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Batik is an ancient art that reached its peak of development on the Indonesian island of Java.  Dutch traders were so impressed by this craft that in 1835, they brought Batik artists back to Holland with them when they returned from trading trips.  These 'imported' batik artists taught the process to factory designers and workers so the beautiful Batik fabrics could be produced to meet the European demand for it. 

The batik process was modified for use in textile factories and quickly adopted in Europe since there was a great demand for this beautiful and exotic fabric.  As production methods became more advanced, Europeans mastered the art and soon the Swiss and Germans were mass producing batik fabric.  Modern batik patterns and processes can now be controlled by computers, a development that is giving rise to interesting, new and never before seen geometric designs. 

We have evidence of batik being practiced over 2,000 years ago in the Far East, Middle East, Central Asia, and India.  Historians believe the art traveled along the caravan trade routes.  Batik fabrics have been found in China that date to around the time of the Sui dynasty (581 - 618 AD) and also in Japan from the Nara period (710 - 794 AD). 

What is Batik?  It is a textile art that involves a specialized method of applying dye to fabric, usually cotton or silk.  There are about 3,000 recorded batik patterns, some of which include flowers, plants, birds, animals, insects, and geometric forms are all popular motifs.  The use of computers in developing batik designs promises to add many more new and exciting designs to this library. 

Think of batik as the reverse of painting.  Instead of painting an area where you wish there to be color or a design on a piece of fabric, wax is applied to the area to keep it color free.  The fabric is then immersed in dye, coloring all the areas of the fabric that are wax free.  The fabric is dried and then the wax is heated in order to remove it. 

The intricate and colorful batik we normally see is a complicated, multi-step process.  The more colors a batik fabric has, the more times it has been through the process of applying wax, dying, 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. 

The old method of batik involved drawing on the cloth with a wooden pen that could be filled with wax, calling a "canting".  Because the art of batik, as well as wearing items made from batik fabric were reserved for the upper classes and royalty, this art used to be a pastime of female courtiers. 

As a result of the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, batik crafters developed large copper stamps, or "caps" that allowed for larger scale application of wax.  This also meant that the batik industry was able to keep pace and compete with the textile fabrics of Europe.  It might not have been much of a competition, though given how popular batik fabrics were, and are today! 

Batik fabrics and garments made for them were originally reserved for the upper classes, for example royalty or highly placed government officials.  The designs that were created at the time had significance.  One motif called "Satrio Wibowo" means "man with dignity".  That pattern would be reserved for a gentleman who was suitably qualified to wear it. 

Over time, the fabric became more available to the general population, being used in home decoration as well as in wearable garments.  Today, batik is widely available, and something we can all enjoy!


 

The Great Wall of China The Forbidden City
The Terracotta Army Along the Silk Road
Batik Tapestries
Batik Silk Scarf
Pair of 10 Inch Closionne Vases
Cloisonne
Pair of Brass Foo Dogs
Brass & Bronze
Inside Painted Boxes
 

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