Batiking is a refined style of dying fabrics with intricate patterns of tiny dots and flowers. While batik-style fabric comes up in artifacts throughout the world, Java in Indonesia seems to have the most complicated designs.

In batik preparation, densely woven fabric is used to best absorb the dye. Melted wax in metal cans with ordered holes is one way of distributing resistance patterns throughout the fabric. Another way is hand-drawing designs with wax. The fabric is then dipped into dye, a common and natural one is indigo. Once the desired depth of color is achieved, wax is scraped away with a small knife.

Other Indonesian batik techniques include stamping and using a small tool called a canting (pronounced "chanteeng").

The stamping technique is probably similar to the 'metal cans with ordered holes' as described by miravelle. I had the privledge of watching some of the most respected Batik artists in Bali carve amazingly intricate designs, often with small cut-out shapes, out of copper and hard wood and use them as stamps to apply the hot wax.

The canting is a hand held tool used for 'hand-drawing the designs' like miravelle said. It is made using a short piece of bamboo or other hallow object as a handle, with a small spoon-like object at one end, made of a malable metal like copper. The end of this 'spoon' is closed with only a small wire tube coming out. This tool is dipped into hot wax like a ladle. The wax is held inside the closed off spoon part; when it is held at an angle to the canvas or fabric, a controlled line of wax pours out. The line is the same width as the wire tube in the canting; experts create several cantings with different size wires in them and use them all to apply different line widths like a painter uses different brushes. This is the technique I learned while studying batik in Bali with Nyoman Warta, my sweet Ubud instructor who I have to give props to.

The purpose of applying wax to the fabric is to mask certain areas where you don't want to apply colored dye. After masking some areas and applying some colors of dye, you may want to apply more wax, covering certain areas of color so that you can then apply other colors of dye, and so forth. With this technique it is possible to create the vast array of effects with color mixing and overlay that Indonesian batiks are famous for.

Batik fabrics are often created as wall hangings and art pieces but also make up the majority of fabric used for day to day sarongs that the people wear, which are also called batiks, for that reason.


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