Batik refers to the actual process of applying melted wax to cloth by hand, then dyeing the cloth.
The wax acts as a resist to the dye colors.
The word Batik comes from the Javanese terms Amba means to write and Titik means a dot, point or drop, referring to the wax dots that make up the pattern.
Batik History – The Beginning
Indonesia, most particularly the island of Java & Bali, are the areas where batik has reached the greatest peak of accomplishment. There is nowhere in the world where the art of batik has been developed to the highest standards as in the island of Java & Bali in Indonesia. All the raw materials for the process are readily available cotton and beeswax and many plants from which the dyes are made.
It is not known when the batik was first made but the traditional skills were particularly well developed over hundreds of years in Central Java around Yogyakarta and Solo under the patronage of the Sultan and his court. Designs were copies and in some cases the cloths could only be used by certain people or on certain occasions. The royal families had their own proscribed designs.
On the coast designs were developed differently, influenced by settlers from China with bright red and yellow color also the representation of dragon and pheonix from their mythology figure, the Dutch colonists remembrance of Tulip flower from their hometown and not to forget the influence of traders from India and Arabia.
Batik History – The Process
A Handwritten Batik is highly appreciated as an intensive artistic process, not machine made. The fabric must first be prepared with a background color, then the design is drawn onto the fabric, first with pencil, then with melted wax. The wax, when cold, allows the painters to apply color where they want it, without the colors running onto each other. In other words, it keeps it contained.
In a complex batik design, this process can go on several times until the whole pattern is completed. When the whole design is painted and finished, the fabric must be boiled to remove the wax, and it also must be dried in the sun to set the colors. Because there will still be some wax residue in handmade batik fabrics, you may find it just a little stiff until it is washed again; you may also find small patches of wax still on the fabric; this is perfectly normal and will come off in washing and ironing.
The traditional dyes used are deep indigo blues and soga browns and these are still the characteristic colors for work in central Java. Towards the end of the 19th century chemical dyes were introduced in the coastal regions and as a result of this the colors are usually brilliant and more varied.
The final hand made lengths of cloth, known as Tulis, may take several months to produce and are consequently very expensive.
A wax block form of printing was developed in Java using a cap.
Computerization of batik techniques is a very recent development. Everywhere in Indonesia people still wear clothing made from batik cloth and the tourist industry has opened up a new market for cheap batik clothing and pictures.