is generally used for the most elaborate designs. The second grade is prima; the two lesser qualities are called biru and merah (literally 'blue' and 'red').

To prepare cloth for the application of wax or other resist substances, it must go through a number of stages. First the fabric is thoroughly rinsed. Traded cotton fabrics usually contain excessive starch. Starch should be removed so as not to interfere with the coloring process of batik. It is then soaked in vegetable oil for about 12 hours in order to make it more receptive to the dye. After this the cloth is starched to prevent the wax from impregnating to deeply, which would make it difficult to remove after dying. Finally creases are removed, traditionally this was done through repeated pounding with a wooden mallet, but nowadays the cloth is simply iron.

The cloth is ready for further processing; the motifs are drawn by following the pattern that has been available on paper or draw directly on fabric. Drawing process is done by using a tool called a canting. The canting consists of a small copper reservoir containing the heated, liquid wax, a handle for grip, and one or more downward pointing spouts thorough which the wax is poured on cloth. Sticking wax on the fabric using canting aims to cover the parts that will remain white during the process of dyeing cloth into the dyestuffs.

Fabrics that have been drawn with the basic pattern can then be dipped into dye. Dyeing process is repeated many times until desired color is obtained. Furthermore, the fabric is dried in the shade and then drawn back with the ornaments to fill the basic pattern that has been made in the previous process. Stages of drawing on cloth with heated wax using a canting followed with the coloring process could takes more than 15 days with high precision and expertise and certainly a high degre of artistry. That's why high-quality handmade batik is worth more expensive than batik fabrics made by using a stamp or created with a printing machine.

When the repetition of the coloring process is complete, then the wax can be removed by boiling batik cloth until the wax melts. Melted wax will float on water surface. The final process is washing the cloth and after dry the batik cloth then ready to use.