Sewing and textiles with Ann
I was excited at the prospects of learning more about Indonesia’s fascination with fabric, and in particular, batik, very much its national treasure, but I don’t think I imagined I’d get the opportunity to do some of my own batik work.
Although clearly the best works take a lot of time, imagination and skill, at its simplest level, it was quite do-able, and quite therapeutic. Key tools required are: natural fabric that will take dye – basically cotton or silk. (Probably best to start with cotton), some beeswax and a method of heating it gently, a chanting, of which more shortly, dye(s) and some boiling water to remove the wax. At least that is all that I am hoping is necessary, as those are the basic tools that I expect to use at home.
I started with a blank piece of white cotton and a pencil. A series of templates were provide to trace, but actually, you can design what you want.
I had a bit of an idea what I wanted to do; my design was to incorporate the web site name, and the decorate the rest of the fabric with template designs. It was quite simple really; I just drew, a bit freehand and a bit of tracing over the templates with pencil.
Here are the professionals doing the same thing:
Next, the part that makes it batik. Putting the wax on to the design to create a dye resist area.
Me, and the professionals!
Then wax is gently heated in a balti like bowl, over a small source of heat. I think the temperature of the wax is probably quite important. I could tell if it was cooling down, which it did on a couple of occasions. The key tool is the chanting, as it is called in Indonesia. This is a pen like implement, with a small reservoir that holds the hot wax, and allows it to gently flow onto the fabric. Straight from the pot it dripped a little bit, but once I touched the fabric, it flowed quite nicely. Hence the concentration, as you need to keep it moving. Shortly after I started, we swapped to a wider nob, so I bought a wider nib chanting to bring home. It cost about £1.50.
I thought this was the finished design, but it wasn’t.
On the course I only had a choice of two colours: red or blue. I chose blue.
The work of art(!) was plunged into cold water for a short while, and then into the strong blue dye. They said it was strong – I know no more other than it took about 2 minutes to take the dye, whereas I would expect it to take about an hour at home with Dylon.
Dyeing on a somewhat larger scale in Jogjakarta, the home of Batik.
Then mine was boiled, again, not for very long, to remove the wax
And after a short period to dry the fabric, I have my finished piece of batik.
Which seems to blend very well with my denim skirt! And I also have a certificate to prove it was indeed, allmyownworkbyann!
I think that the hardest part of this is getting the colour mixing right. I treated myself to a work of batik art whilst in Jogjakarta.
Rice fields and volcanos – absolutely typical of the scenery in Java.
I am trying to work out what order the colours were used, and there are only 4 of them. I think the base colour is the white, and probably the burnt amber dye came next. Then another colour was applied and the cloth came out blue, although I am not sure what colour that was. Then presumably the black dye was last. The work is wonderfully detailed, and two sided. Luckily I know a good frame-maker. I have an idea that the frame will be made from a real or mock bamboo.
My work doesn’t start to compare, but it did help me appreciate this art work all the better.