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What is Batik

10/8/2012 12:58:29 PM | by Anonymous


Pronounced as ‘Bah-Teak’, batik can refer to a cloth or a process by which a cloth is made traditionally through a manual wax-resist dyeing method. The process of dyeing clothes is pretty straightforward and can produce beautiful patterns and results on a cloth. Batik originated from Indonesia and traditional patterns and designs have much significance to their culture. For example, traditional Javanese batik from Yogyakarta would create designs that portray Javanese conceptualization of the universe. Also, in traditional Javanese culture, certain patterns are only worn by the nobility and therefore it is easy to recognize the royal lineage of a person by the design of the clothes that he or she wears. Traditionally such designs have wider stripes or wavy lines that are greater in width, which indicates higher rank in the society. Also, in Indonesia each culture has its own influence on the designs of batik available within their region. Themes from everyday life, significant animals, flowers or images are just some of the patterns that can be composed on the batik cloth.


As mentioned earlier, the process makes use of wax for the construction of patterns. Melted wax is applied on the cloth surface where the area is intended to be free of any dye. The melted wax can be applied either by brushing the wax over or directly pouring the wax over the cloth. The wax is then left to cool and harden, which allows it to seep into the fabric. Once the wax has hardened, the cloth is soaked in dye. The hardened wax would prevent the dye from staining the areas where the wax had been applied. This allows for patterns to be created on the fabric. Also if more than one colour is required in the pattern, the steps are repeated over again, with the wax being applied on the areas that are intended not to be stained by the dye. Sometimes the hardened wax may form cracks within its surface, therefore allowing small amounts of dye to seep through and creating beautiful designs. The hardened wax is then removed after the dyeing process. There are two popular methods for removing hardened wax out of clothes once the dyeing process is over. The cloth that had been soaked in dye is first dried and then soaked in a solvent which would remove the wax, without causing any damage to the dye on the cloth. Alternatively, an iron can be used to press out the wax from the fabric. The hot surface of the iron would melt the hardened wax and therefore allow the wax to be easily pushed out from the fabric. Several different types of fabrics can be used in this process; however a fabric that is able to absorb a dye efficiently and quickly would be the most ideal option. An example of such a fabric would be cotton due to its characteristic of being able to absorb dyes efficiently. Also, the fabric should be densely woven to allow the intricate designs to show up clearly.


Although the batik is commonly associated with Indonesian culture, it is believed that the technique originated from Egypt and Middle East, with evidences of batik clothing also found in Turkey, India and Japan. The use of this form of clothing can be dated back at least 1,500 years. Although batik did not originate from Indonesia, the island of Java in Indonesian Peninsula embraced this art form and developed it quickly to match their culture. The styles of batik clothing are vast, with the sarong being the most popular type to the western world. A sarong is a type of clothing that is worn around the waist and extends to the ankles. It is a traditional Malay and Indonesian clothing that is worn at traditional and cultural events. Batik gives clothing very exquisite, beautiful and unique patterns that cannot be recreated.

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