MY LESSON IN INDONESIAN BATIK ART

I haven’t done batik since I was school, and primary school at that! So of course I couldn’t say no when the opportunity arose to be part of a small class during my time in Bali . . . and what a great day it turned out to be! After being picked up and driven through lush green landscapes to get to out outside workshop we were greeted by 2 others, making it the perfect class size to get one-to-one support and have a bit of a bond with fellow travellers.

For those of you that don’t know about batik it is the traditional Javanese art of producing coloured prints and patterns on textiles by dyeing them, after first applying wax to any areas you wish to remain uncoloured. It’s very clever.

First things first – pick a design. I wish I’d had more time to prepare and had the materials available to create my own pattern before the class, but alas I did not, so I had to pick something from the huge selection available. And lucky me, there was the perfect geometric design to hand! I tweaked it slightly but got to work tracing it onto my fabric. It was rather therapeutic I have to say, especially with the birds chirping and neighbours chickens clucking in the background!

Once drawn up we got to practising with the waxing pen. That was awkward! Too much tilt and the wax blobbed out, too little and nothing happened. And that’s why we practiced on a scarp piece of fabric! Meanwhile – and this is where I’m afraid I’m going to let some of you down – the real artists that do this every day actually started waxing out REAL pieces, the ones we had just drawn up. Yes, I feel like a mini fraud, sorry guys! But they did a much better job than we could’ve ever done. So once everything was waxed up we got to painting.

Yes painting, not quite dyeing. You see, we only had 5 hours to complete the class so we unfortunately did not have time to wax a layer, dye it, let it dry, wax another, dye let it dry and so on. We waxed the layer we wanted to keep white (the colour of the fabric) and then painted each colour where we wanted it. This still took plenty of time, mainly to do with the fact that the colour the dyes painted on were not necessarily how they would end up. For example, teals looked purple before they were washed out, and pinks painted on much lighter and only came to their true colour when placed in the sun and dried. But after a couple of hours of painting and waiting patiently for it to dry we were ready . . .

But after a couple of hours of painting and waiting patiently for it to dry we were ready . . . First step was dunking the fabric in boiling water to melt the wax off, then the fabric was dunked in cold water and it’s true colours were revealed! And now this will take pride of place in my studio. I matched the colours to co-ordinate perfectly, so when I get a beautiful frame I’ll show you all. The end.

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