Batik is both an art and a craft, which is becoming more popular and well known all over the world as an important creative skill. The art of decorating cloth in this way, using wax and dye, has been practiced for centuries. The technique is known to be more than one thousand years old
A tradition of making batik is found in various countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Philippines and Nigeria; the batik of Indonesia, however, is the best-known and is the most developed in terms of pattern, technique, and the quality of workmanship. Batik is getting more popular among the youth in the world who finds it an exciting way of showing their creativity. The word batik originates from the Javanese tik and means to dot.
To make batik, selected areas of the cloth are blocked out by brushing or drawing hot wax over them, and the cloth is then dyed. The parts covered in wax resist the dye and remain the original color. This process of waxing and dyeing can be repeated to create more elaborate and colorful designs. After the final dyeing the wax is removed and the cloth is ready for wearing or showing.
The present Batik is different from how it used to be done in the past. The artist may use etching, discharge dyeing, stencils, different tools for waxing and dyeing, wax recipes with different resist values and work with silk, cotton, wool, leather, paper or even wood and ceramics.
Batik is historically the most expressive and subtle of the resist methods. The ever widening range of techniques available offers the artist the opportunity to explore a unique process in a flexible and exciting way.
Firstly, a cloth is washed, soaked and beaten with a large mallet. Designs are drawn with pencil and later redrawn using hot wax, usually made from a mixture of paraffin or bees wax, sometimes mixed with plant resins, which functions as a dye-resist. The wax can be applied with a variety of tools. A pen-like instrument called a canting is the most common. A tjanting is made from a small copper reservoir with a spout on a wooden handle. The reservoir holds the resist which flows through the spout, creating dots and lines as it moves. For larger patterns, a stiff brush may be used. Alternatively, a copper block stamp called a cap (is used to cover large areas more efficiently.
After the cloth is dry, the resist is removed by boiling or scraping the cloth. The areas treated with resist keep their original color; when the resist is removed the contrast between the dyed and undyed areas forms the pattern. This process is repeated as many times as the number of colors desired.
The most traditional type of batik, called batik tulis (written batik), is drawn using only the canting. The cloth need to be drawn on both sides and dipped in a dye bath three to four times. The whole process may take up to a year; it yields considerably finer patterns than stamped batik.
After the UNESCO recognition for Indonesian batik on 2 October 2009, the Indonesian administration asked Indonesians to wear batik on Fridays, and wearing batik every Friday has been encouraged in government offices and private companies ever since. 2 October is also celebrated as National Batik Day in Indonesia.
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