Evidence of early examples of batik have been found in the Far East, Middle East, Central Asia and India from over 2000 years ago. It is conceivable that these areas developed independently, without the influence from trade or cultural exchanges. However, it is more likely that the craft spread from Asia to the islands of the Malay Archipelago and west to the Middle East through the caravan route. Batik was practised in China as early as the Sui Dynasty (AD 581-618). These were silk batiks and these have also been discovered in Nara, Japan in the form of screens and ascribed to the Nara period (AD 710-794). It is probable that these were made by Chinese artists. They are decorated with trees, animals, flute players, hunting scenes and stylised mountains.
No evidence of very old cotton batiks have been found in India but frescoes in the Ajunta caves depict head wraps and garments which could well have been batiks. In Java and Bali temple ruins contain figures whose garments are patterned in a manner suggestive of batik. By 1677 there is evidence of a considerable export trade, mostly on silk from China to Java, Sumatra, Persia and Hindustan. In Egypt linen and occasionally woollen fabrics have been excavated bearing white patterns on a blue ground and are the oldest known and date from the 5th century A.D. They were made in Egypt, possibly Syria. In central Africa resist dyeing using cassava and rice paste has existed for centuries in the Yoruba tribe of Southern Nigeria and Senegal.
Indonesia, most particularly the island of Java, is the area where batik has reached the greatest peak of accomplishment. The Dutch brought Indonesian craftsmen to teach the craft to Dutch warders in several factories in Holland from 1835. The Swiss produced imitation batik in the early 1940s. A wax block form of printing was developed in Java using a cap.
By the early 1900s the Germans had developed mass production of batiks. There are many examples of this form of batik as well as hand-produced work in many parts of the world today. Computerisation of batik techniques is a very recent development
WHAT MAKE BATIK SO UNIQUE ?
Batik is a crafted fabric that needs to undergo the delicate and repeated process of waxing, dyeing and boiling.
Wax is used as a mean of color blocking in the coloring process. Every part of the fabric that remains untouched by a certain color has to be covered with wax. There are also several sub-processes like preparing the cloth, tracing the designs, stretching the cloth on the frame, waxing the area of the cloth that does not need dyeing, preparing the dye, dipping the cloth in dye, boiling the cloth to remove wax and washing the cloth in soap.
The more colors a batik fabric has, the more times it has been through the process of applying wax, dyeing, and drying, then removing the wax. The process has to happen in a precise order that will produce the pattern or figures that are desired. Additionally, the order of which colors to apply also has to be followed.
Batik cloth can be made into garments, paintings, scarves, bags, table-cloths, bedspreads, curtains, and other decorative items.
Traditional batik is synonymous with silk or cotton. The re-introduction of natural dyes and technique has expanded the scope to include unexpected fabrics like chiffon, velvet, georgette, cheesecloth and voile mostly for fashion apparel. As for batik painting, the most commonly used fabrics are cotton and silk. There are various types of fabrics under these two categories such as poplin, voile, rayon, habotai silk, crepe de chine (cdc), jacquard and satin.
BATIK PRODUCTION TECHNIQUES
It can generally be divided into 3 types:
a) Canting (tjanting or tulis)
It involves outlining the designs using a canting, a metal pen tool filled with hot wax. Colors are then painted on the cloth and the process of the waxing, dyeing and boiling will be followed till the desired result is obtained. The process can take up to weeks depending on the intricacy of the pattern, which is why hand painted batik is so highly valued.
b) Cap (block printing)
It involves the application of wax directly onto the cloth using soldered tin or copper
strips block impressed with certain designs. The block, or “chop”, is placed into hot wax and then hand stamped onto the fabric. When the wax is dry the fabric is dyed. Then the wax is removed and the pattern is visible.
c) Silk screening (screen printing)
Different screens are used according to the colors and patterns desired. The wax is applied onto the cloth using these screens. This printing method is usually used in the mass production of batik for commercial use.
BATIK AS AN ART
From a handicraft, batik has acquired the status of an art. Batik is a versatile medium that can become an ideal hobby for an amateur or a medium of expression for an artist. Batik as an art form is quite spontaneous and one can open up new vistas of creative form. Until recently batik was made for dresses and tailored garments only but modern batik is livelier and brighter in the form of murals, wall hangings, paintings, household linen, and scarves. If used properly, batik can make your house or office unique and inviting. Batik shall be kept in clean, tidy, neat, and regularly swept environment in the process of collection and maintenance.
Batik painting has gained popularity in recent years in the West. This painting is usually produced using the Canting technique. It has become a highly accomplished art form. Like oil painting, each Batik painting is a unique distinctive work of art.
As it is used as a wall decorative item for home and office, these batik paintings can be further enhanced by using
a) Frames made of wood and rattan
b) Wood-crafted hangers
c) Light boxes
d) Decorative sheets made of perspex or glass