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Local Culture: An introduction to Indonesian batik art

Batik is an Indonesian art technique that uses wax and colourful dyes to create beautiful
patterns for fabrics and art. Originating from Java, Batik can now be found all over
Indonesia. You can even see it on the uniforms worn by the staff at Bawah Reserve:

Bawah-reserve-medium-res-1949


Creating handmade batik is often a lengthy process involving wax, dyes and fabric. Colour-
resistant wax is applied to the fabric before it is dyed. The dye colours all areas of the fabric
apart from the waxed patterns, which acts as a resistant to the dye. 

 

trip canvas

Image: Trip Canvas

The patterns and designs are often very symbolic. There are special patterns for royalty and
for different religious groups. Patterns vary by region, and thus the batik found in Sumatra,
Bali and Java have very different looks. Java batik is typically split into two distinct forms:
inland (which has more earthy tones) and coastal (which has motifs reflective of trade and
influence from other cultures, such as European flowers or Persian peacocks).

 

Inland Batik


For smaller pieces, artists use a canting, a pen-like instrument with a wooden handle and
copper reservoir that holds the wax. For larger pieces a copper block is used to stamp the wax
onto the canvas. This saves time and is especially helpful for repeated patterns. The uniform
at Bawah Reserve was created from our own copper block.

IMG_9578


Want to create your own piece of batik? Here is what to do.


What you’ll need:

 Canvas or fabric – ideally pulled tight over a wooden frame
 A canting
 Wax – a mix of paraffin and beeswax is preferred
 Dye – ideally cold-water fabric ones

 

IMG_9589
 
Technique:


1) Draw your design in pencil on the canvas. Get inspiration from batik art books or here


2) Melt the wax in the microwave or in a glass container set in boiled water bain-marie
style. Put the melted wax into the canting.


3) Using the canting to apply the wax over the penciled drawing. Make sure the wax on the fabric is heavy enough to penetrate the other side of the canvas, or you can go over the lines on both sides of the canvas to ensure the wax seal is created.


4) Allow the wax to dry.


5) Apply the dye to the entire canvas or painting. You can use a dye bath or paint on the
colour using a paintbrush. Allow the dye to dry.


6) Optional: Apply a second layer of wax followed by a different colour of dye, if desired. Repeat this process as many times as you would like, remembering to start with the lightest
colour and end with the darkest.


7) Optional: Remove the wax by boiling the entire piece, scraping it off or by ironing it between
layers of newspaper.  See here for instructions.

 

8) Once dry, your batik masterpiece is created.


Batik at Bawah : If you are visiting Bawah Reserve, another option is to book a batik art class and learn the technique from our Indonesian staff.

 

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