The word "batik"
(pronounced "ba-teek") is Indonesian and means "wax
writing". Briefly, the process involves brushing on melted
paraffin and beeswax so it penetrates specific portions of the fabric.
The waxed fabric is then dipped into or painted with wet dyes. The
waxed areas repel or "resist" the dyes; thus the term
"resist" process is applied in reference to batik. Each
time a new dye color is introduced on the fabric, portions of that
color are waxed and held until the desired color scheme is achieved.
Dye colors are applied to the fabric from light
to dark, as they overlap, creating new colors as they combine. The
darkest color is last, and finally all the wax is removed by ironing
the fabric between paper or steaming; the heat of the iron melts
the wax which is absorbed by the paper.
applications include batik on paper, and direct dye or colored wax
applications that can be used in combination with the traditional
You may recognize batik by its characteristic crackle, or veining
that appears throughout the design and unifies the colors and composition.
This results when the cooled wax is cracked to allow the dye to
penetrate in the final (and darkest) dye bath.
Little Batik History
history of textiles tends to be sketchy because fabrics disintegrate
in time and from weather. The exact origins of batik are uncertain.
Fragments, probably of Indian origin, have been found in first century
Egyptian tombs. One theory is that batik existed - and may have
originated - in Asia and then spread to the Malaysian area. Examples
of eighth century batik screens, probably Chinese, are preserved
in Japan's Nara Museum.
origin, batik was a highly accomplished art form in Java and Bali
by the thirteenth century as a pastime for fine ladies. The hand
decorated fabrics first appeared in costumes of the aristocracy
and were soon used in clothing worn by the entire court.
recognizable motifs, patterns and colors developed. Often one design
identified one family or an area. Javanese batiks were soon introduced
to Europe where industrialists attempted to produce imitation batiks
on a large scale, but found the cost prohibitive.
Today, the trend
is to decorate the fabric any way the artist envisions; to apply
design by any method, traditional or innovative, and even depart
from standard procedures. Batik today is used for clothing, hangings,
furnishings, relief and stuffed sculpture. It is no longer considered
a "pure" art but one which can be combined with other
media and methods. The driving force for the artist is to apply
the technique for the end desired, rather than allowing the technique
to control the artist as an end in itself.