The word ‘batik’ originates from the word ‘tik’ which means dot in Javanese. The main art is the use of the wax and dye. It has been practiced in Indonesia for centuries. The practice was so common that each family had their own exclusive patterns. As figures were not allowed according to their religion, symbols were used, plants, animals, birds, fish, shells symbols and regional flora and fauna, such as animals, birds, butterflies, fish, shells, flowers, fruits, and leaves in the designs. There are more than 3,000 recorded patterns of batik, some of which have endured changes for centuries. Many patterns can be still be seen. The heritage has passed on to the next generation. Batik is historically the most expressive and subtle of the resist methods. It probably originated in ancient Egypt or Sumeria. In India, SriLanka, Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia but it reached its pinnacle in Indonesia. The art is thousand years old!
The making of an intricate hand-drawn batik is a lengthy and painstaking process which, together with the dyeing, can take from four weeks to two months or more. Early in the twentieth century, the Javanese developed copper blocks with which the wax could be stamped to create intricate patterns much faster than by hand-painting. Batiks created with this method can be distinguished by a blur where the stamp is joined.
Traditionally, batik dyes were made from plants. Now a days these printing are used on silk sarees. The most widely used were indigo blue and soga, a warm brown color made from the bark of the sago tree. Men were more prone to do the dyeing as it is a risky affair. Utmost care was observed to ensure a successful result or cracking. Today chemical dyes are used for batik dyeing.
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Contemporary artists use wax-resist processes to produce wall hangings and to decorate fabric in a unique fashion. A mixture of beeswax and paraffin is usually used; a greater proportion of paraffin makes it condusive to crackle. Methods of applying the wax onto the fabric include pouring the liquid wax, painting the wax on with a brush. In one way or another, batik has worldwide popularity. Now, not only is batik used as a material or fabric, to cover the human body as sarongs or mundu. It can be used as wall hanging of Ganesha is quite popular, table cloths and household linen. Batik paintings by famous artists in small towns or cities grace many homes and offices. The art is basically a craft which is even taught at school. The hand brush style is taught to them and they create original designs and are encouraged to make things of common use. A craft is of no particular region, it stays in a place it is practiced in volumes. In West Bengal the practice of Batik is quite common and the batik sarees are also sought after in silk or cotton.
The unique resist dyeing procedure is indeed delightful as the results are always different. The contrast colors used make the batik piece beautiful and is much sought after as a skill to be learned and practiced. Artists have no boundaries and they can learn anything from anywhere and practice it to perfection and enjoy the piece of art.