Batik Fabric And The History Behind It
“Batik” is a term that has its origins in Indonesia. It may have been derived from a word called ‘ambatik’ that translates into “a dotted piece of cloth”.
Batik is commonly used to describe a fabric dyeing process that utilizes a special resist method. In this technique, selected cloth areas are covered with a dye-proof substance as it helps prevent absorption of colours. The Java region in Indonesia is particularly known for its creative use of the Batik technique by skilled artists.
The Batik Technique of Fabric Dyeing
The Batik dyeing technique involves blocking certain areas of the fabric by brushing them with hot wax. This is followed by the actual dyeing of the cloth. The parts that remain covered with the hot wax continue to retain their original colour while the remaining cloth acquires the chosen colour of dye. The repeated wax application and dyeing ultimately leads to the creation of beautiful and vibrant designs on the cloth. When the dyeing process is finally over, the artist removes the wax and the fabric is ready to use. The fabric used in batik is first washed and then boiled in plain water. This is done several times before the wax blend is applied as it helps remove any traces of lime, starch and chalk.
A Batik artist may use a variety of different wax and dyes on silk, cotton and other pure fabrics. Batik typically works really well on cotton fabrics. Silk, on the other hand, is a little difficult to handle because of its peculiar wicking properties. The motifs/patterns used in Batik are usually geometric or inspired from all kinds of natural objects.
The Batik technique is unique because some wax blends have a tendency to “crackle” during the handling process and this allows dark dye lines to enter/penetrate the resisted spaces.
Batik: An Evergreen Dyeing Technique for Ethnic Garments
The Batik fabric has grown to become quite popular all over the world, especially in Asian countries. One of the reasons for this popularity is that the technique allows an artist to be extremely creative. They can utilize actual drawings for applying patterns instead of using thread weaving. Also, Batik fabric is known for its durability. This means that colours used have a much higher resistance to wear as compared to printed or painted fabrics. Batik fabrics are also less likely to fade early and hence last for several years!
While modern batik fabrics take much inspiration from the past, they have very few similarities with the traditional styles. For instance, an artist might use discharge dyeing, etching, stencils and wax blends with custom resist values. He/she may also work with a variety of different fabrics like wool, silk, leather and cotton.
Batik is known to be among the most artistic techniques of fabric dyeing. It is also a very subtle resist method and allows artists to discover unique processes that help create innovative patterns for customers.
Some Tools and Techniques Used in Batik
Batik is quite a time consuming art and the fabric enjoys a high demand in the global fashion industry. In order to fasten the process of making batik fabrics, a tool called the ‘cap’ was developed in the 19th century. This tool gave immense boost to batik production, making it faster and more efficient than the traditional technique which was extremely labour-intensive. A cap is nothing but a block made of copper. It has copper stripes (approximately 1.5 cm in width) that are bent to form a design. An artist blocks out the pattern outline onto a piece of cloth using graphite or charcoal. Designs may also be traced using stencils/patterns termed as ‘pola’.