Batik is the process of creating intricate patterns on textiles with wax-resistant dyes. There seems to be some controversy surrounding the origins of the technique but according to the Wikipedia article discoveries showed it already exists in the Middle East, India and Central Asia over 2000 years ago. In Java, Indonesia, batik predates written records, but some experts argue that the technique might have been introduced during the 6th or 7th century from India.
Traditional colours include indigo, dark brown, and white which represent the three major Hindu Gods (Brahmā, Visnu, and Śiva). The colors of pesisir batik, from the coastal cities of northern Java, are especially vibrant, and it absorbs influence from the Javanese, Chinese and Dutch culture.
Contemporary batik, while owing much to the past, is markedly different from the more traditional and formal styles. For example, 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.
Melted wax is applied to cloth before being dipped in dye. It is common for people to use a mixture of beeswax and paraffin wax. The beeswax will hold to the fabric and the paraffin wax will allow cracking, which is a characteristic of batik. Wherever the wax has seeped through the fabric, the dye will not penetrate. Sometimes several colours are used, with a series of dyeing, drying and waxing steps.
Thin wax lines are made with a canting, a wooden handled tool with a tiny metal cup with a tiny spout, out of which the wax seeps. Other methods of applying the wax onto the fabric include pouring the liquid wax, painting the wax on with a brush, and applying the hot wax to pre-carved wooden or metal wire block and stamping the fabric.
After the last dyeing, the fabric is hung up to dry. Then it is dipped in a solvent to dissolve the wax, or ironed between paper towels or newspapers to absorb the wax and reveal the deep rich colors and the fine crinkle lines that give batik its character.
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